Ecological Collections

Alpine GardenAlpine Garden

The Alpine Garden at Olds College was constructed as part of one of the courses during Hort Week. Soil was amended to ensure the excellent drainage that is so important to alpine plants. The beds were topped with a rock crush mulch. Alpine originate from above the tree line and below the permanent snow line, experiencing a harsh, extreme climate. The growing season is very short as snow is only absent from mid-summer to early fall. Alpine plants are well adapted to their conditions. They often grow very long roots to obtain the necessary moisture and nutrients. Foliage may have a protective covering such as a waxy coating or long hairs for protection against the environment. The plants produce an abundance of soluble sugars which will lower the freezing point of the plant’s cells. Many alpines grow in tufts or communities to provide insulation.

Alpine plants do very well in many areas of the province, in particular locations like Calgary, that are at a higher elevation providing conditions fairly close to those that alpines would experience naturally. The Alpine Garden displays alpine plants, many of which can be grown in prairie gardens. Some of the plants found in this garden include species of primulas, clematis, gentians, phlox, Draba, Androsace and many others. 

It is worth noting that alpine plants are not the same as rock garden plants. Rock gardens share many of the same features of alpine gardens including the use of rocks and rock mulch as decorative elements, but can include plants that grow in rocky environments un-related to a high elevation including sea-shores, desert-type environments and others. There is a small Rock Garden within the Botanic Gardens, located between the Perennial Border and Iris Collection.

Water GardenWater Garden

Water gardens offer a display of textures, forms, and colours and provide many benefits. The sound of water not only calms but can buffer undesirable sounds such as traffic. Moving water captures the visitor’s attention, and any water will act as an attractant to local wildlife including reptiles and amphibians, bird and insect life. 

These species contribute to, and benefit from an aquatic ecosystem, whether a natural wetland or a backyard ornamental water feature. A pond of even a small size also allows for the use of plants suited to growing on the water’s edge, and if deep enough may house plants that put their roots in the pond bottom while floating their leaves on the surface.  Plants were supplied by Bearberry Creek Water Gardens, a local nursery specializing in water plants. 

The pump system recirculates water from the smaller bottom pond back up to the top larger pond. A small stream wanders south, and along its edge can be found wonderful examples of creeping willow (Salix repens) that have created mounds along the upper edge of each side, reaching branches down towards the water. Over 120 tonnes of rock was used for this project, and the feature created offers a visual contrast to the rest of the Botanic Garden.