As the seasons changed from winter to summer overnight, so changed Calgary’s vegetation from dormant to vibrant. I’ve always enjoyed visiting gardens in some of the other cities I’ve lived in: Montreal’s Botanical Gardens, Edmonton’s Muttart Conservatory, and Vancouver’s Van Dusen Gardens. And so I went forth to discover some of Calgary’s gardens accessible to the public.
The first public garden that I visited in Calgary last fall was the Reader Rock Garden. I happened upon it serendipitously, as I like to do, and locked my bike to take a closer look. I was amazed by what Parks Superintendent William Reader had done on this hill at the beginning of the last century. Of English origin, he believed that Calgary’s cold climate didn’t have to limit the types of plants that could grow here and worked to emulate some of the gardens found across the pond. Therefore he first planted tall evergreens around his property to protect the gardens. Then he fashioned the hill on which his house stood into steps dispersed with rock and waterfalls. He then crossed different varieties of flowers and plants to see which could survive the harsh Alberta climate. Photo Credit
Without much research, I later stumbled upon Calgary’s Devonian Gardens because they’re centrally located in Scotia Place. It’s a great escape from the nightmare mall shopping can be. These Devonian Garden’s, meaning it primarily is filled with plants that existed in the Devonian period (408 million years ago), have recently been modernized. The face life includes beautiful ponds complete with fountains and coi fish, plentiful seating, natural lighting (despite what the photos suggest), traditional west coast masks, a playground, and even educational programs.
Though the Devonian Garden is a great source of chlorophyl in the winter months, I was craving the great outdoors and I recalled seeing a lovely kept garden in Inglewood. The Deane House, Fort Calgary’s restaurant, is a historical site along 9th avenue. And, although the garden is small, it is a perfect example of a manicured green space for the public to enjoy and to give ideas to Calgary’s citizens as to what actually can grow here.
From The Deane House I pedalled forth to Peter Lougheed House where “the gardens have long been a sanctuary of peace” in the middle of Calgary’s busy downtown core. It is bigger than the Deane House’s landscape but has the same pretentious sophistication only the beginning of the last century can get away with. When I showed a friend these photographs she thought at first that they were taken somewhere in Europe which proves that there is certainly some architecture Calgary can be boastful of. What is unique about this garden is that it is terraced and therefore has plenty of lawn space perfect for picnicking while providing shelter and an intimate ambiance. On a random ride home up 10th street NW I rode past Riley Park and noticed the Senator Patrick Burns Memorial Rock Garden. This garden is attached to a great family park complete with a wading pool and cricket pitches. The Senator was locally revered as he was a long time Calgary rancher and one of the four founders of the Calgary Stampede. The flagstones used in the garden are from the remains of his mansion!
Somehow, when I was researching parks and gardens in Calgary, “Ralph Klein Park” kept coming up. Someone even told me that the location was so beautiful that their friends tried to book their wedding there. I had to go discover this new park for myself, even though its name was a deterrent at first. Unfortunately, I couldn’t get there on my bicycle. In fact, even in a vehicle it was difficult to access because it was in the middle of an industrial park. When I got there I was expecting manicured gardens and impressive shrubbery which is why you can’t make assumptions about things you don’t know anything about. The “park” consisted of two modern buildings surrounded by natural wetlands. I strolled around and came across a geo cache, one of many I later found out, some signage on the surrounding wetlands, a young apple orchard, some picnic tables and an incredible waterfall, which was by far this park’s redeeming feature.