The Bloedel Conservatory Has a New Roof!!

Bird’s eye view of Vancouver from atop the Bloedel Conservatory.

Six months after the intricate and impressive scaffolding was installed by WestCan over the dome, all 1,490 plexiglass panels have been successfully replaced and the Bloedel Conservatory has a new roof!

This scaffolding was unique in many ways: it could not touch the dome at any point, and transparent, protective plastic sheets needed to be stretched up and over the top to keep workers, birds, plants and visitors dry while the plexi bubbles were being replaced. Watch a special time lapsed video here. Rope access technicians worked through the wee hours of the night whenever specialized interior netting needed to be installed or moved. This netting kept debris from falling into the dome and nearly 200 free flying birds from finding their way out.

Rope crews getting ready to hang netting inside the dome.

Thanks to the fantastic teams at Spectrum Skyworks and Pacific Ropes, not to mention a specialized Hazmat crew, this massive project was completed a full 2 months ahead of schedule! Special kudos also go out to the onsite Bloedel staff who managed to keep the Conservatory open, running smoothly and looking spectacular while this substantial project was underway.

Originally planned as a 3 phase project, we are so fortunate that the City of Vancouver, the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation, the Federal Government and Prentice Bloedel’s Daughter, Virginia Bloedel Wright, came together with $2.4 million dollars in funding to complete the entire roof project in one phase.

All 2,324 pieces of extruded aluminum tubing that make up the triodetic dome have been polished and the scaffolding has started to be dismantled. The Bloedel Conservatory has been restored to its former glory and brilliance!

And mark your calendars! The “We Did It! Bubble Bash”, a fantastic roof completion celebration party is scheduled for Thursday, September 25th. Stay tuned for more info! It’s an event not to be missed!

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Bloedel Conservatory at dusk surrounded by exterior scaffolding. Photo by Vicky Earle

 

Art Prints Inspired by Bloedel Finches

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Paula Grasdal is a Vancouver mixed media artist, printmaker, and graphic designer. She is also one of the new dedicated Roving Docents volunteering at the Bloedel Conservatory. The amazing birds at Bloedel – especially the exotic finches – became Paula’s source of inspiration. A number of prints in this series, along with artwork by co-exhibitor Rosalind Rorke, make up the “Recurrence” exhibit, now on display at the Dundarave Print Workshop on Granville Island until June 29.

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Paula began by taking a series of photographs of gouldian finches and various botanical specimens at the conservatory as source material for the imagery. She incorporated a circular motif to mirror the building’s shape. These prints incorporate abstract patterns, shadows and shifting perspectives to evoke the sense of a “fleeting glimpse of something seen and then remembered with a skewed perspective”. Inspired by repetition — cycles in nature and patterns in design — the flora and fauna is drawn from the artists’ experience and vision of the natural world. Her artwork has been featured in publications such as “Mixed Media Collage” by Quarry Press and is in private collections in the U.S. and Canada.

recurrence invite

Be sure to catch “Recurrence” at the Dundarave Print Workshop (in the Net Loft across from the market) at Granville Island. The Roving Docents, on hand every weekend at the Bloedel Conservatory, are also looking forward to your visit. They have amazing stories about the plants and birds that live there and can’t wait to share them with you. Come catch a glimpse of the exotic finches and get inspired!

 

Celebrate National Garden Day!

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Just in time for Father’s Day, Canada’s Inagural National Garden Day draws attention to public and private gardens across the country! Garden Days (June 13 – 15) celebrate the role of gardens in our communities and in our lives. The program’s objective is to draw attention to Canada’s garden culture, its history and innovations, and to underscore the important values of gardening and environmental stewardship. When the Bloedel Conservatory opened in December, 1969, Prentice Bloedel dedicated this green jewel “to a better appreciation and understanding of the world of plants”. It has been connecting people with the magic of the tropics ever since!

As a matter of fact, the Bloedel Conservatory has all of the aspects of a healing garden! Being active in a garden promotes both physical and mental well-being, but you don’t need to get your hands dirty to reap the benefits of time spent in a garden! “Passive recreation” is just as beneficial. Roger Ulrich, a professor and director of the Center for Health Systems and Design at Texas A & M University, has stated, the term “healing garden” refers to actual features that consistently help us recover from stress and have other positive influences on the body.

What are the 6 features of a healing garden you ask? Read on!

1. Flowers

V.Earle orange hibiscus

‘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. The Conservatory always has a selection of orchids and other gorgeous blooms on display.

2. Lush vegetation

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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. We emit beta waves when we are consciously alert, or when we feel agitated, stressed or afraid. Alpha waves, however, are associated with states of mental and physical relaxation. Our brains drop into “alpha” during the first levels of meditation. Creativity, inspiration and intuition are often heightened by being in an “alpha state” simply by spending time appreciating nature.

3. Spatial openness

bridge again

One of the first things you notice when you enter the Conservatory is the feeling of space. Its domed design is based on the geodesic principle that utilizes a structural space-frame to support the roof. This enables the large interior volume to be free of internal supporting columns. The added benefit of Bloedel is that it is an Indoor Nature Facility that can be enjoyed all year, rain or shine!

4. Calm or slowly moving water

waterfall

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 running water, apparently, is a genetic memory that sends off resonances deep within our limbic brain stem which also controls such basic actions as our breathing and hunger” (James Kilkelly). The sound of moving water is very relaxing and it has been found to enhance concentration. Interestingly, running water in Feng Shui is felt to strengthen good fortune.

5. Large trees

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Have you ever felt refreshed after walking through a forest? This is called ‘forest bathing’ and physiological tests in Japan confirm positive therapeutic effects of this activity on stress hormones, brain wave activity, pulse and blood pressure. Studies in Tokyo have shown increased immune function after 2 hour walks 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.

6. Unthreatening wildlife

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With over 100 free-flying birds and the antics of exotic parrots and macaws (not to mention the new Japanese Koi lazily swimming in the pond), one of them will surely bring a smile to your face! Wildlife distracts us from stress and negative thoughts about issues in our lives. It is impossible to think of two things simultaneously! Even a short break from stress is beneficial. Find a quiet spot at the conservatory and sit for a few minutes. Notice what’s around you. Take a deep breath. You won’t wait long before you start to notice the free flying birds busy with their day: building a nest, looking for food, chasing each other around the vast space. The secretive and exotic Touraco may even make an appearance and capture your interest!

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Visiting the Bloedel Conservatory will give you a boost regardless of the weather outside.

Why not treat Dad to a Bloedel visit for Father’s Day and see why it received the 2014 Trip Advisor Award of Excellence? Bring a camera, go for a stroll, chat with the colourful birds, or simply come and relax on a bench. The whole family will feel re-energized! Happy Father’s Day and wishing all a very Happy Garden Day!

References

Smith, Jaffe–Gill, and Segal (2009), Understanding Stress: Signs, Symptoms, Causes, and Effects. http://helpguide.org/mental/stress_signs.htm

Haviland-Jones, Jeanette (2005). Emotional Impact of Flowers Study. Rutgers: Flowers Improve Emotional Health http://www.aboutflowers.com/health-benefits-a-research/emotional-impact-of-flowers-study.html

University of Minnesota, Sustainable Urban Land Information Series (2006). Healing Gardens. http://www.sustland.umn.edu/design/healinggardens.html

Brain Waves http://www.doctorhugo.org/brainwaves/brainwaves.html

Kilkelly, James (2006), Water Works … the Benefits of Water Features. Irishgardeners.com http://www.gardenplansireland.com/forum/about729.html

Japan for Sustainability. (2010) Physiological Tests Confirm Therapeutic Effects of ‘Forest Bathing’. http://www.japanfs.org/en/pages/025839.html

Q and Morimoto, et al. (2007). Forest bathing enhances human natural killer activity and expression of anti-cancer proteins. Int J Immunopathol Pharmacol. Apr-Jun;20(2 Suppl 2):3-8. Department of Hygiene and Public Health, Nippon Medical School, Tokyo. http://www.ncbi.nlm.nih.gov/pubmed/17903349

A World of Feathers

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Ildiko Szabo, Assistant Curator of the Cowan Tetrapod Collection at the Beaty Biodiversity Museum, is passionate about birds. We welcomed her to the Bloedel Conservatory as a special guest speaker for a Walk in the Tropics talk titled “A World of Feathers”.

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“Feathers are actually quite simple in structure: there is a centre strengthening shaft and on either side are the vanes or the feathery bits. When we look at the shape of the feather – one side versus the other – the ratio of width and narrowing, we can tell where on the bird it came from”. Primary, secondary and tertiary feathers were explained as well as growing and molting patterns in different types of birds.

