Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Roots run deep, but trees have to go

Won't survive move to new conservatory

  • Print
Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press
Chefs go over a menu in the Assiniboine Park Conservatory Friday under a canopy of century-old trees. Many of those trees will eventually have to be cut down.

Enlarge Image

Phil Hossack / Winnipeg Free Press Chefs go over a menu in the Assiniboine Park Conservatory Friday under a canopy of century-old trees. Many of those trees will eventually have to be cut down.

As much as it will pain Assiniboine Park Conservatory horticulturalists holding the chainsaws, trees as old as a century must be cut down.

The trees are among the most popular in Winnipeg because they have been experienced up close by generations of park-goers.

But the well-aged giants can't be transplanted when a new conservatory is built in a few years.

Park officials scrambled Friday to accommodate a flap of inquiries when media reported Friday the tropical pines and fig trees can't be moved.

Officials confirmed they must cut the trees under redevelopment plans, although the redevelopment is years away from fruition.

"I understand people have a connection to the trees. These trees have been here their whole lives," said the park's chief operating officer Don Peterkin. "I'm a horticulturalist myself."

But some of the trees are so old, moving them would kill them, he said.

'At the end of the day, you say to yourself, "We're going to have to say goodbye to this one" '

-- Assiniboine Park's chief operating officer Don Peterkin

It's cheaper to ship in new trees and build a tropical hot house from scratch when the new building opens in about five years.

"At the end of the day, you say to yourself, 'We're going to have to say goodbye to this one,' " Peterkin said, gently patting the rich, chocolate brown bark on one of the Conservatory's oldest trees.

Peterkin was standing next to an aged Norfolk pine, a primordial giant from Australia's Norfolk Island, that in the wild would grow to 61 metres and live 200 years.

This giant's growth has been stunted, literally truncated to fit the building. In the conservatory, the giant pine from a species that dates back to paleolithic times can only grow as high as the 10.6-metre-high ceiling.

"This has hit the roof half a dozen times since the building's been here," Peterkin said.

Assiniboine Park's $200-million multi-phase redevelopment -- currently winding up a massive zoo reno, with the Journey to Churchill Polar Bear Conservation Centre -- will move on to the next phase this summer and shift its focus to the crumbling conservatory.

Broad conceptual plans call for a new conservatory triple the size of the current one and considerably higher. Park officials are currently canvassing botanical gardens and conservatories from Great Britain to Montreal to get a fix on a building that will take the city into the next century.

"Traditionally, people used conservatories like Palm House in the Kew Gardens in England. They were for collections of species... We're in a different era. We have television, videos and we travel to tropical areas. So now conservatories have to preserve the diversity of plants... Now it's more about the impact of plants on our lives and connecting people to nature," Peterkin said.

Costs for the new building and surrounding area are projected at $62.8 million.

Park officials are keeping their fingers crossed the old building will hold out until the new one is ready.

Some trees, such as smaller palms, may survive a transplant, but most of the older tropical giants won't, which may explain the rationale behind the last renovation 50 years ago. In the 1960s, the old conservatory glass shell was rebuilt around the trees instead of the other way around.

Now however, the infrastructure is antiquated, its heating system dates back to the Victorian era and the back of the building is crumpling.

"It's important to understand if anyone thinks this is going to be imminent, it's not. If anyone thinks we're going to knock down the trees in the spring, we're not," Peterkin said.

"We need a year and a half to complete the design (for a new conservatory) and two years to build. We're talking four or five years. And this stays in place unless we have a catastrophe," he said.

That's a timeline visitors said they can live with. Passionate tree lovers such as Rosemarie Taylor heaved a sigh of relief on a visit Friday.

She'd heard the reports and with her daughter, Sarah Whitehead, pleaded for the trees.

"Isn't there any way to transplant them? I don't like the thought of trees being killed. This is where I come when I'm tired of the dry winter and the cold air. If they get rid of this, I'm just going to die," Taylor said.

"Oh Mom, don't be so dramatic," her daughter gently chided.

For old friends like Diana De Korompay and Judith Hall, the fate of the conservatory and its trees comes down to practical realities.

"They're going to replace it, that's the main thing," Hall said.

alexandra.paul@freepress.mb.ca

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition February 1, 2014 A13

Fact Check

Fact Check

Have you found an error, or know of something we’ve missed in one of our stories?
Please use the form below and let us know.

* Required
  • Please post the headline of the story or the title of the video with the error.

  • Please post exactly what was wrong with the story.

  • Please indicate your source for the correct information.

  • Yes

    No

  • This will only be used to contact you if we have a question about your submission, it will not be used to identify you or be published.

  • Cancel

Having problems with the form?

Contact Us Directly
  • Print

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

You can comment on most stories on winnipegfreepress.com. You can also agree or disagree with other comments. All you need to do is be a Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscriber to join the conversation and give your feedback.

Have Your Say

New to commenting? Check out our Frequently Asked Questions.

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press print or e-edition subscribers only. why?

Have Your Say

Comments are open to Winnipeg Free Press Subscribers only. why?

The Winnipeg Free Press does not necessarily endorse any of the views posted. By submitting your comment, you agree to our Terms and Conditions. These terms were revised effective April 16, 2010.

letters

Make text: Larger | Smaller

LATEST VIDEO

Winnipeg Cheapskate: School supply shopping

View more like this

Photo Store Gallery

  • Marc Gallant/Winnipeg Free Press. Local- Peregrine Falcon Recovery Project. Baby peregrine falcons. 21 days old. Three baby falcons. Born on ledge on roof of Radisson hotel on Portage Avenue. Project Coordinator Tracy Maconachie said that these are third generation falcons to call the hotel home. Maconachie banded the legs of the birds for future identification as seen on this adult bird swooping just metres above. June 16, 2004.
  • PHIL HOSSACK / WINNIPEG FREE PRESS 070619 LIGHTNING ILLUMINATES AN ABANDONED GRAIN ELEVATOR IN THE VILLAGE OF SANFORD ABOUT 10PM TUESDAY NIGHT AS A LINE OF THUNDERSTORMS PASSED NEAR WINNIPEG JUST TO THE NORTH OF THIS  SITE.

View More Gallery Photos

Poll

What do you think of the new Blue Bombers uniforms?

View Results

View Related Story

Ads by Google