Peace and quiet in the Winter Garden.

Although it officially opened in 2010, I hadn’t yet been to the Winter Garden in Calgary’s ultra-modern, 38-storey Jamieson Place, right in the heart of downtown.  Appropriately, the snow was lightly falling and the wind was blowing when my husband and I finally made our outing to the Garden last Friday afternoon.  What a treat for a chilly day!  A quick ride up the escalator from street level takes you adjacent to the Plus 15 walkway system, where the 25,000 square foot garden (the largest indoor garden in Canada) is located.  Minimalist in design, the Winter Garden features massive stands of tall black bamboo and snake plants (Sansevieria trifasciata) framing a beautiful dark infinity pool and pods of black leather couches for seating.   Exterior glass walls border the garden on the north and the east, with a skylight above – and even on such a cloudy, grey day, the light quality was impressive.  And glass – in sculptural form – hangs from the ceiling above the pool:  famed artist Dale Chihuly‘s stunning three-piece installation Winter Garden Chandeliers seems to warmly glow from within.

Dale Chihuly’s Winter Garden Chandeliers were made of over 400 pieces of glass and assembled in the garden itself. 

But the standout feature of the Winter Garden is the biowall that anchors the west side.  An incredible 22 feet high and 100 feet wide over two panels, the wall contains 20,000 plants (over 20 different varieties).  The wall is a hydroponic system, with the plants plugged into a soilless grid.  Fertilizer injections and drip irrigation are governed by a computer.

The Winter Garden biowall

The coolest thing about the wall is that it was designed to artfully represent the foothills and majesty of the Canadian Rockies, which lie to the west of Calgary:  each plant variety was deliberately chosen according to foliage, texture and form  to stand in for the land’s striking topography.   While I admit, I couldn’t quite “see” the geographical influence on the piece, especially up close, it is simply amazing to stand there and gape at all those plants in such a perfect and pleasing arrangement.

The Winter Garden is a definite must-see (at any time of year) if you find yourself in downtown Calgary.  There is a cafe on the main floor as well, so you can buy yourself a tea and take it upstairs to enjoy it in the peace and serenity of the garden.  If I worked in the area I would spend every lunch break there!  🙂

And see more of Dale Chihuly’s art. 

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