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Casey, the Amazon parrot

Ms. Szabo continued the fascinating discussion with coloration. The colours in feathers are formed in two different ways – either from pigments or from light refraction caused by the structure of the feather. In some cases feather colors are the result of a combination of pigment and structural colors. For example, the greens of some parrots are created by yellow pigments overlaying a blue-reflecting characteristic of the feathers, as can be seen on Casey the Amazon parrot pictured above. Pigment in birds comes from three different groups: melanins, carotenoids, and porphyrines.

Melanins occur in both the skin and feathers of birds and can produce colors ranging from the darkest black to reddish browns and pale yellows. What’s really interesting is that feathers containing melanin are stronger and more resistant to wear and tear than feathers without it. White feathers – those without any pigmentation at all – are the weakest. Many otherwise all white birds have black feathers on their wings or black wingtips. The melanin that causes the tips to appear black also provides extra strength. For example, the Pied Imperial or Torres Straight Pigeons, are powerful and agile flyers crossing large bodies of water between coastal islands, so very strong feathers are needed.

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Pied Imperial Pigeon

Carotenoids are responsible for the bright yellows while porphyrins produce a range of colors, including pink, browns, reds, and greens. Porphyrins are found in some owls, pigeons and pheasants. They can also produce the brilliant greens and reds of touracos, like the one pictured below. Blue feathers, on the other hand, are almost always created by the structure of the feather rather than pigment. Tiny air pockets in the barbs of feathers can scatter incoming light, resulting in a specific, non-iridescent color.

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Guinea touraco

Special thanks again goes out to Ms. Szabo for an insightful and fascinating talk! The Beaty Biodiversity Museum is located at 2212 Main Mall, south of University Boulevard on the UBC Point Grey campus and is Vancouver’s natural history museum.

Don’t miss the last Walk of the year! Be sure to mark your calendars for Sunday, November 17th at 11am for the next inspiring Walk in the Tropics “Since the Beginning of Bloedel”. Join Park Board Commissioner John Coupar on a historical tour of the Bloedel Conservatory. As the son of Bloedel’s first Garden Director, Charles Coupar, John will share stories and little known facts about the people, the mission, architecture, construction and development of Bloedel since it was built in 1969. Registration is a must! Visit bit.ly/1fmweyD for more information.

Bloedel Conservatory under construction.

Bloedel Conservatory under construction in 1969.

Conservatory Gets Great Funding News!

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Bloedel Conservatory seen from the Large Quarry Garden. Photo by Vicky Earle

On Friday morning, the Honourable Lynne Yelich, Minister of State for Western Economic Diversification, announced a new Federal Government investment of $225,000 to complete phase 1 of the Bloedel Conservatory’s roof replacement project. This support is part of the Economic Action Plan 2012, under the Harper Government’s Community Infrastructure Improvement Fund (CIIF) and is an important supplement to the City of Vancouver’s $1 million capital investment already designated for the new roof. Phase 1 of the project consists of replacing a percentage of the existing out of date roof panels and refurbishing the central ventilation fan at the top of the dome. This fan is key in controlling the variations in humidity necessary for the 3 different climatic zones found within Bloedel, a unique feature in the world of domed Conservatories.

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Left to right: Director of Parks Bill Harding, Park Commissioner Niki Sharm, Emma Bolzner, Park Commissioner John Coupar, Honourable Lynne Yelich Minister of State, Vancouver Deputy Mayor Geoff Meggs and MP Andrew Saxton.

This public announcement was very well attended with great representation from the community, including garden staff and garden enthusiasts, VanDusen Botanical Garden Association/ Bloedel Committee members, Federal, City and Parks staff, and local MP Andrew Saxton (North Vancouver). Speakers included Vancouver Deputy Mayor Geoff Meggs, Park Commissioner Niki Sharma and Park Commissioner John Coupar. Honourable Yelich also invited 12 year old Emma Bolzner, an avid Bloedel Conservatory fundraiser and supporter, up to the podium to say a few words. What a great day and great news for the Bloedel Conservatory!

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Speaker: Park Commissioner John Coupar and past President of Friends of the Bloedel.

Home to hundreds of exotic plants and free flying birds, the Bloedel Conservatory is a unique horticultural treasure in the Vancouver Parks and Recreation system. Even with this funding boost, more money is still needed to complete the remaining phases of this important infrastructure project. All donations are welcomed, tax deductible and can be made online on the City of Vancouver’s secure website here: Help Restore the Bloedel Conservatory.

