Assiniboine Park's The Leaf now expected to open in 2022 with focus on connection between plants, people

The connection between plants and people is the focus of an upcoming multi-million dollar horticultural attraction known as The Leaf at Assiniboine Park now set to open in late 2022.

Project short an estimated $25M, fundraising campaign underway

Special vents, seen above, will blow wind into the building to keep tropical plants alive. (Jeff Stapleton/CBC)

By the time The Leaf opens to visitors, it will likely be freezing outside.

But inside the estimated $130-million horticultural attraction at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park, visitors will be transported to a climate that makes them feel like they're in California or Florida.

"When you go in here in the middle of the winter, this will be an oasis. This will be a warm tropical space and an escape essentially from winter," Gerald Dieleman, senior director for horticulture at the Assiniboine Park Conservancy, said Wednesday.

The connection between plants and people is the focus of the upcoming multimillion-dollar horticultural attraction, which is now set to open in late 2022.

RAW: Artist rendering gives sneak peek of indoor biomes:

Artist rendering gives sneak peek of indoor biomes

2 years ago
Duration 6:48
The connection between plants and people is the focus of a multimillion-dollar horticultural attraction known as The Leaf at Assiniboine Park. The attraction is set to open by the end of 2022 but still needs an estimated $25 million in funding.

The Leaf is the last phase of a years-long project to replace the Assiniboine Park Conservatory, which was demolished in 2018.

The conservancy said The Leaf will be a world-class attraction that is uniquely Canadian and of national significance.

"There's no question this will be another major international tourism attraction," Margaret Redmond, the Assiniboine Park Conservancy's CEO, said during a media tour of the construction site on Wednesday.

"The attention that is already being brought to this very unique building is immense. People around the world are watching it. We know there's nothing like this in the world."

The Leaf will feature four distinct indoor biomes, each with trees and plants from different regions, and will include a butterfly garden.

The conservancy says it will have the largest indoor waterfall in Canada, designed by Canadian architect Dan Euser, who designed a famous 9/11 water memorial in New York City

"It's obviously meant to create that sense of immersion and transport you to another part of the world. It creates a very calming and dramatic effect at the same time," Redmond said. 

The Leaf will also have indoor and outdoor classrooms and a restaurant that will use ingredients from plants inside the building.

The centre is part of the Diversity Gardens project at Assiniboine Park, which was originally slated to open in 2020. The outdoor part of that project opened last July.

Construction of The Leaf has faced delays that are the subject of lawsuits in court. Redmond said the conservancy hopes to recoup some of the money in court it lost over problems with the building's roof.

She said all three levels of government and private donors have made up a total of $105 million so far but another $25 million is needed for the project.

Trees will be planted next summer and outdoor gardens will be open but no one will be able to go inside the building.

A fundraising campaign is underway and the hope is for a grand opening by the end of 2022.

WATCH | A look at construction on The Leaf:

Plants, culture and connection focus of horticultural attraction set to open in 2022

2 years ago
Duration 2:10
The connection between plants and people is the focus of The Leaf, an upcoming multi-million-dollar horticultural attraction at Winnipeg's Assiniboine Park.


​Austin Grabish is a reporter for CBC News in Winnipeg. Since joining CBC in 2016, he's covered several major stories. Some of his career highlights have been documenting the plight of asylum seekers leaving America in the dead of winter for Canada and the 2019 manhunt for two teenage murder suspects. In 2021, he won an RTDNA Canada award for his investigative reporting on the Canadian Museum for Human Rights, which triggered change. Have a story idea? Email: