Taxonomic Collection


Taxonomic Collection

Alumni Peony Collection

Alumni Peony ColectionThe genus name Paeonia honours Paeon who, in ancient Greek mythology, is said to have used the peony plant for healing. Peonies have been cultivated in China for more than 2,000 years. Very old specimens are a source of pride to their owners. Individual peony plants in the Temple Garden of Peking are said to be over 200 years old. Even here in the harsh prairie climate, peonies are considered long-lived perennials, often surviving for over 50 years. 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 includes many examples of hybrid garden peonies, including 'Sarah Bernhardt' and 'Koningin Wilhelmina'.

In recent years, Itoh peonies have gained in popularity, especially as they begin to come down in price. Itoh peonies are hybrids between tree peonies and herbaceous peonies, with flowers and foliage closely resembling those of tree peonies but with stems that typically die back close to the ground each winter. Blooms are large and elegant with fewer petals than are found in many herbaceous peonies – but colours that fall in the yellow/peachy range not seen in the more common garden hybrid peonies. There’s a peony for every garden and taste in this wonderful collection.

The plaque in the Peony Garden reads 'This Peony Garden is a symbol of longevity and heritage and is dedicated to all Olds College alumni, past, present and yet to come.' Established in 2004 we continue to add new species and varieties to this collection.

Daylily Collection

The Daylily Collection has moved! 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!Daylily blooms are edible, so it seems appropriate that they are found next to other edibles such as lettuce, carrots and asparagus. The Daylilies are not true lilies, but belong to the Hemerocallis genus, which in latin means ‘beauty for a day’. True to both their common and latin names, each daylily flower blooms for only one day, but this is compensated by the vast number of blooms – a single plant may produce over 50 flowers. 

Daylilies tolerate heat and drought better than many garden flowers, and are winter-hardy on the prairies. While tolerant of most soil types, daylilies grow best in a well drained, sandy loam, and prefer a location providing full sun or with some afternoon shade. They are considered very low maintenance, requiring little care and having no pest or disease problems. There are thousands of registered cultivars available, and new ones are being released every year. Daylilies flowers can be found in every shade with the exception of blue, and come in solid colours, or with a contrasting coloured throat. Plant sizes also range in size, providing a greaty diversity of choice to the gardener, and guaranteeing a daylily for virtually every situation. Some of the cultivars found in our collection include 'Just Plum Happy', 'Siloam June Bug' and 'Buffy's Doll'.


Lily Collection

Centennial Lilies: College Tradition

Centennial Lilies: College Triumph

Centennial Lilies: College Sunrise

Centennial Lilies: College Pride

Lilies are monocots, along with 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 a wet, soggy, heavy soil. They can be somewhat drought tolerant but will benefit from added moisture during long periods of hot dry weather. Lilies are divided into groups, ranging in size, flower style and colour, and light requirements.  

Martagon are great for early season interest, typically blooming in mid-June on the prairies. Many martagons will bloom in a shady spot in the garden, and although they are slow to spread, in time they will come a large clump, often reaching over 100cm tall, and displaying numerous, downward facing blooms.  Asiatic lilies bloom a bit later, in July, and are one of the hardiest and most popular landscape lilies with the greatest variation in appearance. Some of the Asiatics in our collection include 'Orange Pixie', Peach Pixie', 'Chianti' and 'Brushstroke'. Also found in our Collection are a number of species lilies, which are more unusual to see in the landscape. 

A separate bed has been set aside to house our Alberta Bred Lily Collection, showcasing the amazing work done by breeders from our province.

Alberta Bred Lily Collection   Lily Publications & Resources

Iris Collection and Annual Display

Iris and AnnualsThe 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, and allowing you to make a careful choice of colour based on what you see in the garden.

Specimens of bearded iris represent the full range of sizes from miniature dwarf through to tall, in a wide range of colours. Several cultivars of Siberian iris can also be found, showcasing their tall, linear, grassy foliage including ‘Silver Edge’, Butter and Sugar’ and ‘Steve’. Included in the collection are heritage irises, donated by Ms. Marguerite Watson of Strathmore, Alberta. Linking the Iris Collection to the Perennial Border small collections of echinacea and hardy geraniums. You'll find a range of species and cultivars that illustrate the sizes, shapes, foliage and blooms available.

Annuals allow gardeners to experiment with colour schemes, bed designs and of course with plants. Each year the botanic gardens staff and members of the teaching team in the horticulture program look forward to planning the upcoming annual display. Selections must include plants required for courses being taught, colour schemes are collected, and we try to include a variety of true annuals propagated from seed, and tender perennials such as canna lilies, begonias, dahlias grown from bulbs or bare-root. Then the fun begins as we try to create a new and different effect each year, and experiment with any new selections that catch our interest. 

