BY RACHEL LEE-THOMAS AND JANA GREGORIO
Like an oasis in a cold concrete tundra, the Oakville Municipal Greenhouse is a great escape.
Stepping through the glass doors, you immediately feel the warm, tropical air. The gentle sound of a waterfall trickles in the background, and you’re surrounded by tall, lush green trees and exotic, colourful plants extending to the class ceiling. After being there for 10 minutes, you forget you’re in the middle of a bustling urban city.
Tucked back from a busy road on the east side of Oakville, the greenhouse stays hidden and many locals don’t know about it.
“I’ve lived in Oakville for over 40 years and I had no idea it was there,” said Oakville resident Dave Barton. “It seems like a great place to bring the family.”
The Oakville Greenhouse offers a place for horticulture lovers, tourists and locals to visit as well as being the operation headquarters for all of Oakville’s greenery.
“[The conservatory] is open to the public. It’s free of charge and anyone can come and walk around and meet with staff to ask some questions,” said Steve Wiersma, supervisor of horticulture and plant production for the Town of Oakville. “It’s rented out for wedding and photography sessions as well as tours.”
The greenhouse was originally located in Trafalgar Park before being moved to its current location on Cornwall Road in 1990.
The greenhouse is responsible for growing approximately 120,000 bedding plants including 350 planters and 350 hanging baskets. The 120,000 is the amount of plants grown for Oakville’s parks.
“Things are really busy in January when we start seeding plants and gathering cuttings,” said Weirsma. “In late March into April we start transplanting into cell packs and eventually transplanting.”
There are several different stages that the different plants go through before making their way to the parks and gardens of Oakville.
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Beginning as seeds in what is called the propagation room, the seeds are planted in tiny cells and kept in heated soils. Some plants require more condensation and are given a dome creating a double greenhouse effect.
Plants are seeded at different times depending on their speed of growth.
Plants that are difficult to grow from seeds are sometimes used as stock plants. Workers will take a small cutting of the stock plant, such as a leaf, and plant it with rooting powder which eventually leads to new growth.
As well as being responsible for the growing of bedding plants and hanging baskets there are also a variety of tropical plants that are tended to over the colder months and some of which are placed in Oakville parks.
“The conservatory has mostly tropical plants that you would find in South America or the Caribbean with different plants like banana plants, coffee trees, hibiscus, and cacti,” Wiersma said.
These tropical plants are grown in a separate area of the greenhouse and are placed in the parks over the summer, or displayed in the conservatory.
Planting in parks occurs over the May long weekend when the risk of frost has passed.
The Oakville Greenhouse is maintained by two full-time staff who take care of seeding and oversee the greenhouse operations. They also rely heavily on volunteers and co-op students from local high schools to help transplant and pot up plants.
The Greenhouse is located at 1100 Cornwall Rd., and is open to the public all year round until 3 p.m., and closed during July and August.