Calgary Gardens Road Trip

Species Peony, cortusa matthiola and ornamental rhubarb

By Penny Dodd
After an early start, we arrived at Reader Rock Garden for our 90-minute visit enjoyed in brilliant sunshine. Many varieties of saxifrage, primrose, columbine, dianthus and clematis were all in bloom.
Some rarely seen beauties included Cortusa matthiola (both pink and white), ornamental rhubarb, and double marsh marigold.caltour7

A short visit with full time gardener Janet drew our attention to unusual plants, such as Telekia speciosa and a variety of globe thistle that grows 8 feet tall, which bloom later in the summer. Anybody for another trip in late July?

We arrived at Central Memorial Park in time to eat lunch in the shade of the beautiful old library building. This is Calgary’s first park, and its many fountains were being enjoyed by Calgary children on this warm afternoon. We gardeners debated the wisdom of the plant choices and bed designs employed by today’s decision makers. Some flower beds are closely planted with annuals, others in formal shapes created by a mixture of perennials and annuals.

Our next stop was historic Lougheed House and its garden called Beaulieu or Beautiful Place. There is a large rose bed in the shelter of a terrace, and many striking white iris were in full bloom. The annuals selected for this year’s garden are predominately cosmos. There is a restaurant in the house, and a small kitchen garden with a variety of herbs and greens is maintained in the back yard.ornamentalrhubarb

We also took a short tour of the house where we learned about the cultural and social factors that lead to construction and decorating choices, as well as about the family’s history and importance in a young city.
Another garden with rare and unusual perennials is Rundle Wood Garden. This garden is in the large lot of a private home, and the gardeners there ensure visitors will always find many interesting plants in bloom. In early spring, the garden is dominated by hepatica; later the martagon lilies put on a fantastic display. But the most striking plants there right now are many species peonies. These beauties are shades of yellow, blends of yellow or white and pink, white, pink and apricot. Many of these peonies are also fragrant, one having an intense smoky clove perfume.
Another part of the garden also had a number of lady slipper orchids. One of these is a hybrid which has one parent being the mountain lady slipper found in Waterton. If none of this is to your taste, there is also a raised rock garden planted with dozens of exotic tiny blossoms. The head gardener here propagates plants from seeds produced in the garden, and some of the Lethbridge gardeners purchased a few to bring home.cortusa

In spite of the original plan to come straight home, we made a detour to Black Diamond to visit Vale’s Green House. The display gardens there are even more striking today than they were before last year’s flood. This nursery sells a large variety of perennials and many unusual cultivars. For example, ornamental rhubarb had been available there, although it was sold out. Annuals galore, dramatic hanging baskets, shrubs and vines as well as garden ornaments are all available.

We all enjoyed and were inspired by the creativity and unusual plants in these gardens.

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