Jutting out of Edmonton‘s river valley, Muttart Conservatory‘s four architecturally stunning glass pyramids undoubtedly invite comparison with their Parisian lookalikes at the Louvre. Rather than housing art, though, these pyramids contain beauty of a more natural kind – one of Canada‘s largest botanical collections. Visitors can enjoy a wonderful smorgasbord of biodiversity in three of the pyramids, which showcase yearly displays. Regulars will enjoy the feature displays on show in the fourth, which rotates up to eight times a year. The conservatory also hosts many arts showcases and is available for private events. To find out more we caught up with Gayleen Froese, who was speaking on behalf of the city of Edmonton.
Culture Trip: Can you describe Muttart Conservatory in a few words?
Gayleen Froese: The Muttart Conservatory is one of Canada’s most innovative botanical gardens, with events and features that change throughout the year. 2016 marks the 40th anniversary of the conservatory.
CT: What do you think makes the conservatory an important asset to Edmonton’s cultural heritage?
GF: The conservatory is culturally valuable inside and out. The architect, Peter Hemmingway, designed a unique facility that sets Edmonton’s skyline apart. Inside, the conservatory is a living museum of plants from around the world, and our focus is on connecting people with nature. We host cultural events and art displays to highlight the ways that nature inspires art.
CT: Is Muttart home to any endangered plants or flowers that require special attention?
GF: Putrella, the ‘corpse flower’, is our celebrity plant. Corpse flowers, or amorphophallus titanum, are found only on the island of Sumatra and are known for their horrible smelly bloom, which happens for 48 hours every few years. They’re rare in cultivation and we’re thrilled that Putrella is thriving in our Tropical Pyramid. We also have Canada’s second-largest species orchid collection. Species orchids are essentially wild orchids — they are what you would find in nature, rather than the hybrids you might see in a supermarket flower stand. They come in a surprising range of sizes, shapes and colors, and many of them require special care.
CT: Which pyramid house is your favorite?
GF: It’s impossible to choose. Most people would say their favorite is the one they’re in at the moment. Because there are seasonal changes, as well as new displays in our feature pyramid throughout the year, you might like the temperate best during spring but prefer the tropical in the winter. And you can always fall in love with a particular feature pyramid display.
CT: What is the biggest event the conservatory has hosted so far? Are weddings common?
GF: The conservatory is always proud to host weddings, and we welcome a lot of them every year. The facility can be rented for external events, but we also host our own celebrations. The Lunar New Year fireworks are always popular, and our annual Mother’s Day and countdown to New Years events bring guests back year after year.
CT: Where else would you advise our culture-loving visitors to visit in Edmonton?
GF: As part of the City of Edmonton, we have the inside scoop on other city attractions. The John Walter Museum is one of the city’s hidden gems. If you’re new to Edmonton and have never been, you should visit… and, if you’ve been there before, check for special events and programs. They have a lot of activities that will bring you back.