It wasn’t the greatest of days in terms of weather when we arrived at the Floral Clock. It was an overcast day, but we were nevertheless excited to be there. Upon arrival, they were maintaining the grounds. The gardeners were busy looking after the rows of tulips that greeted you on your way to the clock and the lawns were being mowed. A bus had just departed, loaded with tourists and another would eventually arrive 30 mins later- something that has been probably going on for over 60+ years.
We were thrilled to finally get a view of this much talked about attraction and were even more excited when we discovered what was behind the clock itself.
The Floral Clock, a free attraction, was built in 1950 and is one of the largest floral clock in the world at 12.2 metres (40 feet) in diameter.
The hands of the clock are stainless steel tubing: the hour hand is 14.5 ft, the minute hand 17.5 ft and the second hand 21 ft long. Their combined weight is 1,250 pounds. An ivy-clad, louvered stone tower stands 24 feet tall and contains speakers that every quarter hour broadcast Westminster chimes. Under the clock, accessed by a door at the rear of the tower, the concrete foundation includes three small rooms – one for the clock mechanism and its driving motor, one contains switches to supply the electrical power, and one stores the tools required for maintaining the floral face. The clock mechanism runs in a bath of oil. The mechanical workings are driven by a 5 HP DC motor supplied from a DC drive. A tachometer is mounted on the motor shaft and provides feedback to the drive to control its accuracy.
The Westminster chimes are controlled by a programmable logic controller. The sounds are simulated and are broadcast through 2-25 watt co-axial speakers mounted in the bell tower.
The first floral clock was invented by John McHattie of Edinburgh Parks and was first planted up in the spring of 1903 in West Princes Street Gardens, Edinburgh, Scotland. In that year it had only an hour hand but a minute hand was added the following year. It was soon imitated across the United Kingdom and later throughout the world.
The planted face of this Floral Clock in Niagara Falls is maintained by Niagara Parks horticulture staff, while the mechanism is kept going by Ontario Hydro, (the Sir Adam Beck One generating station building can be seen in the background in some of the photos in the Gallery further below), the organization which by the way, originally built the clock. The intricate and wonderful designs are created with up to 16,000 carpet bedding plants and changed twice per year – violas to welcome in the spring season, which is what we had seen upon our visit, and four cultivars of Alternanthera along with green and grey forms of Santolina Sage during the Summer and Fall, which we hope to return to witness. California Golden Privet and Blue Festuca Grass may be used for contrast.
Surrounding the front of the clock is a pond.
We were able to capture the chimes on video. Lucky for us at the time, the door into the tower was open and we were able to view photos that showed the history of almost every design on the face of the clock since 1950! (See some examples in the Gallery below). We were also able to view the clock’s mechanism.
DID YOU KNOW...
There is one clock face design that they do not have and are on the hunt for? A photo of the 1981 clock face design! If you have 'the one that got away', contact them.
Niagara Parks Floral Clock
14004 Niagara Pkwy, Niagara Falls, ON L0S 1L0
From the Niagara Falls Review:
It was a timeless mystery.It remains elusive no more...
For the past 64 years, Niagara Parks has recorded images of the ever-changing Floral Clock along the Niagara Prkwy.
While there are many images on file of the unique timepiece, the collection was not complete.
"The Parks has a record of the design every single year but, for some unusual reason, 1981 was missing from the records," said Janice Thomson, chairwoman of the Niagara Parks Commission.
Niagara Parks posted a public plea on its website, asking for anyone who has a photograph of the clock from 33 years ago to contact them.
"We're on the hunt for the one that got away - the 1981 clock face design," the post read.
The elusive design remained a mystery for a number of years.
Pennsylvania resident Holly Hassinger came across the Niagara Parks website by chance while planning for an upcoming trip to Niagara Falls with her family.
After reading about the missing photo she recalled her family vacationed in Niagara Falls in the early 1980s.
A quick browse through some old family photos and she found one of her family standing in front of the clock. The photo was dated July 1981.
(Click on the 'Full Screen' button to the top right of the gallery to view all the pictures!)
In October 2016...
Photos showing below, Niagara Parks Commission’s aero car summer design for the floral clock in Niagara Falls.
The Floral Clock commemorated the Aero Car's 100th year of operation. Built in 1913 (by the Niagara Aero Car Company using Leonardo Torres-Quevedo's patent), the aerial cable car which travels safely between two different points of the Canadian shore of the Niagara River over the spectacular Whirlpool, officially opened on August 8, 1916.