Visit to a miniature village in Niagara

This past weekend we took a drive to the Niagara Parks Commission’s Floral Showhouse. We wanted to see the poinsettia display in the greenhouse and the holiday light display, but the bigger draw was seeing the display of miniature houses, “Life on Display.” These are perfectly scaled replicas of southern Ontario homes and businesses that used to grace the grounds of  Cullen Gardens and Miniature Village in Oshawa, Ontario, until it closed down in 2006. The little buildings went into storage in Oshawa, and were eventually purchased by the Niagara Parks Commission, who only started to display some of the pieces publicly earlier this year.

I only visited Cullen Gardens and Miniature Village once, not long before it closed, but I remember being amazed at the dozens of detailed models and neighbourhoods. I’m happy to report that seeing them again, they remain as charming as ever:

The one disappointment was that I had thought the little homes might be decorated for Christmas (picturing teeny tiny wreaths on the door, and dozens of tiny strings of Christmas lights on the rooflines). However, this was not the case. Maybe the good folks at the Niagara Parks Commission will get around to mouse sized decorations at some point, but I understand that they’ve probably got their hands full just trying to restore the collection of homes they’ve got.

Only a portion of the original village is on display, grouped into five areas. As you enter there are a few grand Victorian style homes on pillars (the platforms of which are festively decked with greenery and Christmas balls), then a wonderful whimsical treehouse area, an area set aside just for a replica of the Parkwood Estate, a now empty annual flower bed with several stately homes, and a little miniature lake that is surrounded by cottages.

The little lake scene was truly charming:

A small train (my husband tells me it’s G-class sized. with G standing for garden) runs around the pond. It is currently adorned with Christmas lights and plays Christmas music as it zips around the track:

It’s an attraction for children of all ages…

The annual flower bed features several large homes, elevated on bricks so that you can see them above the plants during spring/summer. It felt a little barren on a cold day in December, but you can imagine what it would look like when fully planted.

 

The grand Victorian style homes set up on pillars were amazing for their authentic details, such as the patterns worked into the roof shingles on this home:

 

I found the miniature version of Oshawa’s Parkwood Estate was set up in a way that really conveyed how grand of an estate it was. I especially loved the live exactly-to-scale shrubs and “trees” bordering the side of the home.

 

The tree house area was the most fanciful; an entire little world of nature-inspired homes! Having grown up reading tales of small animals with human characteristics living in tiny homes in trees and stumps (I think it was The Wind in the Willows series) I couldn’t help but be drawn in:

I look forward to visiting again when more of the miniature buildings have been restored and displayed. Also, of course, when the outside gardens are in bloom.

Although there were plenty of blooms to be seen last weekend inside the greenhouses.

There were some spectacular Christmas cacti and I lost count of the number of varieties of poinsettias–single flowered, double flowered, white, red, and a very attractive speckled pink:

The greenhouses aren’t especially large, but they manage to house an impressive number of plants, including a lovely collection of cyclamen.

 

I know that cyclamen are readily available as houseplants but I’ve never had the patience to care for them properly (they really don’t like to dry out but they also don’t like wet feet. Sitting the pot on a tray of pebbles so there is enough, but not too much, moisture is what I’ve heard works) so it was a treat to enjoy the many varieties on display.

You likely don’t have to go to Niagara Falls to see this kind of festive display–every public greenhouse I know has some sort of holiday display on right now. Do yourself a favour and take some time to visit one near you. Seeing all the bright blooms may help you get through the lack of vibrant plant life in your own garden over the next few months.

 

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