The Leaf Tropical Gardens In Winnipeg

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Aerial view of indoor tropical gardens with pathways and koi pond
The Leaf in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada is a conservatory containing tropical and Mediterranean gardens as well as a butterfly garden

The stunning architecture of The Leaf, with its translucent roof unfurling around the conservatory like a blossoming flower, catches your eye. Inside the botanical sanctuary at Assiniboine Park in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, you’ll find four distinct biomes: the Hartley and Heather Richardson Tropical Biome, Mediterranean Biome, Babs Asper Display House, and the Shirley Richardson Butterfly Garden. 

Exterior of The Leaf tropical conservatory with glass walls and translucent roof curving around and up on a winter day with snow around it

The much-awaited opening of the horticultural attraction occurred in December 2022. The opening, which people had been looking forward to for a while, would have generated a lot of interest regardless of when it happened, but an opening as winter began to set in made a visit to the tropical and Mediterranean biomes even more appealing. People flocked to see the new attraction.

Although I wasn’t quite as wowed as I had expected to be given all the hype and publicity, I did find The Leaf impressive and worth visiting. I know I will make repeat visits.

Hartley and Heather Richardson Tropical Biome

Pathway around a triangular section of an indoor tropical garden

The first biome you encounter when you enter is the tropical biome. It is the largest part of The Leaf. The humidity hits you at once. Your glasses (and camera lens) may fog up. Plants and trees you’ll find in the lush rainforest-like area include coffee, cacoa, coconut palm, ginger, bamboo, ferns, plants you may know as house plants, and plants you may never have heard of, never mind have seen, before.

Signage about some of the plants at The Leaf indoor tropical garden

Small signs in the ground in front of the plants identify them. Larger poster-sized signage features information about selected plants. Information includes their native habitats, growing habits, how they are used, and challenges for visitors to spot the plants at The Leaf. Mamey, sugar cane, guave, and yucca were a few of the plants I saw highlighted.

Six story waterfall at The Leaf indoor tropical garden
A six-story-high, free-standing waterfall helps maintain humidity
Koi pond inside The Leaf tropical indoor garden
Koi pond

Paths meander through the biome and include spaces to sit. As I wandered through, I occasionally caught whiffs of subtle sweet scents. Unfortunately, I was never able to pinpoint exactly which plant they came from. Perhaps, it was more a combination of the grouping of plants.

Aerial view of the tropical biome at The Leaf indoor garden
A walkway six stories up leading to the Shirley Richardson Butterfly Garden provides an aerial view of the biome

Mediterranean Biome

Walkways bordered by stone-edged Mediterranean gardens

Stone-lined terraced planters in the Mediterranean Biome contain a variety of herbs, grasses, shrubs, and trees native to the Mediterranean climatic zone. A few of the plants you’ll see include magnolia, yucca, cardamom, and jasmine.

Brick-lined terraces on an indoor Mediterranean garden
Open area in indoor Mediterranean garden with a few tables and seating along the brick edges of garden terraces
A seating area encourages visitors to sit and enjoy the sights and smells

Barb Asper Display House

A wall of plants in background and a circular garden of greenery in foreground at an conservatory

The Babs Asper Display House contains floral displays that will change four to five times per year, exploring seasonal and global themes.

Wall of greenery at The Leaf conservatory

It was here that I experienced my Wow moment. I loved the wall of plants.

Round arbor made of metal with lights on pillars and fern-like greenery around the top
Arbor in the Display House
Evergreens and other greenery in an indoor garden in front of wall looking like the night sky with northern lights
Northern Lights on the wall made a dazzling backdrop for evergreens and other greenery

Shirley Richardson Butterfly Garden

You take an elevator six stories up to get to the Shirley Richardson Butterfly Garden. Here, butterflies flitting among tropical plants are likely to bring smiles to faces. In addition to the plants and butterflies, you’ll find information on the butterfly life cycle and butterfly pupae behind a glass window.

The Shirley Richardson Butterfly Garden used to be a seasonal exhibit (late spring to early fall) in Quonsets in Assiniboine Park Zoo. Although the garden in The Leaf is a smaller space than the former seasonal exhibit, it will be open year-round.

I wasn’t quick enough to catch any butterflies mid-air with my camera, but here are a few other photos I did get.

Tip: Butterflies are more active when it is sunny and in the mornings.

Gather Craft Kitchen & Bar

Gather Craft Kitchen & Bar is located inside The Leaf building but outside of the ticketed garden area. The restaurant, open daily from 11 a.m. to 11 p.m., features globally-inspired dishes made with locally-sourced ingredients and inventive, botanical cocktails. The restaurant is very popular. Reservations may be required. I have not yet had the opportunity to eat here myself.

Visiting The Leaf

Although tickets can be purchased at the gate, The Leaf encourages the purchase of tickets online in advance because of capacity limitations. Hang onto your ticket once you enter the biomes because it will be scanned again upon exit as part of capacity control. If you wish to exit temporarily to grab a coffee or visit the toilet, staff will stamp your hand so you can reenter. There are spots to sit and relax in the biomes (particularly the Mediterranean biome), but the coffee shop is located in the main lobby area outside of the ticketed area. You can purchase a coffee there and bring it into the ticketed area.

It is hot and humid. Dress appropriately. There is a coatroom adjacent to the lobby where you can store your jackets, but if you are wearing heavy winter pants and sweaters under that, you will be still feel too warm. I wished I had been in a sleeveless sundress and sandals.

There is a coffee bar in the lobby area, but very little seating area, and a small gift shop. There is a free parking lot. Pathways inside The Leaf are wheelchair accessible. A limited number of wheelchairs are available to rent.

Some of the plantings are still quite young. It will be interesting to visit over the years and see these grow. The space outside The Leaf contains beautiful outdoor gardens. Read my post about the Gardens At The Leaf.

Visit The Leaf website for more information and tickets.

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    1. Ken, that contrast struck me too when I was inside, particularly in the Mediterranean garden when I had a very good view outside.

  1. Hi Donna. Thx so much for this comprehensive post about the Leaf attraction in Winnipeg. I love living walls, so I’m sure that will be a highlight of my visit, too. We hope to get there soon.