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Winter Garden Glasshouse

History of the Winter Garden Glasshouse

This elegant conservatory was constructed in 1908 with the assistance of a generous bequest from Dunedin businessman Robert Glendining. Based on an award winning design by London architects, McKenzie and Moncur Ltd, it was reputed to be the first public conservatory in Australasia.

The Winter Garden has undergone many extensions and changes in its lifetime. The first of these came shortly after opening in 1912 when an orchid house was added. With changes in fashion and a dire need for maintenance, the structure was modernised in the 1960s, but many of the charming Edwardian features were hidden. Further renovations in 1990 were undertaken to restore the building and many of those details were reinstated, considerably enhancing the appearance of the Winter Garden.

The 3 wings of the Glasshouse

The Tropical House

The Tropical House, in the middle of the Winter Garden Glasshouse, contains many plants from warm humid environments around the world. It includes a selection of palms and cycads, tropical trees and shrubs, climbers and plants of economic value such as bananas and sugar cane. A lot of these plants do not survive temperatures below 10°C and would not grow outside in Dunedin's cool climate.

The Tropical House is maintained at an average daytime temperature of between 22°C and 28°C with high humidity levels suited to plants from tropical regions of the world.

With over 200,000 species of flowering plants originating from the tropics, there is a huge diversity. We have some examples of plants that are now threatened in their natural habitats as well as plants that are of great economic value such as sugar cane, Saccharum officinaum and coffee, Coffea arabica.

Palms, cycads and curious climbers all add to the jungle atmosphere of the central house. Cycas revoluta can be seen growing in the Tropical House.

Hibiscus flourishes in this environment with a long flowering period throughout summer and well into autumn. Red, pink, yellow, orange, and white flowers are displayed.

The tropics are home to many plants that look almost alien compared to temperate plants. Strange carnivorous plants such as the pitcher plant, Nepenthes, have modified leaves as pitchers that attract and trap insects.

The east wing - Sub tropical plant collection

The east wing has a controlled climate suitable for a range of plants from subtropical regions of the world. This environment produces a multitude of flowering and fruiting plants. In this house orchids, bromeliads and tender subtropical trees and shrubs are grown. Plants such as Ficus, vireya, rhododendrons and peace lilies are also displayed.

The west wing - Cacti and succulents

The west wing of the Winter Garden displays plants that originate mainly from the American and African continents. These plants require a minimum daytime temperature of 18°C, cool night temperatures and low moisture levels.

Succulents have thick fleshy leaves and stems that have adapted for life in drought conditions. They are found in deserts from the tropics to the Arctic circle with the greatest number found on the African continent. The succulent collection includes specimens of Aloe, Euphorbia, Haworthia and Crassula as well as many other genera.

Cacti are mainly found in deserts of the Americas and have adapted in many weird and wonderful ways to the extreme environments that they live in. The swollen stems are used for water storage and the spines are modified leaves capable of absorbing moisture from fog or dew. Mammillaria, Echinocactus, Oreocereus and Opuntia are some of the most prominent genera of the cacti collection.

Pest control

Pests such as whitefly, mealy bug and glasshouse thrips are common in glasshouses and Integrated Pest Management (IPM) is used at Dunedin Botanic Garden to control them. This system incorporates the balanced use of predators, chemicals and cultural methods.

The pests' predators and parasites are released systematically. The climate is closely monitored to ensure that conditions such as humidity are suited to the beneficial insects so they breed quickly but are also less favourable for pest insects so they do not establish large populations.

The application of chemicals to control pest insects is kept to a minimum. Chemicals are chosen that are safe to beneficial insects but will target insects on contact or interfere with their lifestyle.