Tropical Retreat on Campus a 'Hidden Secret'
Windsor, ON - Looking for a tropical retreat to escape this winter weather? No need to spend money heading to a warm destination - or even travel off campus at all!

The St. Clair College Horticultural Department boasts a beautiful tropical greenhouse that is open to the public year-round.

Pathway in Greenhouse
A neatly manicured pathway goes through the greenhouse.

"This is a great hidden refuge on campus that's just a great place to recharge, warm up and enjoy a glimpse of the tropics," says Horticulture Faculty Sandy MacDonald. "Many people do not know that they can visit. It is a few people's hidden secret, and they are regular visitors."

Hundreds of plants grow and flourish in this warm, humid and vital space. MacDonald says it's a great getaway, even if you only visit for a few minutes. A quick stroll through the rainforest-like area and you'll feel refreshed, renewed and revitalized.

"Lush green vegetation and the scents of the plants are great for recharging or de-stressing," says MacDonald. "The trickling pond, with goldfish swimming through, is also quite soothing."

With frigid daily temperatures, Windsor winter weather typically remains below zero. But step inside the tropical greenhouse and you are transformed to a lush world of exotic greenery - with double-digit toasty temps typically above 18°C.

"On a sunny day, even in the winter, the greenhouse will be very warm 24-28°C," says MacDonald. "On a cold, windy, cloudy day, it will still be in the 20s, so always pleasant!"

A winding brick pathway through the tropical greenhouse takes you on a journey through a number of familiar plants and shrubbery, such as banana, papaya, lemon, lime and various orange trees. And cacti, orchids and aquatic plants transport you to the tropics.

A lounge chair tucked away in the foliage is available for relaxing on, and Horticulture students who are often on-hand doing maintenance or working on a project can always answer any questions you have about the exotic space, says MacDonald.

Trevor Mantha lounging
Horticulture student Trevor Mantha takes a rest on a lounge chair tucked away in the exotic greens.

Visiting the tropical greenhouse could improve your overall health, says MacDonald.

"Particularly in winter, people may suffer from a lack of exposure to strong daylight which can result in feelings of lethargy, moodiness and even progress to seasonal affective disorder," explains MacDonald. "In greenhouses, we typically have quite bright lighting - at least on sunny days - and exposure comes, often diffusely, from many directions."

Greenhouses are also areas that - particularly when the vents are closed - have a higher-than-usual concentration of oxygen, says MacDonald.

"This is of course produced by the plants as a product of photosynthesis," says MacDonald. "A brightly light, oxygen-rich environment full of plants is probably naturally beneficial to humans, as it harkens back to our primitive origins. It has been proven in many studies that plants benefit humans physically and psychologically."

The tropical greenhouse is open from 8:30 a.m. until 5 p.m., and sometimes 6 p.m., Monday through Friday. It is located attached to the E-Block building (the Powerhouse building and classrooms 191 and 192A are also found here). This is located directly behind the F-Block of the Main Campus building, and directly east of the Automotive building, D-Block.

So beat those winter blues, brush the white stuff off your boots and enter a warmer world of tropical wonders right here on campus.

Eric LaPlante picking papaya
Horticulture student Eric LaPlante picks a papaya from one of the greenhouse's several fruit trees.
Lin Li cleaning Pond
Horticulture student Lin Li cleans out the pond located at the entrance of the greenhouse.