Making Hearts Happy!

As much as I visit the Bloedel Conservatory, our green oasis at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park, I rarely take time to read the Visitor Comment Book. But today was different. Today, I was waiting for a friend and didn’t want to stray too far from the front door. To bide time, I began to look through the pages of the Visitor Book. There were many heartfelt raves like “Wonderful!”, “Beautiful!”,  and “Wow!” However, I was not prepared for the more creative comments and touching sentiments.

These comments ranged from “Mindblowing” to “You need monkeys!”, to “Splendifulous“, “Breathtaking” and “Bellisimo“. “This is our first date here and we loved it“, “Will brag to everyone that I was here!” and from Sairin and Mustafa of India You made our hearts so happy! Thank you!

I was thrilled to see visitors hailing from near and far – not only local visitors from all over BC and every Canadian province, but also from around the globe. Here is testament that our little Conservatory truly is a World destination! I read page upon page of comments from Holland, Australia, Japan, Brazil, Germany, Belgium, China, Slovenia, England, Finland, Romania, Ireland, South Korea, Philippines, Italy, India, Switzerland, New Zealand, Venezuela and the Czech Republic (to name a few).

At that moment, I was so proud to have played a part in saving the Bloedel Conservatory! I think Bill Livingstone and Stuart Lefeaux, the two men who had the grand vision to build this floral conservatory would be very proud. Not to mention, this is exactly what Prentice Bloedel desired when he put forward the funding to build the dome: to showcase the beauty of the tropics through amazing floral displays and to familiarize and inspire people of all ages with the world of plants. I do hope the gardeners and staff at the Conservatory take a moment from time to time to read the Visitor’s Book. It is an uplifting tribute to their ongoing dedication and hard work that keeps the magic of the dome alive. Absolute enjoyment!”, “Fantastic!“, “Magnifique!” 

Post by Vicky Earle, Vice President, Friends of the Bloedel

THANK YOU to All Our Supporters!

We are sending a heartfelt

THANK YOU

to each and every person who has helped

Save the Bloedel Conservatory!

Every donation, big and small, has helped us in our efforts. How?

Most importantly, we have kept the Conservatory open past the closure deadline! If events had continued along the original path, the doors to Bloedel would have closed forever back on March 1, 2010. Together, we have kept the Bloedel Conservatory open at least until September, 2010.

Next, we have had marketing underway for a few months now – and it is really paying off! Attendance at the Conservatory has consistently doubled or tripled every month since December. More and more people are re-discovering the beauty and the magic held within the dome. This is great news! Right now Bloedel is breaking even!! Your donations have helped make this possible! If 70,000 more people visit annually the operating deficit is history! Please keep visiting, bringing your friends and helping us spread the word!

What else? We have put on two great Events (and raised over $45,000)! ‘Garden Fever’, our next event is planned for June 24th at the VanDusen Floral Hall. We have a fun-filled Silent Auction set to go with many great gifts ‘on the block’ including, private wine tastings, art, photography, private garden tours and more!

Also, true to the mandate for Friends of the Bloedel, we have undertaken legal research to help protect the Bloedel Conservatory well into the future.

Together we have started to make a big difference!

From all of the birds and plants under the dome, and especially from Friends of the Bloedel,

We thank you again for your tremendous support!

News Update on the EOI: Our Expression of Interest is still being considered by the Vancouver Park Board. Join us at the Public Meeting June 15th, 2010 at the Park Board office Boardroom (2099 Beach Avenue @ 6:30) and show your support for our proposal to partner with VanDusen Garden Botanical Association. We are offering to work collaboratively with the Park Board to keep the Bloedel Floral Conservatory open and in public hands for generations to come, but the final decision is still pending. For more information, visit FriendsoftheBloedel.ca.

Red Macaw

Quick Guide: Birds of Bloedel

With Summer Hours now in place, you have more time to enjoy the Conservatory! Monday – Friday  9 am ~ 8 pm;  Weekends  10am ~ 9pm

It’s easy to recognize the larger parrots at the Bloedel Conservatory, but the smaller free-flying birds are a bit harder to name.  Some of these little guys only show themselves occasionally, so it has been tricky getting portraits of them all. This post will be updated frequently as more photos are collected. If you can spot every bird on this list, you are fortunate indeed!  Enjoy! Leave us a comment and let us know which birds are your favorites!

Napoleon Weaver Finch

Napoleon Weaver Finch

Napoleon Weaver Finch (male)

Napoleon Weaver Finch (female)

Napoleon Weaver Finch (female)

The Napoleon Weaver is native to south central Africa. They build their nests by anchoring vertical palm fronds to a branch and then weaving horizontal palm leaf strips in and out of that structure. If you look carefully around the Conservatory in the Spring and late fall (November), you might see one building one of these intricate nests. They are slightly more yellowish than the Orange Bishop Weaver finch. 

