The Franklin Park Conservatory's support greenhouse, the crowning piece of a three-project capital campaign, opened over the weekend.

The Franklin Park Conservatory's support greenhouse, the crowning piece of a three-project capital campaign, opened over the weekend.

Officials say the 9,300-square-foot facility will provide much-needed efficiency for the conservatory, which formerly had to move plants off-site throughout the year, costing staff time and money for rental space.

The greenhouse will become the botanical warehouse and growing facility for plants used in several conservatory exhibitions and displays, such as bonsai plants, orchids, poinsettias for the Christmas season and plants that provide fruit nectar for the Blooms & Butterflies exhibit held from March through September.

Located between the picnic shelter and the community gardens, the $1.3-million greenhouse has several "green" features: permeable pavers, a retractable roof that allows for natural ventilation and rain barrels that will catch runoff precipitation. A blackout room will use insulating curtains to artificially shorten the day to simulate the light and dark schedules of specific varieties of plants. Moveable plant tables will be more flexible, freeing up more space.

The building, however, is not open to the general public.

Bruce Harkey, executive director of the conservatory, sees a lot of potential with the addition of the greenhouse.

"Having new facilities creates new opportunities at the conservatory," he said.

Conservatory officials also realize the possible need for additional greenhouse space.

"I think it meets our needs right now but in a few years, we'll need more," said Garry Clarke, director of planning.

The greenhouse opening marks the completion of the $23-million capital program at the conservatory, which included two 5,000-square-foot additions to the John F. Wolfe Palm House and the community-gardening campus. The campaign and the projects were part of the first phase of a master plan to upgrade the conservatory.

To celebrate, conservatory officials have planned a community gala. The gala will begin on the Grand Mallway at 6:30 p.m. Monday, Aug. 8, a symbolic date for the conservatory because it marks the dedication of the first project -- the Palm House additions -- on Aug. 8, 2008.

Highlights of the celebration include a picnic, in which participants are encouraged to bring their own food and non-alcoholic beverages, children's activities and the release of monarch butterflies. The ProMusica Chamber Orchestra will perform at 8:30 p.m. At dusk, James Turrell's light installation, featuring thousands of LED lights and computer technology, will illuminate the Palm House. Food and beverages will be available for purchase throughout the evening.

The conservatory planned a total of three capital campaigns to fund the three-phase master plan.

The second campaign is now in the planning stages.