The city of Helsinki owns a Winter Garden that is open to the public throughout the year. The most popular times to visit are Christmas and Easter thanks to the decorative set-ups the gardeners always arrange for these holidays.
Last October, the steel-and-class Winter Garden celebrated its 120th anniversary. It was built by Julius af Lindfors, a Major-General who turned into business, social activism and philanthropy after retiring from his military career. He donated the conservatory to the Helsinki Garden Society he also acted as the chairman for. In 1907, a few years after his death, Helsinki bought it along with the rest of the gardens in the area from the society.
In 2011, a major renovation was completed for the largely hand-crafted building. An inspection had revealed that the steel structures were in poor condition. This meant removal and crushing of all the glasses, all the 40 tonnes of them. Some of the plants that couldn’t be transferred elsewhere were lost in connection with the lengthy renovation.
According to the wish of af Lindfors, entrance to the Winter Garden was free from the very beginning. It still is. In the summertime, there is also a café there but the garden chairs and tables are not taken away for winter either. The rest of the year you can take a seat, for example, to read a book, to have your own picnic lunch or coffee break, or just to spend a moment or two enjoying the greenery. The only limitations are the opening hours (Mondays closed but otherwise at least from noon till 3 pm).
These days I tend to be on the move rather late and generally I do not pay attention to the exact time. So when I was driving past the Winter Garden the other day and suddenly decided to take a turn and pop in I could do no more than literally point and shoot while running through the palm room and the west wing. The lady in charge was kind enough to let me in although she had already started washing the floor in the cactus room. I’m not planning to wait another decade (or more) to pay the next visit.
The Helsinki Winter Garden is located a stone’s throw away from the National Opera House at the bottom of the Töölö Bay, which is a very sheltered location. The park also includes a lovely rose garden with splendid rows of shrub roses and trimmed linden trees in front of the conservatory facing the bay. I must stop to admire them and take a few photos next spring. Oh, spring. You aren’t that far away, are you?