When the Weather Outside is Frightful …

Shimmer Surprise cultivar

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), Shimmer Surprise cultivar. Photo by Vicky Earle

Plan a visit to the Bloedel Conservatory!

It’s a warm and lush tropical get away to relax, recharge and reinvigorate the whole family during the holidays! Plus, the antics of all the birds are sure to bring a smile to everyone’s face. Currently there are hundreds of poinsettias – over a dozen different cultivars – on display for the festive season!

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), Yellow Snow cultivar.

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), Yellow Snow cultivar. Photo by Vicky Earle

Poinsettias are right at home at the Conservatory. While they are the most popular of all Christmas houseplants, poinsettias are actually indigenous to the tropical climates of Mexico and Central America. The Aztecs called poinsettias “Cuetlaxochitl” (from cuitlatl, for residue, and xochitl, for flower). They used the plant for its medicinal properties to control fevers and the bracts (modified leaves) were used to make a reddish dye for fabrics. Legend has it that Montezuma, the last of the Aztec kings, had poinsettias brought into what now is Mexico City by caravans because this beautiful plant could not be grown at high altitudes. Today the poinsettia is known in Mexico and Guatemala as “La Flor de la Nochebuena” (Flower of the Holy Night, or Christmas Eve). In Chile and Peru, it is called the “Crown of the Andes”.

Winter Rose Red Poinsettia

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), Winter Rose Red cultivar. Photo by Vicky Earle

The botanical name Euphorbia pulcherrima (meaning ‘very beautiful’) was assigned to the poinsettia by the German botanist, Wilenow, because he was dazzled by its brilliant color. The poinsettia was introduced to North America in 1825 when the United States’ first ambassador to Mexico, Joel Robert Poinsett, sent several plants back to his home in Greenville, South Carolina. William Prescott, historian and horticulturist, renamed the plant ‘Poinsettia’ in honour of Poinsett.

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), Monet Twilight cultivar

Poinsettia (Euphorbia pulcherrima), Monet Twilight cultivar. Photo by Vicky Earle

The poinsettia grows in the wild as a shrub or small tree, typically reaching a height of 0.6–5 metres (2–16.5 feet). Typically, the plant has dark green leaves that measure 7–16 centimetres (2.8–6.3 in) in length. The colored bracts — which are most often flaming red but can be orange, pale green, cream, pink, white, or marbled— are often mistaken for flower petals because of their groupings and colors, but they are actually leaves. The flowers of the poinsettia are unassuming and do not attract pollinators. They are grouped within small yellow structures found in the center of each leaf bunch, and are called cyathia.

Bloedel 45th Anniversary cake

Bloedel Conservatory 45th Anniversary Cake


Once again, we send a big thank you to all who came out on December 6th to celebrate Bloedel’s 45th Anniversary! It was a fantastic party with Hawaiian Dancers, rhythms of Soul Survivors Steel Drum Band, a Professional Face Painter, Sven and Jens the whimsical and talented Scandinavian Gnomes and of course hot chocolate and cake. The party would not have been possible without the backing and organization from the Vancouver Park Board, the support of the VanDusen Botanical Garden Association, Greyhaven Exotic Bird Sanctuary and all of the fantastic Bloedel staff and volunteers. Thank you to all. We look forward to many more years and exciting things to come!

Happy Holidays!


A New Year of Hope

The Bloedel Conservatory. Photo copyright Vicky Earle

It’s a New Year and we have much to celebrate at the Bloedel Conservatory! Last year was a year of “firsts” under the dome. Even though we still await the new Operating Agreement that will allow Bloedel to officially merge with the VanDusen Botanical Garden, there have been exciting happenings at our green jewel atop Queen Elizabeth Park! Here is a quick recap of 2011:

The Friends of the Bloedel saw big changes to our Board of Directors during 2011. Our President, John Coupar was successfully elected to the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation. His drive, unwavering dedication, insight and optimism will be a great asset to the Park Board! Founding Director Sheryl Hamilton and her family also made the decision to leave Vancouver for more the tranquil surroundings of Armstrong, BC. Her drive and passion are greatly missed and we wish her all the best in her new home! Vicky Earle, also a Founding Director, is very excited to take the lead as the new President of the Friends of Bloedel. Two new Directors also join the Board for 2012, Aimeé Taylor and Johanna Hickey, who both have tremendous experience and bring great enthusiasm to our group.

Zygopetalum orchid

One of the biggest highlights of the year at the Conservatory were the new Orchid Shows organized in partnership with the Vancouver Orchid Society. Spectacular and exotic blossoms filled the subtropical section of the Conservatory for three separate shows. Knowledgeable VOS members were on hand daily, leading tours and answering questions about the dazzling displays. Truly an orchid affectionato’s dream! We eagerly look forward to more orchid shows during 2012!

Ruby, Eclectus parrot. Photo copyright Vicky Earle

Other highlights included many new additions to the Bloedel family! Two beautiful Electus Parrots, Ruby and Kiwi, along with Sylvester, the handsome Silver Pheasant were all adopted last summer. The Conservatory is a great home and they are all thriving! The feathered flock also greeted new small birds that include Star, Cordon Bleu and Gouldian finches, as well as a variety of canaries and other waxbills. All brightly coloured and welcome additions!

photo by D Sharon Pruitt

Also new in 2011 were the Walk in the Tropics Series at the Conservatory and HSBC Family programs. A Walk in the Tropics is a monthly walk conceived and organized by VanDusen’s Education Director, Gillian Drake. They were a smashing success (sold out) and will continue throughout 2012. Led by knowledgeable staff from Bloedel and VanDusen, these morning walks are designed to familiarize you with the rich biodiversity found under Bloedel’s dome. Check the Events Calendar on the VanDusen Botanical Garden website for dates, topics and sign-up information. The HSBC Family Programs (for families with children ages 5 to 11) were also extended to Bloedel for the first time. Guided programs include fun and educational activities for the whole family to learn about the diverse tropical plant life and birds that live under the dome.

Last, but not least, the annual Jewel Box of Lights event was a wonderful success, with thousands of visitors coming in to see our tropical oasis dressed for the holidays. The fountains on the plaza were colourfully lit for the very first time in history! Gardeners at the Conservatory masterfully added stunning displays of poinsettas, twinkling waterfalls of lights and magical lasers to the festive flare of the dome. We thank all the patrons who came out for our Opening Night Event!

Considering we nearly lost this green jewel forever 2 years ago, this year of 2012 continues as a New Year of Hope, for it will see the fruition of more new programs, events and celebrations at the Bloedel Conservatory. The Friends of Bloedel are hard at work and will bring you all the latest news right here! (Click the “Follow” button at the bottom right of the page and receive automatic updates!) We thank you all for your continued support and wish you and your families a wonderful and prosperous New Year. Be sure to schedule visits to the Conservatory and immerse yourself in the magic of the dome in 2012!

Happy Holidays!

This year has been a phenomenal journey for the Bloedel Conservatory and all of its Friends!

We thank you all for your unwavering support and look forward to many more exciting and magical years under the Dome!

The Directors of Friends of the Bloedel send you Warmest Wishes for a Joyous Holiday Season!

There are already great new programs gearing up to be launched early in the new year: “A Walk in the Topics” series that will begin January 18th and run the 3rd Tuesday of (almost) every month; HSBC Family Programs for families with children starts Saturday, January 22nd; and new Guided Seniors Tours will be getting underway in February. Stay tuned here for information and event updates!

Don’t miss the magic of the Jewel Box of Lights Event! The Conservatory is open late and the show is on until January 2!