Orange Bishop Weaver Finch

Orange Bishop Weaver Finch (male)

The Orange Bishop Weaver is VERY similar to the Napoleon Weaver. The easiest way to tell the males apart is by their tail and forehead colour. The Orange Bishop has a black face AND forehead, while the Napoleon Weaver tends to only have black cheeks. The Orange Bishop is also a deeper orange with an orange tail. The Orange Bishop Weaver builds a hanging globe for a nest. The females will inspect all the nests and select the best architect as a mate. When you see them carrying strips of palm fronds, you know it’s nesting season. Orange Bishop finches are native to the grasslands of east Africa.

Zebra Finch

Zebra Finch

These adorable little finches love to eat often throughout the day and can usually be spotted at the feeding station in the Subtropical area of the Conservatory. These little guys have ‘fawn’ spots on their wings and unmistakable orange cheeks. Zebra finches eat seeds and are just over 3 1/2 inches in length. They are native to Australia and are very good singers. In fact, an interesting study at McGill University studied the complexity of the song of the male Zebra finches. The research found that the little guys with the most intricate song were also better foragers for food – making them a better ‘catch’ for the ladies!

Japanese White Eye

Japanese White Eye

The Japanese White Eyes, also called Mejiros, are extraordinary song birds. The name White-eye was given because of the silky white rings around the eyes. They are native to Japan, but today can be found across Korea, India, Pakistan, Ceylon, Burma, and the Philippines. Japanese White Eyes were introduced to Oahu in 1929 and can now also be found throughout all the Hawaiian Islands. These little birds tend to eat insects, but fruit is their favorite food. They are easily tamable and quite sociable. Along with their beautiful songs, this makes the Japanese White Eye a favorite household companion.

Canary

Canary

Canaries are actually part of of the finch family, but they are far less social. And yep, you guessed it, they are native to the Canary Islands. There are a number of colour mutations that have appeared over the years including bronze, white and red. Did you know that only male canaries sing and are very territorial? This is the only way you can tell them apart from females!

Strawberry Finch

Strawberry Finch or Red Avadavat

The Strawberry Finch is also known as the Red Avadavat or Red Munia. This is the only finch where males go out of colour when not breeding. During breeding season they become bright red with small white spots showing up along the neck, breast and sides … very much like a strawberry! They can be found throughout India and Asia in the wild.

Red-winged Laughing Thrush

Red-winged Laughing Thrush

These birds are native to southwest China and northwest Vietnam and are part of the Old World babbler family (Timaliidae). Laughing thrushes are approx 10 inches long (27 cm) and tend to travel in pairs or small groups close to the forest floor. Look for them smoothly hopping though the low ‘under growth’ at the Conservatory. They can be quite ‘talkative’ in the late afternoons, making loud whistling songs.

African Superb Starling

African Superb Starling

These beautiful birds have deep metallic blues, purples and greens in their plumage. This bright colouring is due to iridescence which is actually derived from the structure of the feathers rather than pigment. They are quite social birds and have a wide range of vocalizations, sometimes including ‘humanized’ sounds like car door alarms in their songs. There are many species ranging throughout the world from the Arctic to the Equator. The Starling family is closely related to Myna birds.

Budgerigar (Budgies)

Budgie (male)

Do you know how to tell the difference between a male and female budgie? It’s the colour of the “cere” which is the area above the beak that surrounds the nostrils. Boys have blue cere’s (of course!), for females it is tan or brown while juveniles of both sexes will be purplish in colour. Budgies are native to Australia and have green plumage in the wild. Domestic birds range in colour from white, blue, yellow and green. A healthy budgie needs lots of room to fly so the Conservatory is a great home to the flock of residents who live here. Some people call budgies ‘parakeets’, but this is actually a ‘catch-all’ name used for many smaller species of parrots.

Yellow Grosbeak

Yellow Grosbeak (female)

The Yellow Grosbeak is a medium-sized seed-eating bird in the same family as the Northern Cardinal. They are usually found on the Pacific side of Mexico from central Sonora to northwestern Oaxaca, and in southern Chiapas and Guatemala. The Grosbeak is a forest or woodland bird that can be found as far north as Arizona, California, New Mexico, and sometimes even Iowa, in the summer months. It is considerably bigger than its North American relatives, the Black-headed and Rose-breasted Grosbeak.

Red-vented Bulbul

Red-vented Bulbul

The Red-vented Bulbul is a member of the passerine family  (meaning perching birds). It is native to India, Sri Lanka and China and was later introduced to the Hawaiian islands and Fiji. Bulbuls feed mainly on petals of flowers, nectar, insects, and fruits making it an important bird for distributing the seeds of plants. This Bulbul was given the name ‘red-vented’ because of the red triangular patch under it’s tail. They are quite good singers.

