If you see a powerful glow coming from a greenhouse this holiday season, it might not be what you think.
Millions of lights will be illuminating three temporarily repurposed greenhouses in as many provinces as part of Christmas Glow, an indoor winter light festival, which also features hundreds of twinkling sculptures, Christmas markets, live entertainment and thousands of expertly arranged poinsettias and evergreens.
Last year, Lawrence Jansen, owner of Darvonda Nurseries in Langley, B.C., created and hosted the first edition of Christmas Glow.
“Coastal B.C. is notoriously blustery and wet in the winter,” Jansen says. “Our family began thinking about how to create a festival that could encompass all the favourite celebrations of the season, without battling the elements.”
Jansen’s industrial greenhouses presented the perfect venue: large tracts of even ground, plenty of natural light thanks to the glass and plastic walls and ceilings, and robust preexisting wiring just waiting for an extreme number of lights. Plus, agricultural operations tend to dip down in the colder months, liberating a number of otherwise occupied spaces.
When the first event sold out in 2017, Jansen knew he was onto something. This year, Glow Gardens – the company created by Jansen that oversees Christmas Glow, as well as a similar indoor autumn festivals – has expanded its offerings to Edmonton and Barrie, Ont. For 2019, they’re also looking to add two more North American cities and possibly even an overseas locale.
Jansen says the event presents a great opportunity to not only celebrate, but also educate the public about agriculture, florals and farms.
“Plants and lights are just two things that remind us of life and happiness,” he says. “Making our greenhouse a celebration point for the community is a fantastic way to connect.”
He’s not alone in his festive flora thoughts. Across Canada, botanical gardens are lighting up their conservatories and indoor spaces, transforming them into cozy holiday retreats that provide respite from the oppressive winter weather and offer a chance to get up close with blooms, branches and buds.
Allan Gardens Conservatory in downtown Toronto puts on its popular Christmas Flower Show each year, featuring seasonally styled topiary and more than 30 varieties of poinsettia. Many beloved botanical gardens nationwide host similar events, but it’s the combination of shelter, seasonal greenery and sparkling lights that seems to have ignited a trend.
“This year is the first year we’re really going all out with interior lights,” says Jessica Bond, manager of design with Niagara Parks, which hosts the Winter Festival of Lights in Niagara Falls, Ont. “It’s just a different way of looking at the design … we thought it would be nice to have more for our guests on the inside.”
As part of this year’s approach, the Floral Showhouse in Niagara Falls will be kitted out with hundreds of lime-green and bright-red poinsettias and lights as a colourful nod to How The Grinch Stole Christmas. There will also be a whimsical purple-themed winter-wonderland display, featuring large lit-up spruce trees and thousands of dripping icicle lights.
“I had to come in the other night and it was just myself in the building with the lights on,” Bond says. “It made me feel something, and that’s just what we’re always trying to do with our design: Make our visitors feel something.”
If you’re feeling inspired and want to transform your potting shed into a magical realm of holiday cheer, you would be right on trend. But if you can’t be bothered, keep your eyes open for a twinkling greenhouse or conservatory near you.
Christmas Glow runs into January at three locations. Go to glowgardens.com for more info.
Niagara Parks Winter Festival of Lights runs until Jan. 31, 2019. For more info, go to niagarafallstourism.com.