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Central Gardens

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.


Geographic Collections

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.

Ecological Collections


Alpine Gardens

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. 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.

Water Garden

Water gardens offer a display of textures, forms, and colours and provide many benefits. Moving water captures the visitor’s attention, and any water will act as an attractant to local wildlife including reptiles and amphibians, birds and insect life. 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. Plants were supplied by Bearberry Creek Water Gardens, a local nursery specializing in water plants.

Theme Collections


All-America Selections


Herb Garden


Bylands Promenade


Perennial Border

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 Werklund Agriculture and Technology Centre 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 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.

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.

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. 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).