A rose by any other name
May 1, 2017

Italians in the late 18th century dubbed them “limonaia”. Further north on the continent they were known as “orangeries” for their role in protecting the tasty, but delicate fruit. In 19th century England they evolved into “conservatories” and entered a golden age that would see the who’s who of society rub elbows among rare and exotic plants. Today, the tradition continues with The Westwood Gardens Conservatory, a striking modern interpretation in the heart of Richmond Hill.

The Conservatory is a fitting addition to “Canada’s Rose Capital,” a town with a long and beautiful history in the greenhouse industry. In the early 1900’s city council set in place measures to encourage business in Richmond Hill. Seizing the opportunity, William Lawrence, then president of the Canadian Horticultural Society, decided to make the town the site of his new greenhouse, a site that would eventually grow
to cover almost 100,000 square feet of roses, carnations, chrysanthemums, and other exotic flowers and plants. Lawrence also persuaded fellow Toronto florist John Dunlap to move his business a little further north. Others followed, and with that, the town soon bloomed.

The tradition of conservatories began long before the first seed was planted in Richmond Hill (both literally and figuratively). The Fitzroy Gardens of Melbourne, Australia opened their conservatory in 1930. Kew Gardens, home to the "largest and most diverse botanical and mycological collections in the world” was founded in 1840 and is home to the Nash Conservatory (moved to Kew in 1836), the Palm House (built in 1844), the Princess of Wales Conservatory (opened by none other than Princess Di in 1987), and the Temperate House (the world's largest surviving Victorian glass structure, commissioned in 1859 and only completed 40 years later). Even Toronto’s own Allan Gardens was founded in 1858. But if we’ve learned anything from the exotic plant life that thrive in these beautiful greenhouses, it’s that change and growth are constant, and today, that evolution is taking shape in Richmond Hill.

The Westwood Gardens Conservatory is a dedication to the town of Richmond Hill. It’s a commitment from Collecdev to both the community and the environment, a place where residents and visitors will come to learn about nature in a stunning glass structure, open year-round.

Drawing inspiration from Thomas Heatherwick’s design for the Bombay Sapphire Distillery in Laverstoke England, the building will take shape as a sculptural glasshouse. Advanced technology will let in maximum sunlight, while maintaining steady temperatures, creating the perfect conditions for an exciting and exotic collection of plant life. This will be a place where young children can marvel at colourful flowers bursting into bloom, where students can learn about nature and the environment, where friends can catch up over a walk through the trees, and where everyone can enjoy a warm embrace during the winter months. In short, this new Richmond Hill attraction will uphold the longstanding tradition of the conservatory, acting as a place where nature is celebrated, shared, and protected for generations to come.

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