Garden Photo of the Day

The Arid Greenhouse at the Centennial Park Conservatory

A trip to a desert under glass

smaller potted plants next to a large variegated agave

Cherry Ong is taking us back to the conservatory at Centennial Park in the Toronto area. Today we’re on a visit to the arid house, which is full of plants from around the world that are adapted to dry and desert environments .

garden bed with cacti and succulents of various shapes and forms Arid doesn’t mean boring or empty. This conservatory is full of a huge range of forms and plant shapes that fill every inch with something worth looking at.

large palm trees growing in the middle of a cacti and succulent garden Ponytail palm ( Beaucarnea recurvata , Zones 10–12) is often sold as a houseplant , but given ample space it will grow into a big dramatic plant like this. The swollen trunk serves to store water for dry seasons.

close up of skinny cactus You can’t have an arid house without cacti . This family of plants is native to the Americas. The swollen stems store water, and the spines keep hungry—and thirsty—animals from munching on them. Those practical adaptations also turn them into living sculptures.

close up fo Mother-of-thousands plant in bloom Mother-of-thousands ( Kalanchoe , Zones 10–12 or as a houseplant) has attractive succulent leaves, but these nodding, bell-shaped flowers are beautiful, both when fresh and salmon-orange, and as they age and fade to pink.

smaller potted plants next to a large variegated agave Agaves ( Agave species, hardiness varies by variety) are another American succulent that is popular in arid displays for their huge leaves, which are often colored blue or even variegated.

close up of golden barrel cactus The iconic golden barrel cactus ( Echinocactus grusonii , Zones 9–12) is hugely popular in dry, warm landscapes but is endangered in the wild due to habitat destruction for agriculture and grazing.

various succulent plants in a raised garden bed Aloe is an African genus of succulents with many different species, ranging from small rosettes to tall ones like this with their beautiful succulent foliage.

close up of Mammillaria cactus This is a beautiful cactus, which I think is a species of Mammillaria.

small succulents planted into a tree-shaped tower A tower of small succulents makes a dramatic statement in the arid house.

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View Comments


  1. MohawkValley 03/31/2023

    Very nice . Too bad all plants can't grow everywhere . Nice collection of plants that most don't see in their outdoor gardens . I'm still very much a huge fan of personal outdoor gardens here in the U.S. Overall , we a bang-up "job" with our enthusiasm , which drives creativity and ultimately , great gardens ! Peace from the Mohawk Valley in NY .

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    simplesue 03/31/2023

    Another nice tour, thanks Cherry Ong! Interesting to see how large a Ponytail palm can grow- I've only seen them as houseplants!

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