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Some of the inhabitants of the Bloedel Conservatory. Clockwise: Amazon lily, lady slipper orchids, Carmen and Maria, the green-winged macaws, orange-headed gouldian finch.

Jewel Box of Lights Illuminates the Bloedel Conservatory!

Mark your calendars! The Bloedel Conservatory will again splash colour across Vancouver’s grey winter with holiday lights and the bright plumage of its exotic birds. The lush indoor landscape is exotic at any time of year, but the annual Jewel Box of Lights provides a stroll through the tropics with a holiday twist. Seasonal music, poinsettias and bright blooming Christmas cactus provide the context for a non-traditional holiday experience. Baby, if it’s cold outside, come to the Bloedel Conservatory!

To kick off the event in celebration of Bloedel’s 43rd Anniversary, the Friend’s of Bloedel are sponsoring a very special evening of entertainment beginning at 5:30pm on December 6th. Musical quartets will be singing songs of the season, a trio of tubas, a wonderful Santa dispensing individually wrapped European chocolates and very delicious Parrot sugar cookies with mulled apple cider – are all free with admission (while supplies last). Of course the lights will be magical! The gardeners have once again pulled out all the stops placing millions of twinkling lights and cascading waterfalls of sparkling lasers. A fun night of family entertainment for a great value!

The Friends of Bloedel will also be raising money to help the birds and boost new education programs at the Conservatory. Gorgeous poinsettias and orchids will be for sale along with a great raffle prize draw. Be sure to come out to support your favorite feathered friend!

It’s an event not to be missed!

DATE: Thursday, December 6, 2012 – January 1, 2013 (Closed December 25)

TIME: Doors open at 4:30pm – 9:00pm

Special Opening Night Entertainment: December 3 beginning at 5:30

LOCATION: Bloedel Conservatory: off West 33rd Avenue between Cambie and Main Streets at the top of Queen Elizabeth Park, Vancouver, BC

COST: Adult $7; Senior/Youth (13-18) $5 ; Child (3-12) $3.50; Family (2 adults & children 3-18) $16.50. Group rates and commercial bus rates available.

Free parking will be available throughout Queen Elizabeth Park from 4:00pm for the duration of the event!

“Bloedel is a Jewel Box as are the stars, and at Queen Elizabeth Park you can almost touch the heavens on a clear night!”

See you there!

New Sculptures Outside the Bloedel Conservatory!

Four new marble and granite sculptures by artist Cameron Kerr of Campbell River, have been installed at Queen Elizabeth Park plaza in front of the Bloedel Conservatory. The sculptures, inspired by modernist architecture, are beautifully carved, while the raw stone influenced the direction the pieces took during the sculpting process.

Kerr attended the Academy of Fine Arts in Carrara, Italy and took Master Classes with modernist British sculptors William Tucker and Anthony Gormley, Gormley being best known for the public sculpture ‘Angel of the North’ in the North of England. Mr. Kerr is a graduate of the Emily Carr Institute of Art and Design.

The sculptures, each weighing between 2,500 to 5,000 pounds apiece, were transferred from the Queen Elizabeth Theatre plaza to Bloedel Conservatory viewing deck last weekend. The artwork was originally commissioned by the City Public Art Program to mark the Vancouver’s 125th anniversary. These sculptures are currently a temporary installation, but could become permanent artwork in Queen Elizabeth Park with approval from the Vancouver Board of Parks and Recreation.

Butterflies at the Bloedel Conservatory?

Yes! Butterfly Orchids that is!

The Rare & Exotic Orchid Show is on NOW!

Yellow Butterfly Orchid (Psychopsis papilio Lindl. H.G.James)

Come in an see a variety of lady slippers (paphiopedilum and phragmipedium), dancing ladies (oncidium), and the stunning butterfly orchid (psychopsis). And don’t miss the tiny orchids! They are some of the most delicate and spectacular specimens nature has created! One even smells like chocolate mint!

The show runs from September 28th until October 8th, 2012.

Lady Slipper Orchid (Paphiopedilum).

Members of the VOS will be on hand everyday from 11am to 3pm to answer questions you may have about orchid identification, repotting and maintenance.  They will also be conducting free orchid talks scheduled for 11am, 12noon and 2pm. Listen in and learn about this very diverse family of plants, how they grow in nature and why orchids have become such popular (and addictive) plants worldwide!

Dancing Lady Orchids (Oncidium)

Bloedel Conservatory Hours:

September 18th – April 30th: 10am – 5pm

Regular admission applies

See you there!

Tour de Biennale, the Panterragaffe and a Henry Moore at the Bloedel Conservatory

Bloedel Conservatory and Plaza Clock. Photo Vicky Earle.

The Bloedel Conservatory and Plaza Clock. Photo © Vicky Earle.

This Sunday morning August 19th, the 2nd annual Bike Tour of the Vancouver Biennale Sculptures will start at Queen Elizabeth Park and finish right at the Bloedel Conservatory: the geographic centre and highest point in our beautiful city! What a perfect place to end the tour!

The Panterragaffe. Photo courtesy Paul Lock.

The Panterragaffe. Photo courtesy Paul Lock.

For this special event, the Friends of  the Bloedel are very pleased to announce that the Panterragaffean interactive kinetic art piece and the first two person walking bike in the world, will be making a rare appearance on the Plaza outside the Bloedel Conservatory. The Biennale tour starts at 7am with entertainment and other festivities beginning at approximately 10am to welcome the cyclists and other visitors back to the plaza. Please come out and join in the fun!

Watch the Panterragaffe in action here: http://www.youtube.com/watch?v=iYdtWHvTdm4

Henry Moore, Knife Edge - Two Piece. Photo © Vicky Earle

Henry Moore, Knife Edge – Two Piece. Photo © Vicky Earle

Also not to be missed, is Henry Moore’s Knife Edge  – Two Piece, situated next to the plaza fountain by the Conservatory. Moore created this majestic bronze in 1962, and authorized three castings of the work. The first stands on Nelson Rockefeller’s New York estate, the second is found outside the House of Lords, London, England. The third Knife Edge was the first non-commemorative sculpture accepted by Vancouver’s Board of Parks and Recreation.

Prentice and Virginia Bloedel. Photo courtesy of Virginia Wright Bloedel

Prentice and Virginia Bloedel. Photo courtesy of Virginia Wright Bloedel.

Prentice Bloedel and his wife Virginia donated this piece to the City of Vancouver along with $1.4 million dollars to build the Bloedel Conservatory in 1969. They selected Knife Edge – Two Piece to tie the Conservatory dome and the design of the adjacent fountain plaza to the inspiration and power of nature.

Knife Edge - Two Piece, the fountain and the Bloedel Conservatory with the North Shore mountains in the background. Photo © Vicky Earle

Knife Edge – Two Piece, the Plaza Fountain and the Bloedel Conservatory with the North Shore mountains in the background. Photo © Vicky Earle

So, mark your calendars!

Plan to visit the Bloedel Conservatory on August 19th and enjoy the festivities on the Plaza.

It will be a great day!

Enjoy Mother’s Day at the Bloedel Conservatory!

Red canary posing for the camera

The Bloedel Conservatory is now on Summer Hours – and just in time for Mother’s Day!

Why not treat Mom to a stroll through the magical Bloedel Conservatory, our green jewel at the highest point in Vancouver? Our chatty parrots and free flying exotic birds are sure to delight Mom and the whole family! That’s one of the surprising and best features of the Conservatory.  You can get up close to the stunning birds! See Clyde, the rare Eastern Rosella Parrot, while many of the Zebra finches, Laughing Thrushes, and colourful Chinese Pheasants wander along the pathway. Stop for a moment and listen, then see if you can spot the new Red and Bronze canaries. Their sweet melodies are truly enchanting and add a special touch to a special day. Oh yes, and we encourage you to stop and smell the flowers! The plumeria tree is now blooming!

Fragrant plumeria blossoms

The Bloedel Conservatory is fully wheelchair accessible, so it’s easy to sit close to the parrots and macaws and watch their antics or have a chat! Handy Bird Guides and Scavenger Hunts are available at the front counter. A trip to the Bloedel is a great outing for Mom and the whole family!

Bloedel Conservatory: Extended Summer Hours:

Monday – Friday: 9am – 8pm
Saturday & Sunday: 10am – 9pm

To round out the day, why not combine your trip to Bloedel with a picnic lunch at Queen Elizabeth Park or have brunch at Season’s in the Park Restaurant? With the best views of the city, exceptional service and Season’s Lobster Eggs Bennie, it’s a combo that that is sure to delight!

Happy Mother’s Day!

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