This unique attraction is a very popular stop on the Niagara Parkway and is photographed almost as often as the Falls!
The planted face is maintained by Niagara Parks horticulture staff, while the mechanism is kept in working order by Ontario Hydro, the organization that originally built the clock. The intricate designs on the face of the timepiece are created with up to 16,000 carpet bedding plants. The floral design is changed twice each year, featuring viola in the Spring and four cultivars of Alternanthera along with green and grey forms of Santolina Sage during the Summer and Fall. California Golden Privet and Blue Festuca Grass may be used for contrast.
The grounds surrounding the clock feature bedding displays and a tower at the back of the clock houses Westminster chimes that greet each quarter hour. If the door into the tower is open, you can take a glimpse at the clock mechanism and enjoy photographs that show the history of almost every face design all the way back to 1950.
An attractive feature is a 10-foot wide water garden that curves 85 feet around the base of the timepiece – it is a popular place to make a wish! Admission and parking at the Floral Clock are free of charge.
Floral Clock Location
14004 Niagara Parkway, Queenston, Ontario, Canada, behind the Sir Adam Beck Power Plant and near the Lewiston-Queenston International Bridge.
Background on the Floral Clock
The Floral Clock at Queenston was built by Ontario Hydro in 1950. The idea to build the attraction came from Dr. Richard Lankaster Hearn, Hydro’s General Manager and Chief Engineer at the time. While preparing for a business trip to England, Mr. Hearn was encouraged by Hugh Duncan, a Scotsman who was a maintenance electrician foreman at the Queenston Generating Station, to visit the floral clock in the Princes’ Street Gardens in Edinburgh. Dr. Hearn did as Duncan suggested, and he was very impressed by the beauty of the clock and by its practical value as an attraction.
After his trip to Scotland, Dr. Hearn commissioned Hydro’s Niagara Regional staff to design and construct a floral clock in keeping with the surroundings at the Queenston station. A “Hydro News” article, describing plans for the construction of the attraction, credits Pat Ryan and Walter Ewart as the clock’s designers. Hugh Duncan supervised construction of the attraction and was in charge of the mechanical and electrical installation work. (Dr. Hearn later served as Chairman at Ontario Hydro.)
The Edinburgh clock, built in 1903, is roughly 10 feet in diameter. In comparison, the Floral Clock is 40 feet wide, with a planted area 38 feet wide, making it one of the largest such clocks in the world. Each year, the face of the clock is filled with 15,000 to 20,000 carpet plants and colourful annuals, planted in unique, intricate designs. Since 1977 The Niagara Parks Commission Horticulture Department (now Parks Department) have been responsible for designing and planting the face of the clock, and a site maintenance worker regularly checks the official time to ensure the Clock’s accuracy.
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.
Adjacent to the Niagara Parks Centennial Lilac Garden, parking, washrooms and a small gift shop are provided for the convenience of the thousands of visitors who stop here each year. This floral showpiece has become one of the most photographed attractions in Niagara Parks.
The timepiece is located beside the Sir Adam Beck Generating Station No. 1, and its mechanics are still maintained by staff of Ontario Power Generation (the successor to Ontario Hydro).