Pied-Imperial Pigeon

Pied Imperial Pigeon

The Pied-Imperial Pigeon is also known as the Arboreal Dove, the Nutmeg, Torresian Imperial and Torres Strait Pigeon. In the wild, they are generally found in rainforests, eucalyptus woodlands, and along coastal scrubs, creeks, rivers, mangroves and islands. Did you know that pigeons are among the most intelligent and physically adept creatures in the animal kingdom? According to studies at the University of Montana, pigeons can recognize all 26 letters in the English language and differentiate different human beings in photographs. Because they can be taught to make complex responses in different sequences, they were utilized to save thousands of people lost at sea and during numerous rescue missions during times of World Wars  I and II!

Touraco

Touraco

The Touraco is one of the most exotic birds at Bloedel. There are a number of different species of  Touracos in the wild, this one is the Sierra Leone or Green-crested Touraco. He is elusive! If you can spot him you are lucky indeed! (Hint: he likes to hang out in the magnolia tree above the waterfall). Touracos are approximately 43 cm in length (nearly 12 inches) and are spectacular in flight.

Princess Parrot

Monty the Princess Parrot

Princess Parrots originate from central and western Australia but today are rarely seen in the wild. They are also known Splendor Parrots due to their pastel colouring. Princess Parrots are often described as very gentle and quiet with an endearing personality. If you look closely, they usually seem to be smiling. They are very social and tend to mimic whistles rather than talk. When Monty arrived at the Conservatory, he instantly fell in love with Casey the Amazon Parrot. She is never too far from his sight. When you find one, the other will be close by.

~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~~

References:

McGill Study on Zebra Finches: http://www.cbc.ca/quirks/archives/08-09/qq-2008-11-15.html

Budgie Information, Let’s talk Birds: http://www.letstalkbirds.com/budgie.htm

The Avian Web: http://www.avianweb.com/birdspecies.htm

University of Montana Research on Pigeons: http://www.avianweb.com/pigeonintelligence.html

Wikipedia: http://www.wikipedia.org

Honolulu Zoo: http://www.honoluluzoo.org/site_map2.htm

A Step in the Right Direction!

Working in conjunction with Park Board Commissioner Barnes, Friends of Bloedel have taken the opportunity to market the Conservatory at the Vancouver Lookout, located atop the Harbour Centre Tower in downtown Vancouver at 555 West Hastings Street.

Our 6 1/2 foot poster was put in place yesterday alongside a display for the Dr. Sun Yat Sen Chinese Garden where it will remain for the next 3 weeks. By increasing attendance by 70,000 more visits per year at the Bloedel Conservatory, we can say goodbye to the operating deficit. Thanks to the groundswell of support by the public and surrounding communities, we are well on our way to that goal!

If the Park Board accepts the Expression of Interest proposal put forward by the Friends of the Bloedel/ VanDusen Botanical Garden Association partnership, this will be the first of many steps to ensure our green jewel stays open well into the future.

Tickets for “A Little Night Music”

Our Event IS Sold Out!


Thank you all for supporting our event fund raiser to save the Bloedel Conservatory! We are thrilled to know so many people love the Conservatory as much as we do and will be joining us on the 28th!

Enjoy the exotic evening ambiance of our own tropical rainforest atop Little Mountain at Queen Elizabeth Park April 28 @ 7:30 while listening to the classical melodies of the Coast Trio, viola sensation Nathaniel Wong and Opera soprano Lucy Smith. Luscious Xoxolat chocolates and champagne provided by Sumac Ridge will tickle taste buds as you stroll the garden pathway taking in this magical night. The Orchid Society will also be on site selling orchids and answering questions. It’s the perfect after dinner destination!

For more information about Friends of the Bloedel and our progress, visit http://www.friendsofthebloedel.ca

See you Wednesday the 28th!

Top 6 Things to see at Bloedel

There is so much to see at the Bloedel Conservatory that it’s hard to pick the top six! However, after careful consideration, these things are a definite ‘must see’ when you go for a visit:

1. The Dome itself!

Yes, we know, obviously you are going to see the dome, but there are a few ‘tidbits’ that might give a greater appreciation on your next visit. Built in 1969, this triodetic dome is an architectural wonder and was created as the City of Vancouver’s 1967 Centennial project. Many people don’t know it was the first floral conservatory in the world (!) and won the Vincent Massey Award for Excellence in Urban Environment in 1972. The design of the dome was based on the principle of openness, one where the structure doesn’t compete with the rainforest experience by using center supports. It is 70 feet high at its apex and is constructed using 1,490 plexiglass ‘bubbles’ set into a 2,324 piece aluminum framework. The Bloedel Conservatory was listed as a Class-A Canadian Heritage building in 1993. Outside, Prentice Bloedel selected the the Henry Moore sculpture to work with the overall design of the fountain, the Conservatory and the entire plaza. His intent was to connect man with the inspiration and power of nature through art, architecture and lush garden ecosystems.

