The Apocalyptic Allan Gardens

Posted on January 23rd, 2009 2 great comments. Room for one more!

Basking in the summer sun and hosting merry, undulating rivulets of sweat betwixt my rosy ass cheeks, I often found myself thinking of the future.

The imagined timeline floated in the haze of somewhere around mid-January.

Yes. Chilled drinks did factor into that vision, as did various activities combining snow and nudity.

Despite this, my pragmatism allowed me to recognize that winter would also suck in many ways. I knew that, for example, snow would feel great on my ruddy bits for only a few minutes at most. After that, the joy would be gone.

I make sure I don’t look forward with too much adoration. That way on my daily travels, when I expect the destination to suck, it’s kind of nice to arrive and find that it sucks less. A shitty day can so often be transformed into a less shitty day by the expectation (but clear lack) of an even shittier day.

In between sweat, I paused to gaze forward in time again.

The year was 2009. It was a cold, bitter January. Much to everyone’s horror, Bush had proclaimed himself president for a third term. The Clintons were forming an insurgent militia and Barack Obama, having won the election proper, was being held “for questioning” by Homeland Security.

Looting and pillaging were daily occurrences. Police and even the army stood back, trying merely to contain the borders of the swelling uprising growing from within. Almost all major city cores exploded with a shockwaves of violence that rippled outward, ripping up any vestiges of civility, kindness, and humanity.

Savage survival was all that remained.

I thought to myself, if it’s still standing in the midst of all this, where could one visit to take a bit of a break? You know, shoulder the automatic, dash through the gauntlet of unfriendly fire, then to the safety of the bullet-worn garbage bin. Something within walking range.

The first thing that popped into my mind was also the most improbable one.

allan gardens mid-winter

Allan Gardens.

It would be smashed to bits. A makeshift city would no doubt stand in its ruins, the vile stench of humanity rising from it, piercing the brittle peace that sometimes floated on the air.

But what if, by some miracle, it still stood?

The route to run would be short and the snipers along it few. The park would present it’s own dangers, but nothing too bad.

I envisioned bandits hanging from the park trees’ sturdy branches on long, bungee-corded suspenders. These would allow them to snap back to the safety of their arboreal fortresses upon swiping stuff from unlucky passerbys. The Squirrel Men; a name dare not whispered.

But as long as I maintained radius, I would be golden.

Then, after some careful navigation around the strangely alluring empatho-sentient vine (how far science has advanced in 6 months!), I would crawl in through the broken window of the main pavilion, entering the inner sanctum of a lush, overgrown oasis.

It seems, in hindsight, my forecast was not exactly correct except for right at the end. The vine and me, well, that didn’t work out. But, the building’s still there and it’s good for all what ails ya.

Most visible improvements over my worst-case scenario include the absence of tree-bound hoodlums and genetically mutated plants (there was only one…) Also, one may stroll there casually and to be honest, a bullet-proof vest is mostly for show.

allan gardens mid-winterHowever, my overblown expectations of greenery in the middle of a wasteland weren’t ruined by reality. In fact, I believe my imagination was a bit weak.

First thing through the entrance is the smell of thick, fragrant soil. I’m talking top-notch, finely aged, and lovingly nurtured worm excrement.

The earth is always moist, though I’ve never seen anyone watering it. In fact, I’m not really sure who would stop me were I to take a squatty #2 in between the palm and the ficus. Despite this seeming lack of staff, the plants are meticulously maintained. Everything is brilliantly green and blooming every which way.

allan gardens mid-winterThe elves, it seems, were also busy around Christmas time and there was no end to the shit strung all over everything. If you’re a fan of gargantuan balls hanging from twigs you’ll dig it. I did.

They’re now halfway through the process of extricating the excessive numbers of poinsettia that were stuck into every square inch. The word outrageous is perfectly descriptive of the sheer amount of plant material they trucked in. It was an orgy for the senses. If only they’d allowed peacocks to freely roam the pavillions, that would’ve added so pleasingly to the excess.

Stripped of most of the extravagance, though, the place is no less impressive. Each pavillion is an installation of plants that enjoy similar atmospheric conditions and the selection is pretty broad.

One has a waterwheel (alas, not powering any tiny machinery) that serves to keep moisture in the air. Orchids are kept behind dirty glass but everything else is available for manual enjoyment. Three miniature paths and even a bridge fit into a space not much bigger than your average urban McDonald’s. Smells better too.

allan gardens mid-winterThis room is attached to what I call the “northern temperate” room. It’s kinda like your grandma’s garden in late fall; a little chilly, meticulously arranged, and contains a classical a sculpture pool. The peacocks would go great with tea here. Most of the plants seem somewhat redundant; many of them don’t seem that far removed from Canadian varieties.


The palm pavilion is the main part of the complex. By complex I mean a big glass house of long, interconnected rooms. allan gardens mid-winterHere, though, complex isn’t so inappropriate. It’s a glass dome that rises a good ten (thirty-ish feet) from the center of a rounded room. Almost the entire vertical space is used up by fully-grown palms, banana, and other large plants. The humid room is lined with benches and it’s the best place to chill with a coffee and watch the snow fall outside.

allan gardens mid-winterFurther along is the palm pavilion’s cousin, the tropical plants room. Almost everything here is in bloom, or in some sort of fruiting phase. The medicinal plants section is of particular interest to those seeking to expand their practical pharmacopeial knowledge. You can also play find the Arabica tree. Be sure to tip your spill-proof lid to it when you do.

allan gardens mid-winterThe dusty trail of the cactus house is a fine denouement to the gaudy displays of the other rooms. Somber, dusky tones remind you that you are about to step back out into bleak reality — but not before twisting your brain on some crazy shapes! There is no doubt in my mind that these suckers were the inspirations for fractal equations. Mandelbrot was definitely trippin’ on some kinda cactus.

The gardens have a few other rooms, mostly for kids to learn that seedlings die and that plants come from the grocery store. Most of the time, though, they lie idle and locked with nothing in them.

All in all, you can’t beat the gardens even if you just want to warm up or take a tinkle (there is a washroom). When you’ve gotten a static zap for the fiftieth fucking time since four o’clock, a little humidty can be very soothing. Also, the place is an instant cure for snow blindness. Add to that the admission price of nothing and how do you go wrong?

You have seven days a week to hit the Gardens but only between nine and five. If I may make a suggestion, going in winter will just make you appreciate it more.

allan gardens mid-winter


2 Comments on “ The Apocalyptic Allan Gardens ”

  • Chris
    January 18th, 2010 7:30 am


    I'm working on creating a programme for a choir that is performing in Allan Gardens. Your photos are gorgeous and I wonder if I could use some of them to insert in the programme. If so, could I get them in a more original resolution? I would be pleased to add a "photo courtesy of…" line to each photo.



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  • Patrick
    January 18th, 2010 2:16 pm

    Hi Chris,

    Thanks for the compliment :)

    I'm not sure if I still have the original photos (I just don't have space to store them all), but I'll see what I can dig up. You're the first person to ask for this but if anyone else is reading this I'd like to point out that all of the content on this site (photos/text/audio/etc.) is licensed under the Creative Commons license (see the very bottom of the page for a link and more information). This means that anyone can use the content for any purpose (commercial or otherwise), as long as they include attribution ("Photo by …" or something to that effect) — no prior permission needed. I'm not even that hung up on attribution (I create stuff to share so share away!), it's mostly to protect me against someone else claiming copyright and trying to sue me over my own content.

    Incidentally, many of the old photos used on TCL (for roughly the first half of 2009), were hosted on Flickr:
    They all carry a CC license as well and there are a few Allan Gardens pics on the tenth page:

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