More than 1000 Edmontonians visited the Muttart Conservatory on Monday, taking advantage of their last chance to see the iconic gardens until at least 2021.

The horticultural pyramids and Culina restaurant, located in the North Saskatchewan river valley, will be closed while the  facility undergoes upgrades to 30-year-old mechanical and electrical systems. 

The Muttart staff combined their Canada Day event with a celebration of their last day of operation before the repairs.

Seed planting, music, crafts and writing on a graffiti wall of memories were just a few of the activities offered on Monday. 

Eight-year-old Emmett Uhryn was drawing cactuses on the wall, his favourite plant at the conservatory. 

“They have spikes and I like that,” he said. 

Emma and Judy Poon were happy to share the Muttart Conservatory with relatives Jenny Shimbashi and Rebecca Leppard. (Emily Rendell-Watson/CBC)

The memories written on the Muttart graffiti wall will be posted on social media during the closure. 

Judy Poon, 59, has been a regular visitor at the Muttart Conservatory since it opened in 1976. 

Poon and her daughter have annual passes and often bring out-of-town visitors to see the horticultural pyramids. 

Poon likes to check out the feature pyramid and looks forward to seeing what’s changed at the conservatory since the last time they visited. 

The line to get into the Muttart on Monday extended beyond the front gate. (Emily Rendell-Watson/CBC)

“It’s a piece of paradise in the middle of Edmonton,” Poon said. “In the winter .. while it’s snowing and stormy outside, you can still come in here and see all sorts of greenery, flowers and beauty.” 

Poon, who has lived in Edmonton her whole life, said she’ll miss the Muttart while it’s closed and is crossing her fingers the renovations will not extend beyond the planned eighteen months.

She said she’d never seen a busier day at the conservatory. 

Six-year-old Bryzel Quimoyog visited the Muttart for the first time on Monday, and said the flowers were her favourite part of the trip. (Emily Rendell-Watson/CBC)

Neil Cramer, special events coordinator at the Muttart Conservatory, guessed there’d been about 1,000 visitors through the pyramids by noon on Monday. The line to get inside extended beyond the entrance gate, even in the pouring rain. 

He thought they could reach 2,000 people by the end of the day, more than triple their attendance on a normal weekend day. 

“I think it just shows how many people love this facility, that they’re taking the opportunity to come out,” he said. 

Visitors on Monday were invited to write messages and their favourite memories of the Muttart on a “graffiti wall.” (Emily Rendell-Watson/CBC)

Some of the staff from the Muttart will be moving to work at other city facilities, while the growing team who manages the collection will stay on site to take care of the plants. 

As for Cramer, he said he’ll miss working at the Muttart every day. 

“I can just come into one of the pyramids and sit for five or ten minutes. It just gives me that mental recharge and refresh.” 

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