Tropical escape at your back door

In the Winter Garden Glasshouse at Dunedin Botanic Garden. Photo: Linda Robertson.
In the Winter Garden Glasshouse at Dunedin Botanic Garden. Photo: Linda Robertson.

Want a quick tropical escape without having to travel 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 not just winter, but all year round.

The origins of winter gardens date back to when European nobility added conservatories to their mansions, filling them with exotic tropical plants.

Public winter gardens followed; the first large public winter garden opened in 1846 in London's Regent Park.

Soon after, the Crystal Place opened at Hyde Park, London, to house the Great Exhibition of 1851.

It was 564m long with an interior height of 39m.

Compare that with Dunedin Botanic Garden's 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 New Zealand and Australia.

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, subtropical 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.

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