The temporary closure of the city’s conservatory meant the Thunder Bay parks department has had to work a bit harder — and pay a bit more — to keep the Christmas spirit alive at city hall.
Uncertainty over the future of the Thunder Bay Botanical Conservatory forced the parks department to look to outside sources in order to make sure city hall got its traditional Christmas poinsettia display, parks manager Paul Fayrick said Wednesday.
“How you grow poinsettias is you buy cuttings,” Fayrick said.
“We weren’t sure whether council would be opening, closing (the conservatory), so we had to make a decision.
“We didn’t want to buy the cuttings and then have them wasted,” he said.
“We thought the simplest thing to do would be to . . . just plan for a display at city hall, and we went out and arranged to purchase locally.”
The city sought price quotes from local greenhouses, and eventually decided to purchase 30 large poinsettia plants and 17 small ones — all locally-grown — from Vanderwees for $910, Fayrick said.
It’s a bigger display than usually found at city hall. In previous years, some of the public areas, like council chambers and the clerk’s office, were decorated with poinsettias, while the conservatory housed a larger display of the plants in its east wing.
However, the east wing is currently undergoing repairs and is closed to the public. Parks decided to put a scaled-down version of that display in city hall’s spacious lobby so it can be viewed by the public, Fayrick said.
Meanwhile, repairs continue at the city’s aging conservatory, which has been closed to the public since February due to structural concerns.
Council has voted to repair the structure and that work is underway. The hope is to have the conservatory reopened to the public by the end of January, Fayrick said.
The conservatory’s closure also means that city-run homes for the aged will have to purchase their own poinsettias for Christmas this year.
Fayrick said the city grows more poinsettias than are needed in the conservatory.
“It made sense to have extras in case they were required to replace plants that got sick or died,” he said. “It also made sense because we had staff doing the work and our non-wage costs were primarily related to purchasing the cuttings from which the plants were grown.
“It was essentially a no-cost option to provide some of those extra plants to the homes.”
The parks department doesn’t have the budget to purchase plants for city hall and the homes for the aged this year, Fayrick said.
When the conservatory is back in operation, the department will be able to again supply the homes for the aged with poinsettias for Christmas, he said.