The Healing Power of the Bloedel Conservatory

Feeling blue or dealing with post-holiday stress? Spending time at the Bloedel Conservatory could be the perfect remedy! Regardless of our age or culture, humans are hard-wired to benefit from the healing power of nature. Studies show that 95% of people changed from feeling anxious and depressed to feeling more calm and balanced after spending time in green spaces. Gardens provide psychological, social, physical, emotional, and spiritual benefits to humans. With winter weather upon us, a visit to the Bloedel Conservatory is like a mini-trip to the tropics that can provide a lift for your spirits!

So what are important features of a healing garden?

A growing body of research shows the importance and benefits of nature and green spaces for health – specifically in the area of stress reduction. “Passive recreation” is just as beneficial as actively working in a garden. The term “healing garden” refers to features in a green space that consistently help us recover from stress and have other positive influences on the body. Immediate benefits associated with shifting to a calm state are decreases in blood pressure and lowering of stress hormone levels in the body. These are things that impact our moods and foster a sense of tranquility, serenity and peacefulness, which in turn have a direct positive influence on our immune, digestive and brain functions.

Engaging the Senses

A healing garden will engage the senses and the Bloedel Conservatory does just that. The most obvious of these is using our sense of sight – but smell, touch and sound are all present. When you first walk into any garden, stop for a moment, shut your eyes and just listen. What do you hear? Wind rustling the leaves, birds singing, or perhaps running water? The sound of gently moving water has an inherent calming effect on our systems and we feel a natural affinity to it. It adds dimension and harmony to our surroundings. The sound of moving water is very relaxing and it has been found to enhance concentration. Stop on the hanging bridge at Bloedel for a few moments and listen to the waterfall. Take a deep breath. This in itself will help tension fade away. This is why practices like yoga, tai chi and meditation focus on breath awareness. As you start to walk through the Conservatory, don’t be afraid to touch the leaves and bark on trees. What does it feel like? Smooth, rough, textured? Maybe there is a flower nearby to smell? Be present in the moment and let any tension start to unwind.


‘Stop and smell the flowers’. In a study at Rutgers, the State University of New Jersey, Dr. Haviland-Jones has found that nature provides us with a simple way to improve emotional health – which is as simple as enjoying flowers! “The presence of flowers triggers happy emotions, heightens feelings of life satisfaction and affects social behaviour in a positive manner far beyond what was previously believed.” They found that flowers – any flowers – have an immediate impact on happiness and a long-term positive effect on moods. Fragrances can evoke cheerful, exciting, and active images that change mood states by suppressing feelings of depression. In a nature setting, people may experience plant scents consciously or unconsciously. The Conservatory always has a selection of orchids and other gorgeous blooms on display.

Lush vegetation

Researcher Roger Ulrich has found that viewing vegetation as opposed to urban scenes, changes our brain waves from beta waves to a slower alpha wave that are associated with being “wakefully relaxed”. Being in “beta” is considered the norm for most people while in their everyday busy waking state. Alpha waves, however, are associated with states of mental and physical relaxation. Our brains drop into “alpha” during the first levels of meditation. Gazing at blues and greens in nature can lower blood pressure, heart rate and make you feel more relaxed. Interestingly, this positively impacts our gut microbiome so our immune and digestive systems benefit too!

Large trees

‘Forest bathing’ or “shinrin-yoku” is a term originating in Japan that refers to a type of ‘forest therapy’ or meditation. Forest bathing, backed by physiological tests in Japan confirm positive therapeutic effects of this activity on stress hormones, brain wave activity, pulse and blood pressure. Studies in Tokyo show participants have increased immune function, decreased stress hormone levels, and release of anti-cancer proteins after spending as little as 20 minutes in the forest. There is no shortage of large trees at Bloedel. In fact, a number of these were the first to be planted in the dome in 1969 and now reach over 60 feet in height. The Benjamin and India Figs, the Dragon trees, and Brazilian Jelly Palm are just a few of the stunning trees you will see and walk among.

Non-threatening wildlife

With over 150 free-flying birds and the antics of exotic parrots and macaws (not to mention the colourful Japanese Koi lazily swimming in the pond), one of them will surely bring a smile! Wildlife distracts us from stress and negative thoughts about issues in our lives, even if only temporarily. Laughter has great benefits for health! Say “Hello” to the parrots and maybe they will give you a “high-five”! So many things at the Bloedel Conservatory can lift your spirits and chase away the winter blues! Come for a visit to start the New Year and whenever you need to brighten your day!

Post by Vicky Earle

The Jewel Atop Vancouver: 50 Years at the Bloedel Conservatory, a beautiful 64-page full colour commemorative book on the Conservatory is available for purchase at:

Bloedel Conservatory / VanDusen Garden Map Now Online

Looking for BC Transit Bus / Canada Line information to visit the Bloedel Conservatory or VanDusen Botanical Garden? Are you on foot or cycling and need the best route between the gardens? The Bloedel Conservatory / VanDusen Garden Travel Map is now available. All nearby bus stops and travel times between the sites are colour coded and listed for your convenience. View online or download the Bloedel Conservatory_VanDusen Garden map .pdf to print or share with out of town visitors.


