Theme Collections

All-American SelectionAll-America Selections

All-America Selections (AAS) is an independent, non-profit organization that tests new varieties then introduces only the best garden performers as AAS Winners. More than 200 educational institutions and public and private institutions create AAS Display Gardens and we are proud to have been a Display Garden since 2004. 

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. In addition we have information cards on each plant found on display. Looking for a new tomato variety to try, or seeking a specific colour of zinnia for your garden? This is a great place to get ideas. You’ll find some of the selections throughout the rest of the Botanic Gardens, giving you an idea of how they can be used in other garden settings. 

Some of the plants we are excited to display this year include butterfly plant (Gaura Sparkle White'), zinnias (Zinnia 'Profusion Double Deep Salmon' and 'Profusion Double Hot Cherry'), lettuce (Lactuca sativa 'Sandy') and tomatoes (Solanum lycoperiscum 'Jasper', 'Fantastico', and 'Mountain Merit'). For a complete list of AAS Winners and more information, visit the AAS website.

Bylands PromenadeBylands Promenade

The Bylands Promenade provides the visual and physical link between the Central Gardens, and the East Gardens, home to the new Treatment Wetlands. The idea for the Promenade South and North gardens evolved as part of the Landscape Pavilion expansion plans, with the future addition of the third phase of the Botanic Gardens and Treatment Wetlands.  The paving stone walk along the gardens was designed to provide a captivating and colourful pathway to the east. The development of the Promenade was a collaborative effort between students and staff at Olds College, with industry partners. Landscape plans were initiated by two students in their third year of the Bachelor of Applied Science Degree Program. For visual effect, the south side was intended to screen the Agricultural Mechanics parking lot and the north side to screen the Landscape Pavilion parking lot. The goal was to provide four season interest and colour, and it was on this basis that the plant material was chosen.

Industry volunteers played a major role in the installation, and donations of materials made the project possible. Bylands Nurseries provided all the plant material. This was only part of a major donation they have made over several years to the Botanic Gardens and Treatment Wetlands, in order to honour Adrian Byland, founder of the company that is now run by his son, John.

Crabapple Heritage Grove

These Rescue crabapple trees are what remain of a row of trees planted in 1935. 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. 'Rescue' has white flowers which are frost tolerant – a great feature for the prairie environment when early frosts can often damage early blooms. This goes a long way to ensure reliable fruit production. Crabapples typically ripen in late August which makes them a great early producer for our northern climate, and Rescue is no exception. The skin is red, the flesh cream colored, and the fruit is considered sweet to taste and good for preserves.

Due to ‘Rescue’ crabapple’s exceptional qualities, over the years it has been used in breeding, producing varieties such as ‘Shafer’ (Rescue X Trail), ‘Parkland’ (Rescue X Melba), ‘Norland’ (Rescue X Melba), ‘September Ruby’ (Rescue X Haralson). Several years ago the Heritage Tree Foundation of Canada embarked on the Alberta Heritage Tree Project, accepting nominations and then identifying examples of heritage trees of significance around the province. The Rescue Crabapple Orchard received this recognition and is marked with a plaque.

Perennial Border Perennial Trials

Anchored by an original crabapple tree, and supported by a number of shrubs (tree lilac, etc.) is the Perennial Border. A stroll through this border should provide much food for thought for prairie gardeners looking for ideas for plants to be added to their garden. It runs along side the pathway next to the James Murray Building, inhabiting a fairly long, narrow space and offering a variety of exposures from full sun to dappled and full shade.

The Perennial Border contains over 100 different perennials with the intent of displaying small collections of different types of plants for ease of study and comparison. 

For example there are several different kinds of coral bells (Heuchera) that illustrate the range of foliage colours and textures available on the market.  Siberian bugloss (Brunnera) are also showcased – a shade tolerant perennial with cultivars that bring different types of variegation to their leaves, complimenting the blue flowers that emerge in spring. Others in the collection include several types of bellflowers (Campanula spp.), astilbe and phlox. 

Herb GardenOlds College 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.

The collection includes perennial herbs, hardy to zone three such as beebalm (Monarda didyma), chives (Allium schoenoprasum), several types of mint (Mentha spp.) and hyssop (Hyssopus officinalis).  Each year, annual herbs and those herbs that are too tender to overwinter in our climate are propagated in our greenhouses and added to the garden, including dill (Anethum graveolens), several types of basil (Ocimum basilicum) and marjoram (Origanum majorana). Garden staff dig up rosemary plants (Rosmarinus officinalis) each fall and bring them inside to overwinter, which you will now notice in containers or in the beds, as quite large, feature plants. 

Also in the herb garden you’ll find plants with edible flowers (Calendula and Nasturtium to name just two) as well as edible plants that you might cook with herbs, or use herbs to flavour a dressing for – lettuce, beets and asparagus. Truly a feast for the senses, the Herb Garden is worth the visit.