The main display is found here next to the Iris Collection, but you’ll find annuals in small pockets throughout the garden - on the edge of the Peony Bed, in the Butterfly Garden, in the Cleo Mower Memorial Garden and under the shade structure on which hang the fabulous hanging baskets created by the Grounds team.

Monocot Bed

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. Dicots have cotyledons, flower parts in groups of four and five, and veins that created a netted pattern. Dicots include woody trees and shrubs such as the maples, birch, ash, as well as perennials such as peonies, bell-flowers and delphiniums. As you might have already guessed, monocots have a single cotlyedon, flowers parts in groups of threes, and leaves with parallel veination. Some of the largest plant families are included in this group – orchids (Orchidiaceae) and grasses (Poaceae).  The grass family include many of our most important crops such as rice, barley, wheat and corn.

Monocots also include the bulbs frequently found in our gardens (daffodils, tulips, lilies, crocus) and on our tables (garlic, onions, ginger). The Monocot bed in our gardens is a work in progress, gradually being converted from a bed that focused more heavily on perennial and annual ornamental grasses to one that displays a wide range of hardy and tender monocots, representative of the many groups of these kinds of plants. Watch in the future as many of the dicots are relocated to other areas of the garden, and monocots such as hostas, iris, lilies, and maybe even some bamboo and bananas are added.


Conifers are unique plants distinguished by the production of cones of 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.  The confusion arises in that many evergreens have broad leaves , for examples rhododendrons and holly, while several conifers in fact lose their needles in the winter, such as the larce, and are therefore considered deciduous. 

The term ‘evergreen’ is often used to describe this group of plants, which are more accurately defined as ‘conifers’. And the term 'pinetum' is used to denote a collection of conifers. The conifers in our collection illustrate the range of sizes, textures, needle-types and colours available to prairie gardeners  The selections found in Alberta gardens are often limited to white and blue spruce (Picea pungens, P. glauca), mugo pines (Pinus mugo) and spreading junipers (Juniperus horizontalis) but this represents only a fraction of the choices that are available. The Pinetum includes species and cultivars from five genera – Larch (Larix); Spruce (Picea); Pine (Pinus); Juniper (Juniperus) and Fir (Abies).

Pines found in the collection include Scot’s pine (Pinus sylvestris), a broad, open, spreading tree with the added bonus of distinctive bark that peels to reveal a striking orange tone underneath. Ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa) is a substantial tree with large, prominent cones and some of the longest needles around, while Swiss stone pine (Pinus cembra) sports soft bluish-green needles. Selections of blue spruce include ‘Globosa’, ‘Hoopsii’’, and ‘Montgomery’ all chosen for specific characteristics including their size and needle colour.  Fir (Abies spp.), Norway spruce (Picea abies)  and Siberian larch (Larix sibirica), are also found. 

Additional specimens of conifers can be found used throughout the Botanic Gardens and Treatment Wetlands including mountain pine (Pinus uncinata), yew (Taxus spp.), and both upright (Juniperus scopulorum) and spreading types of junipers (Juniperus horizontalis, J. sabina). Cedar (Thuja spp.) are not reliably hard in all areas of the province, but there are some excellent examples found around the Land Sciences building and Thuja occidentalis 'Degroot's Spire' has been added to the new East portion of the gardens.

Rose Garden

Rose GardenThe 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.

This Garden is designed as a series of twelve individual beds separated with pathways topped with rundle crush (a locally sourced material). The open layout encourages good air circulation between specimens and provides easy access for the public to wander through and ‘smell the roses’. This is a variation on a popular design found in many large rose gardens around the world. The Rose Garden consists of a collection of Canadian-bred roses including specimens from the Morden, Parkland and Explorer series. The collection illustrates the work of local breeders such as George Bugnet ('Therese Bugnet' and 'Betty Bugnet' roses) and Robert Erskine. We are proud to have in our collection one of Robert Erskine's prairie bred roses - 'Prairie Peace'.

The late Mr. Erskine, who lived in Rocky Mountain House, Alberta, had a dream of improving the quality in hardy roses. He accomplished this by crossing the Alberta wild roses (Rose acicularis and Rosa woodsii) with a variety of other species. Robert considered his Prairie Peace rose, which was developed in the early 1970's to be his most worthwhile development. It is hardy to zone two, has semi-double to double, bicoloured flowers, re-blooms throughout the season, and has a strong fragrance. To read more about Canadian-bred roses, this brochure based on the rose garden at the Crop Diversification Centre South in Brooks is a great place to start.

Another rose that can be found in our collection is the Emily Carr, from the developers of the Explorer and Parkland series' of roses. These next-generation roses celebrate the great Canadian artists and are bred to be hardy in all regions of the country. Learn more at Canadian Artists Roses.