Central Gardens

The first two phases of the gardens, established in 2002, have matured into a rich, diverse landscape home to many of our plant collections and specialty gardens. Much is concentrated in this five acre site, which stretches south from the Land Sciences Centre (base for our Horticulture Programs) past the James Murray Building (base for our Land and Water Programs).

Garden areas have been created and planted based on particular criteria for each. Geographical Collections display plants from a certain region. Ecological Collections showcase plants that inhabit a particular type of ecosystem. Taxonomic Collections are based on plant classification and evolution. Theme Collections bring together plants based on their landscape or cultural uses. These gardens are as hard-working as the Constructed Wetlands. They provide resources for courses and programs at the College, gardening information and inspiration for garden visitors, research opportunities, and of course a wonderful setting for campus staff.

Ecological Collections

Alpine 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.

Water 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.

Learn more about the Ecological Collections

Taxonomic Collections

Alumni Peony Collection - Most cultivated peonies trace their origin to Paeonia lactiflora, which is native to Siberia and the far east. However, P. officinalis, a European peony, is also an important parent of some of the modern herbaceous cultivars. The collection here at the College include many examples of hybrid garden peonies, including 'Sarah Bernhardt' and 'Koningin Wilhelmina'.

Iris Collection and Annual Display - The Iris Collection can be found intermixed with groups of perennials and annuals on either side of the pathway running alongside the north end of the James Murray Building. The irises displayed are all hardy to the prairies and provide an opportunity for gardeners to see iris in bloom over several weeks, allowing you to make a careful choice of colour based on what you see in the garden.

Day Lily Collection - As of the fall of 2017, the majority of the daylilies were removed from around the Herb Garden. Many were relocated into other flowers beds within the gardens, and plans are in the works to create a new Day Lily Collection Bed in a new location.  Stay tuned for more details!

Lily Collection - Lilies are monocots, as are members of the garlic, onion, and grass families. They are true bulbs, forming a fleshy storage unit under the soil enabling the plant to survive the winter, emerging the next spring.  As with most bulb-forming plants, lilies prefer well-drained, organic soil and dislike wet, soggy, heavy soil.

Monocot Bed - Flowering plants are divided into two distinct groups, based on features such as the number of cotyledons they posses (the leaves that emerge from the seed before the real leaves), the numbers of flower parts they posses, and the pattern of the veins in their leaves.

Rose Garden - The intent of our Rose Garden is to showcase the variety of species and types of roses, and the wide range of flower styles and colours that are available for prairie gardeners to choose from. Roses in this collection are considered fully hardy to zone three, and as such receive minimal maintenance. They are pruned as necessary in the spring and fall for health and shape. Beds are topped up with compost annually, and weeding is carried out on a regular basis.

Pinetum - Conifers are unique plants distinguished by the production of cones in a variety of shapes, sizes and types. Most of the conifers found in prairie gardens are in fact evergreen – maintaining their needle-like leaves all winter long, providing relief from the blanket of white that dominates the winter months.

Learn more about our Taxonomic Collections

Theme Collections

All-America Selections - each year we receive seeds of annuals and vegetables which we propagate in our greenhouses and then plant into the raised beds. As well as providing an exciting visual display, these gardens provide a valuable service to visitors, journalists, photographers, and students. Each plant is labeled for ease of identification, allowing for anyone interested in a particular plant to learn more.

Bylands Promenade - the Bylands Promenade provides the visual and physical link between the Central Gardens, and the East Gardens, home to the Constructed Wetlands.

Crabapple Heritage Grove - crabapples belong to the Malus genus, the same as regular apples, but produce smaller, tarter fruit. The ‘Rescue’ cultivar is a hardy fruit tree developed and named in 1936 at the Experimental Farm in Scott, Saskatchewan. Its parentage is the Blushed Calville seedling.

Herb Garden - The Herb Garden is designed in a circular layout, with a central focal point that changes each year. The outer ring is planted with perennial herbs and vegetables such as asparagus, woolly yarrow, feverfew and bergamot. The inner ring changes each year with annual plantings of herbs such as parsley, basil, veggies such as lettuce and flowers like marigolds.

Perennial Border - Under the shelter of the crabapple tree can be found a group of hellebores (Helleborus orientalis), a borderline hardy perennial that flowers very early in the spring - as early as January in warmer climates with which this group of plants is typically associated, such as that found on the west coast, and in England. Hellebores take several years to become established enough to bloom, but then slowly continue to spread into decent sized clumps. 

Learn more about our Theme Collections

Memorial Gardens

The Arthur Kemp Memorial Garden

This special garden was dedicated by the Class of '46 to Arthur Kemp who, for a span of 26 years (1922-1948), lectured in botany, horticulture and entomology. Mr. Kemp also conducted experimental work at the Olds School of Agriculture.