2. The Touraco.

If you can find him you are lucky indeed, but that’s half the adventure! Take your time, look up into the trees, be patient. It’s just like bird watching in a real rainforest! Now you see him, now you don’t … but worth the wait! He is one of the most unusual and exotic birds at Bloedel…. and sounds a bit like a gorilla when he sings! (Hint: he likes to hang out in the big magnolia tree above the waterfall).

3. The Cycad

The type of cycad at Bloedel is the Mexican Horncone and its species is one of the oldest on the planet! Seriously! It was around when dinosaurs roamed and you can see one right here in Vancouver.  Cycad fossils have been dated back 125 million years, and Cycad-like relatives go back 275 million years. The Horncone is really quite unassuming, blending in with all the other palms the way it does, but it is actually more closely related to pine and spruce trees. You can find it on your left, just over the bamboo bridge.

4. The Orchids! There are so many at Bloedel and they are always changing.

5. The Parrots of course!

How could we pick just one? Rosie, Art, Carmen and Maria, Nelson, Casey and Monty – all have their own unique personalities and usually have something to say. Nelson (the smallest macaw above) may even play ‘Peek a Boo’ (yep, he actually says ‘peek-a-boo’ and turns around to hide).  Be sure to ask Casey ‘What ‘cha doin’ ? when you stop by.

6. The Dragon Trees.

There are a few types of Dragon trees at the Conservatory.  The ‘Big’ Dragons however (Dracaena draco) can be found in the subtropical section of the Conservatory. These trees are native to the Canary Islands and grow very (very) slowly. In fact it takes about 10 years for a tree to grow 1 metre! Some are estimated at 650 years old.  The trunk branches every time the tree flowers and is one way to help determine its age. When the bark or leaves are cut, the reddish coloured resin has been referred to as ‘dragon’s blood’ which was used in ancient times as medicines, dyes, varnish and incense.

While these are a few of the highlights at Bloedel, there is so much more to see! What is your favorite thing? Leave a comment and let us know!

And a Quick Reminder: Please join the Friends of the Bloedel for A Little Night Music, champagne and tropical chocolates on April 28 at 7:30 at the Conservatory. All funds raised go directly to help Save the Conservatory!

Fantastic Pheasants at Bloedel!

Step into the Bloedel Conservatory and you are immediately transported into a tropical world of lush exotic greenery. Plants range from miniature orchids to towering Dragon trees and ancient cycads to Lollipop plants. But what really brings the the jungle experience to the top of Little Mountain? It’s free flying birds with their chirping and chattering and carrying on. You can watch them for hours, but it’s the Chinese Pheasants that never fail to ‘Wow’ visitors.

Two pheasants live at the Conservatory (also called Golden pheasants or Red Golden pheasants). Their kind are native to the mountainous regions of western China. And while there are 35 types of pheasants throughout the world, 27 of those species are on the rare and endangered list due to over hunting and habitat loss. Yes, believe it or not, these beautiful creatures were once considered game birds!

Chinese pheasants can fly, but these at Bloedel prefer to leisurely strut along the pathways – often with a troop of young visitors not far behind. Occasionally both birds will end up in the same place at the same time with a standoff quick to follow.

Feather patterns and colours are stunning on these 3 1/2 foot long birds. You won’t be at the conservatory for long before a flash of red or yellow in the foliage will catch your eye.  Get your cameras ready!  You’ll soon be happily moving over to make way for these fantastic pheasants.

A Little Night Music Under the Dome

Amazon Lily

Our next great event is booked! After the fun of Rumble in the Jungle held in January, we couldn’t wait to plan our next party to support Bloedel!  A Little Night Music will be held at the Conservatory April 28, at 7:30 pm.

Enjoy classic melodies of the Coast Trio, viola sensation Nathaniel Wong and Opera soprano Lucy Smith while you sip champagne and nibble exotic Xoxolat chocolates. What a perfect way to soak up the stunning evening ambiance of our own tropical rainforest atop Little Mountain at Queen Elizabeth Park! If you have never been in the Conservatory at night, it is truly magical and should not be missed. A Little Night Music will be a perfect after dinner event while you enjoy one of Vancouver’s most iconic public garden treasures.

Red Macaw

Join the Friends of the Bloedel for this mini-fundraiser to help save the Conservatory, which was targeted as a Park Board budget cut late last year. Tickets to A Little Night Music can be purchased in advance for $20 each or at the door for $25. Advance ticket sales are available in person or by phone at Hobbs Gift Store in Kerrisdale: 2129 West 41st Avenue ~ 604-261-5998.

See you there!