If Putrella, the infamous corpse flower, decides to bloom again in the next year she’ll do so without the usual fanfare, as the Muttart Conservatory is shutting down for much-needed renovations starting next week.
Plant lovers wanting to get in one last visit before the closure can do so during the conservatory’s extended hours of operation. The Muttart Conservatory will be open until 9 p.m. on Wednesday and Thursday, with regular hours on Friday, Saturday and Sunday.
The city said each pyramid will feature the best shows from the last couple of years.
On July 1, the Muttart will hold a Canada Day party with indoor and outdoor activities, including animals from the Second Chance Rescue Society (SCARS) and a variety of hands-on activities like seed planting, bannock cooking, crafts and more.
Starting on Tuesday, July 2, the iconic pyramid facility in Edmonton’s river valley will be closed for an estimated 18 months. This includes the Culina restaurant and the horticultural pyramids as well as all bookings, rentals and programs.
In order to avoid any potential inconvenience or cancellations, the city-owned facility stopped taking private event bookings last spring in preparation of the closure.
During the 18-month hiatus, the electrical, piping and heating systems will be overhauled in order to keep the 40-year-old facility safe and structurally sound for another 40 years.
The city says most of the work will be “back of house,” including boiler upgrades and replacements to underground pipes, electrical panels and heating systems.
Some of the visible changes will include replacing floor tiles, light fixtures and handrails to meet building codes.
The city said a limited number of staff members will remain on site to protect and care for the plants during construction.
“This was earmarked for lifecycle management as a priority project to have rehabilitation done on it,” said Jesse Banford, the director of facility infrastructure delivery. “So what you won’t see is a lot of the back-of-house projects or back-of-house work being done.
“So you have mechanical systems, electrical systems, stuff that’s underground [and] in walls, that’s interconnected throughout the entire pyramids
“This building will continue to be a live building in the operational sense that there will still be plants in here, growing and living,” Banford said.
Plans are to have backup mechanical systems in place for each pyramid to keep the climates consistent as the main systems are renovated.
“It’s a lot of work to ensure it’s well co-ordinated,” Banford said.
“What’s going to happen is the things are back-of-house. So you’re not going to see a lot of changes, but what you are going to be able to do is enjoy it for the next 40 years.
“The plants will still be here, but we are going to have more efficient mechanical and electrical systems that helps the operating side it.”
Fairy gardens are spread throughout the pyramids and the popular dinosaurs are back in the tropical pyramid, said Sarah Gericke, program manager for attractions.
“We have a Pterodactyl, a T-Rex… [it’s] just a great chance for people to come in and have a bonus thing to see when they come into the pyramid,” Gericke said.
“We find that even people my age really love just coming and seeing all the little set-ups the growers have worked so hard to make.”
During the closure, Gericke recommends following the conservatory on social media for updates like on the famous corpse flower.
“If Putrella does bloom while we are shut down and you want to know about it, that’s a great place to check out. There will be pictures and maybe some videos along the way,” Gericke said.
No layoffs are happening as a result of the closure. The core group responsible for maintaining plant life will stay on-site, while a number of other staff focus on updating programming at the John Janzen Nature Centre and John Walter Museum.
They also plan on doing pop-up Muttart Conservatory events at those city facilities.
“So a lot of the programming you might have seen here, we’re going to take over there,” Gericke said. “And also travelling programs. So if schools are used to coming to the Muttart and used to our programming, we can come to you now. So we have a number of gardener-on-the-go programs.”
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