The Arthur Kemp Memorial Garden is found in an open area between the James Murray Building and the Dr. Robert Turner Research Centre. It's location, surrounded by the building on three sides, makes it a warm, protected microclimate, supporting lush green growth and providing a quiet, restful place to sit.

Buck Godwin Memorial"Buck" Godwin Memorial Garden

B. J. “Buck” Godwin was a popular instructor during his tenure from 1963 to 1988, and is considered to be the father of the College’s horticultural programs as well as the founder of Hort Week. He retired in 1988 and passed away in 2008.  Both the herbarium and the entomology collection at Olds College were started by Buck. Even after his long time with the College, he maintained his love of hands-on teaching, staying actively involved in horticulture, collaborating with Olds College in research and donating both time and product from his nearby farm which was home to Alberta Supernaturals, the floral business he ran with this wife Nola. He also contributed significantly to student scholarships and bursaries. 

Buck's memorial garden was designed by members of the Hort Club in 2009. It includes many of the plants Buck grew for his business – hardy perennials suitable for cutting, but that also create a wonderful display in the garden. Plants you will find in this garden include culver's root (Veronicastrum virginicum), phlomis (Phlomis spp.) and sea holly (Eryngium spp.).

Cleo Mower Memorial Garden

Mr. Cleo Walter Mower was born on the family farm at Sibbald, AB and educated at Highland Park Rural School at Sibbald and as well as Alaska, SK. He graduated from the University of Saskatchewan in 1938 and took post-graduate studies at St. Andrew’s Theological College in Saskatoon, SK. He started a career in journalism at the Saskatoon Star-Phoenix in 1939 and was later employed by the Winnipeg Free Press for two years, the Calgary Albertan (as associate editor) for 16 years, and in 1960 Max Bell, having acquired the Lethbridge Herald, appointed Cleo editor and publisher. He held these positions until retirement in 1980. In 1971, he organized a conference in Lethbridge which led to the formation of the Canada West Foundation. Cleo received an honorary doctorate from the University of Lethbridge and was the founding president of the Nikka Yuko Centennial Gardens. He served as president of the Lethbridge Chamber of Commerce, and on the Metric Commission Canada. Some of his other interests were the Alberta Division of the Federal Liberal Party, Lethbridge Rotary Club, Canadian Water Resources Association, gardening (specializing in gladiolus and delphiniums) and watercolors. Much of his time for the last 10 years of his life was spent on promoting the establishment of a world-class botanical garden in or near Lethbridge. He was also awarded a Queen’s Jubilee Medal.

This garden area was designed by School of Environment staff, and was installed by students in the College's horticulture program. It features many of the plants Cleo loved - in particular, delphiniums. The design and location of this garden creates a wonderful protected microclimate, perfect for experimenting with more tender plants. The last few summers we have placed a large banana from the greenhouse as the centerpiece in the raised bed.

Ernest Mengersen Butterfly Garden

Ernest was part of the Olds College staff as the entomology instructor from 1977 until 2004. During that time the insect collection was expanded from 10,000 to 55,000 specimens.  Ernest was absolutely passionate about his chosen field, and encouraged students to see that studying insect life goes hand in hand with studying horticulture. He loved teaching, and was much revered as an instructor, instilling in many a student a life-long interest in insects.

Ernest was co-author with Hugh Philip of the widely used book “Insect Pests of the Prairies” which was published in 1989 by the University of Alberta, Faculty of Education. The horticultural community lost a valued member when Ernest passed away in July of 2009. This memorial garden includes features that attract butterflies including a puddling area, and is planted with selections of plants that provide nectar for butterflies including lupins (Lupinus spp.), maltese cross (Lychnis chalcedonica) and painted tongue (Salpiglossis sinuata).

Geographic Collections

Natural Area - the Natural Area originated when Olds College staff were alerted to a construction project that involved the widening of Highway 2A and the resulting destruction and loss of natural habitats and plant species. Staff staged a ‘plant rescue’, digging up plants and bringing them back to campus. They were installed, creating a new garden area to showcase species native to the Central Parkland ecosystem in which Olds is situated. 

The plants rescued were primarily herbaceous (perennial grasses and wildflowers) and include plants more suited to upland areas such as native asters, bluebells (Campanula spp.), Canada anemone (Anemone canadensis) as well as those more comfortable with a moister setting including coltsfoot (Petasites spp.) and rushes (Scirpus spp., Juncus spp.).  Woody plants were added later and can now be found well established in this site, including native rose (Rosa spp.), wolfwillow (Elaeagnus commutata), alder (Alnus spp.), river birch (Betula occidentalis) and trembling aspen (Populus tremuloides). This portion of the Botanic Garden provides an interesting contrast with the more formal parts of the garden. Visitors may leave with an idea for a native plant that would be appropriate for their own setting.

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 OCBotanicGardens@oldscollege.ca

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.