Bloedel _VanDusen map final 5x3.jpg

Family Fun on Family Day at the Bloedel Conservatory!


  February 9, 2015 from 10am to 5pm

Come discover a variety of fun and exciting rainforest activities at the Bloedel Conservatory on Family Day! Activities are planned throughout the day, including bird talks, ladybug and butterfly releases (including information about why they are good for your garden), feeding the finches and more. Our docents and gardeners will be on hand to share fascinating stories about all the birds and plants that call Bloedel home, as well as a Tropical Adaptations station that provides information about unique strategies rainforest plants use to survive in this unique climate. All are free with paid admission. See the detailed schedule below:

10am – Millet feeding for the Zebra Finches

11am – Ladybug release

12pm – Bird talk

12:30pm – Butterfly release by Metamorphic Farms

1pm – Bird talk

2pm – Lady bug release

2:30pm – Butterfly release by Metamorphic Farms

3pm – Bird talk

Tropical Adaptation station, Herb potting activities, and ‘Ask me’ Docent tables will be ongoing throughout the day.

Kiwi profile great

Admission Rates

Adults             $  6.50

Seniors            $  4.50

Youth (12-18)   $  4.50

Child  (3 -11)   $  3.25

Family Rate     $ 15.00

Members: Free

Painted Lady

The Bloedel Conservatory is fully wheelchair accessible, with benches along the pathway so it’s easy to sit close to the parrots to watch their antics or have a chat! Handy Bird Guides and Scavenger Hunts are available at the front counter. Treat the whole family to a stroll through the magical Bloedel Conservatory, our green jewel at the highest point in Vancouver. There will be lots to do to delight everyone at any age! See you there!


Wow! What a Year!

We welcome this guest post by John Coupar!

Dear Friends,

Wow! What a year for Friends of the Bloedel and the Bloedel Conservatory!

At the end of December last year we were faced with a determined Park Board and City Council which had cut the funding for our beloved Bloedel Conservatory. The future looked very grim indeed with the dome facing an eminent closure date of March 1, 2010. However, our hastily formed group Friends of the Bloedel and our founding Directors Sheryl Hamilton, Vicky Earle, Terri Clark, Tom Hobbs and myself were just beginning to fight.

The vote to close the Bloedel Conservatory was a seminal event. Friends of Bloedel hit the ground running. We focused on getting the message out to main stream media, social media … actually, anyone who would listen (or who had a contact that would listen). Basically, they were bombarded with information! Our group swelled in members and donations followed. Events were planned and executed successfully due to a tremendous group of volunteers and donors. It is clear to me that the planned closure of the Bloedel Conservatory was to be a horrific event. We realized that once it was gone, it could never be replaced – but it was more than that…

There was the realization that much of Vancouver’s incredible beauty is a result of the great horticultural tradition of the Vancouver Park Board. It is our cherished green spaces, parks and gardens that differentiates Vancouver’s look and feel from other cities. This did not happen by accident. It was a result of careful planning and true vision. To lose a piece of this beautiful legacy would have been a great tragedy. Eventually, through sheer determination and a collaborative effort in conjunction with VanDusen Botanical Garden Association, the Park Board gave us unanimous support to keep this Architectural, Horticultural, Natural green jewel at the pinnacle of our great city open.

The synergy between VanDusen Botanical Garden, the Vancouver Park Board and the shared vision of horticultural and curatorial excellence needs to be nurtured and protected. This year will bring us many challenges as we continue our work to enhance and reinvigorate the Bloedel. We have many more events planned, and I am counting on the continued support of the citizens of Vancouver and British Columbia to help as move into the next phase of our efforts. Donations can be sent to the VanDusen Botanical Garden Association (please mark on cheque “for Bloedel Committee”) and see link below for further info.

Thank you all for your support! Happy New Year!


John Coupar

Chair, Bloedel Committee VBGA

Cell 604 818 2756

The Hottest Attraction in Town??

Bloedel Gets Cooled Down!!

Photo courtesy Karl Heimersson

This past week the power outages in south Vancouver gave rise to some creative problem solving at the Bloedel Floral Conservatory by QE Park Supervisor Alex Downie. Because of its location at the very top of QE Park, one of the hottest days of summer gave considerable concern for all the living plants and birds inside this giant glasshouse. The Vancouver Fire Department came to the rescue by hosing a cascade of cold water on the dome which brought the temp down to a reasonable level until the power returned.

The proposal to save Bloedel Conservatory will hopefully be officially approved on September 20th by the Park Board.

We like being the Hottest Attraction in town, but not quite so literally!

Photo courtesy Karl Heimersson

Photo courtesy Karl Heimersson

Post by guest author Terri Clark

Garden Fever Postponed!

We are postponing Garden Fever, a silent auction to support the Bloedel Floral Conservatory that was set to take place Thursday June 24th, until early fall.

We thought we’d be a lot further along in the Expression of Interest process to save our green oasis and have some announcements to make at Garden Fever, but things are moving a bit slower we thought.

Tickets already purchased for the event will be refunded and those bought on credit card will not be processed.

We have some marvelous silent auction items that will keep just fine until our next event, so stayed tuned and we look forward to seeing you then!