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Hot Climes at Home

This article was first published on 29 Jun 2016.

Winter Garden Glasshouse

Winter Garden Glasshouse

Photo by the Otago Daily Times

Want a quick tropical escape without traveling abroad?  Well I may have the answer for you.  A quick trip to the Winter Garden Glasshouse at Dunedin Botanic Garden may just do the trick.

A winter garden, as the name suggests is a garden housed under glass, usually filled with exotic and tropical plants that can be enjoyed in winter, but not just winter, all year round.  The origins of winter gardens date back to when European nobility added conservatories onto their mansions, filling them with exotic tropical plants.  Public winter gardens followed, the first large public winter garden opened in 1846 in Regent Park in London.   Soon after, the Crystal Place opened at Hyde Park, London to house the Great Exhibition of 1851.  It was a massive 564m long with an interior height of 39m.

Compare that to the Dunedin Botanic Garden Edwardian Winter Garden, at a mere 45m long and a little over 11m interior height.

Opened in 1908, Dunedin’s Winter Garden is thought to be the oldest public display house in Australasia.  The collections focus on plants found in warm habitats around the world with palms, cycads, tropical trees, shrubs and climbers, carnivorous plants, bromeliads, orchids, cacti and succulents.  They are grown in three different environmentally controlled houses - tropical, sub-tropical and arid.

Open every day and always warm, the Winter Garden Glasshouse is a great way to spend a few hours discovering botanical curiosities on a cold winter’s day.

Stephen Bishop is curator of the Winter Garden Glasshouse at Dunedin Botanic Garden.