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About The Gardens

Botanic Gardens

Not just a walk down the garden path, the gardens are designed to meet the instructional needs of courses and programs on campus, and are used as the location and subject matter for research projects and community learning opportunities. The Botanic Gardens is an aesthetically beautiful, diverse and well-maintained garden and constructed wetlands. Highlights include our collections of hardy peonies, lilies and roses, natural areas, a wide variety of aquatics, herb garden, fabulous annual displays and much more.

The Gardens are comprised of three phases spread over 25 acres and are populated with a wide ranging collection of prairie hardy plant material, both native and ornamental.  The most established part of the garden is the Central Portion, opened in 2002. The third and most recent phase of our Botanic Gardens is the East Portion which contains the Constructed Wetlands, opened in September 2013.

Together, the three phases include naturalized landscapes, specialty gardens, walking trails, demonstration plots, an arboretum and 20 constructed treatment wetlands and display ponds. The area is complete with two public gazebos, an amphitheatre and event areas. The Botanic Gardens & Constructed Wetlands has the ability to host weddings, reunions, graduations, workshops, and boasts 1.3 kilometres of trails throughout the gardens and wetlands.

Our Mission

Our goal is to maintain a Botanic Garden that introduces and conserves a diverse, well documented and accurately labeled collection of prairie hardy plants. Our collections preserve our natural heritage and expand the role of Olds College as a Centre of Excellence in Horticulture. 

Olds College's Botanic Gardens enhance and support education, training, demonstration, and applied research programs that span generations and encourage the exchange of information and ideas with industry, students, other botanical gardens and the public. The Botanical Garden also raises awareness with the public regarding the importance of sustainable environments.

Our Botanic Gardens have received formal recognition with the Canadian Botanical Conservation Network and the American Public Gardens Association.

What are Botanic Gardens

Botanic gardens are quite different from other public garden spaces or show gardens.  To be able to be identified as a botanic garden, several criteria must be met.  For example, botanic gardens must:    

  • be open to the public
  • exhibit a degree of permanence
  • use a scientific basis as the foundation for their collections
  • document and monitor the collection
  • communicate information to other gardens, institutions and the public

The Botanic Gardens and Constructed Wetlands at Olds College is dedicated to meeting all criteria and continuing to expand its value to the college and extended community. To learn more about the standards to which botanic gardens adhere, and the history of botanic gardens, visit Botanic Gardens Conservation International.


Research takes many forms in the Botanic Gardens and Constructed Wetlands, and allows the College to partner and collaborate with many groups and organizations involved with horticulture, land and water management, and related fields.

Constructed Wetlands

The Constructed Wetlands are located in the newest phase of the Botanic Gardens.

The Olds College Centre for Innovation (OCCI) is the scientifically acclaimed applied research arm of Olds College. OCCI is committed to furthering the investigation of applying combinations of wetland polishing and desalinization treatments for municipal grey, agricultural, and saline wastewater, producing quality water for domestic, agricultural and industrial uses. These processes will help reduce the negative impact on our environment and the ever-increasing demand on our diminishing supply of clean water.

The 19 ponds will serve to remove sediments and undesirable nutrients from the water, and these functions will be monitored.  Besides the information collected through the study and use of run-off from the college campus, we will be seeking out research projects to undertake in partnership with industry.

Prairie Fruit Orchard

The Olds College School of Environment, with funding from the Alberta Professional Horticulture Growers Congress and Foundation Society and the Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association, has established a demonstration fruit orchard on campus. Generous donations from members of the Alberta Farm Fresh Producers Association, in particular, Arden and Dave Delidais of DNA Gardens, contributed a substantial amount of plant material which allowed us to get the orchard ready for teaching, research and industry training in 2009.

The orchard covers 0.25 hectares just east of the Land Sciences Building at the north end of the Olds College campus. The orchard is maintained in the summer by a College service worker assisted by summer students funded by the Alberta Professional Horticulture Growers Congress and Foundation Society grant. A full Plant List is available, or you can view the Planting Plan, both for 2012. 

Alberta Regional Lily Society Project

Olds College has been working with the Alberta Regional Lily Society since 2008.  Over this time, dozens of lilies have been trialed and information collected on emergence dates, height, bloom time, bud and flower count and other criteria.  Comparison was done on planting depth, use of mulch and the depth of mulch used. The Botanic Gardens has also worked with the  Alberta Regional Lily Society to establish lily display beds in the Central Gardens.

The Buck Godwin Herbarium at Olds College

A herbarium is a collection of dried plants, especially one in which the plants have been mounted, systematically classified, and labeled for use in scientific studies. Most botanical gardens and educational institutions that provide courses in botany, horticulture and other related subjects have herbariums on site. In 1964 the horticulture program at Olds College was launched due in large part to the initiative of B.J. ‘Buck’ Godwin, an instructor at the college from 1963 to 1988. At the same time, he founded the herbarium.

In 1969 the sign outside the door indicated that the collection consisted of ‘5,045 sheets of plant material of prime interest to horticulture and agriculture’ with the oldest specimens being collected in 1904. As of 2016 the collection houses approximately 3,000 folders and 30,000 mounts, filed alphabetically by family, genus, species and cultivar. The plant material includes native and ornamental plant material from Alberta, Alaska, the Yukon, the northern U.S.A. and from most Canadian provinces. A number come from foreign countries including the former Soviet Union. The vast majority of the specimens have been collected by Olds College staff and students, and each year students in the Landscape Gardener Apprenticeship program contribute new herbariums.


Olds College Partner of the Year

On April 9, 2003, the first annual Partner of the Year Award was presented to Henry Heuver at the 90th Anniversary Gala. The college has enjoyed a long and fruitful relationship with Mr. Heuver. As owner of Foothills Landscaping in Calgary, he has combined his passion for mentoring and for horticulture to create permanent enhancements to Olds College programming.

“Henry’s enthusiasm has truly been transformational for Olds College,” said H.J. Thompson, Olds College President. “As a man with a vision, Henry simply does whatever is needed to help turn our campus into a living laboratory and increase learning opportunities for our students. He chairs the botanic Garden committee, sits as Director on the Olds College Foundation, leads campaign through his influential industry connections and supports our growth through personal financial commitments. But he also rolls up his sleeves and digs in the soil whenever needed. Henry Heuver is a true friend and major influence on Olds College”.

For his part, Henry Heuver is committed to expanding teaching opportunities wherever possible – both to benefit students and to maintain a healthy agri-horticultural industry in Alberta. When notified of the honour Olds College was bestowing on him, Mr. Heuver responded in the unassuming manner that has become his trademark.

Mr. Heuver was instrumental in the development of the Olds College Botanic Gardens, which were officially opened in July 2002 by Her Honour, The Honourable Lois Hole, Lieutenant Governor of Alberta.  He has continued his tireless support as the third phase of the Botanic Gardens and  Constructed Wetlands has moved to its completion, opening in the fall of 2013.

Olds College joins forces with HisTREE

In March 2013, Olds College embarked on an exciting project with HisTREE, a company that creates and provides management systems to simplify the collection and analysis of field data. Using QR codes and a mobile application that is tailored to the Olds College Botanic Gardens and Treatment Wetlands, staff and visitors are now able to scan plant tags, labels and signs with their smartphones to access more information on plants and beds within the gardens. Staff are be able to track maintenance tasks, health concerns and growth rates in the field, and instructors are using this system with students by having them contribute information to the database, track necessary tasks, and many other activities. This technology also greatly enhances the interpretive value of the gardens for the public. This system had a soft launch in 2015, and by the spring of 2016 was fully operational in the Wetlands portion of the gardens.

Olds College Botanic Gardens and the Alberta Regional Lily Society

Olds College has been working with the Alberta Regional Lily Society (ARLS) since 2008.  Over this time, dozens of lilies have been trialed and information collected on emergence dates, height, bloom time, bud and flower count and other criteria.  Comparison was done on planting depth, use of mulch and the depth of mulch used.  This information has been evaluated and the results put into articles which can be found on our website.

Recently, a series of articles has been developed on Lily Basics, published in the newsletters of both the Edmonton and Calgary Horticultural Societies. These are also available for downloading.

Working with the ARLS the Botanic Gardens has also established three collection gardens—species lilies, Alberta Bred Lilies, and lilies bred by Fred Fellner.  These are located in the Central portion of the gardens, providing an invaluable resource for gardeners hoping to choose a hardy lily for their landscape.

As a botanic garden, memberships are held in several organizations which provide opportunities for networking with other gardens and their staff.

American Public Garden Association - The APGA is committed to increasing the knowledge of public garden professionals throughout North America through information sharing, professional development, networking, public awareness, and research so they have the tools to effectively serve visitors and members.

Perennial Plant Association - The Perennial Plant Association connects professionals, provides education, and promotes perennial plants.  Each year they choose the Perennial Plant of the Year ™ (POY™), showcasing a perennial that is a stand-out among its competitors.  Many of the past winners can be found in the Olds College Botanic Gardens. 

Canadian Botanical Conservation Network - The  objective of Canadian Botanical Conservation Network (CBCN) is to preserve the biological diversity of Canada's rare and endangered native plant species, wild habitats and ecosystems through the education and conservation programs of our members, including botanical gardens and arboreta.

Alberta Native Plant Council - The Alberta Native Plant Council (ANPC) promotes knowledge and conservation of the native plants and vegetation of Alberta.  The ANPC’s 26th Annual General Meeting and Workshop - The Role of Vegetation in Alberta’s Wetlands – was held at Olds College on April 12th, 2013.

Alberta Low Impact Development Partnership - The Alberta Low Impact Development Partnership offers training, expertise and networking to professionals seeking to implement sustainable storm-water management in land development.  They partner with communities, academics and stewardship groups to help them increase awareness, understanding, acceptance and action towards upland practices that will lead to healthier watersheds in Alberta.

A History of the Botanic Gardens

August 7, 2001: Ground was broken for Phases I & II of the Olds College Botanic Gardens

The first two phases of the botanic gardens were built to expand Olds College’s role in horticulture in Alberta and the Canadian Prairies through demonstration and applied research, and through the exchange of information and ideas with industry, students, other Botanical Gardens, and the public.  The area is situated south of the Land Sciences Building and West of the W.G. Elliott (Ag. Mechanics) and Metals buildings. The original 13 specialty gardens included the Rose Garden, Herb Garden, Iris Dell (now Iris Collection and Annual Display), Natural Areas, Water Garden, Alpine Garden, Apple Orchard, Conifer Bed (now Pinetum), Heritage Grove, and Perennial Border.

July 25, 2002: Phase I & II officially opened by Lt. Governor Lois Hole

This multi-million dollar, multi-phase project evolved through the dedication of many people over 12 years. Volunteers, staff and industry partners worked side by side with Dave Herbert, project manager and Olds College instructor, to realize the vision of a botanic garden at Olds College.  As well as providing a valuable ‘hands-on’ classroom for students, these gardens create a breathtaking botanical environment for the public to enjoy.

July 2002: Vision created for Phase III

Olds College moves forward with plans to develop Phase III of the botanic gardens through a unique collaboration between Olds College, Westhoff Engineering Resources Inc. and Watertech Engineering Research & Health.  Both corporations will utilize their expertise as water resource management consultants to create a number of plans including master drainage, comprehensive water management and a recirculation system.

August 27, 2002: Promenade is officially opened

The Promenade (now the Adrian Bylands Promenade) was officially opened by the Honourable Lyle Oberg, Minister of Learning. The pathway runs between the Land Science Greenhouses and the Landscape Construction Pavilion on the North, and the parking yard of the W.J. Elliott Building (Ag. Mechanics Building) on the South.  (The Promenade is the pathway system that now connects Phase I & II of the Botanic Garden with the East portion of the gardens, completed in 2012, which houses the Treatment Wetlands). This project was a collaborative effort between members of the horticultural industry and Olds College Students and Staff.

2002-2011: The Botanic Gardens ongoing development

As with any garden, the Olds College Botanic Gardens continued to evolve over the years.  Beds were modified and added in response to interest from students and donors, as well as ideas and visions of staff. The All American Selections Display Garden was added in 2004.  Two memorial gardens were added in 2009 and 2010 – the Buck Godwin Memorial Garden and the Ernest Mengersen Butterfly Garden.  The Cleo Mower Garden was constructed in 2011. Also new since the initial construction was completed is the Monocot Bed and the Alberta-Bred Lily Collection.

2005: Planning for Phase III and the Treatment Wetlands begins

Planning for Phase III and Treatment Wetlands began.  A master plan was made for the 20 acres of land to be developed into a world-class research and education complex including naturalized landscapes, specialty gardens, walking trails, demonstration plots, an arboretum and 20 constructed treatment wetlands and display ponds.

2009: Groundbreaking ceremony for Phase III and the Treatment Wetlands is held

Summer 2011: Construction

The main land work and construction of the ponds, gazebo, amphitheater and pathway system was virtually completed.  Planting began with the installation of 300+ trees, donated by a number of nurseries, and equipment and labour donations by Foothills Landscaping.  Staff from the School of Environment, and across campus, were also involved.

April 2012 - October 2013: Landscaping proceeds throughout the summer

Landscaping progressed rapidly, with interlocking brick pathways, asphalt pathways, tree and shrub planting, mulching, irrigation, sod installation and seeding.  Perennials were installed on the top of Celebration Hill and aquatic plants were planted in several of the ponds.  The site started to generate interest within the local and campus community, and several college classes carried out activities in the gardens including planting planting grass plugs, measuring trees, mapping out pathways, and testing water quality.

September 2013: Official Opening

After finishing touches to irrigation and landscaping were completed, the gardens were officially opened during the College's Centennial Year of celebrations.   The gardens are now open during the growing season, from dawn to dusk every day of the week.  Research projects are anticipated to start in the spring of 2014.

How to Support the Botanic Gardens and Constructed Wetlands

In 2017 we started a Volunteer Program to allow members of the public to give their time and energies to the Botanic Gardens. Interested parties can send an e-mail to

View Olds College Employment Opportunities

There are many ways to make a donation to the gardens.

  • Donate online: support the Botanic Gardens and Constructed Wetlands

  • Set in Stone and Tribute Bench programs:  personalize a paving stone on the “Walkway up Celebration Hill” as a personal keepsake or memorable gift, or purchase a bench to be installed along the walkways within the gardens and dedicate it by personalizing it with a plaque and wording of your choice.