We’ve been cultivating Calgary’s gardening community since 1908. In the early 1900s, the promotion of gardening was an important part of a social movement to counter the adverse effects of urban industrialization.
Business leaders founded the Society to inspire responsible citizens to learn about gardening in this challenging, largely treeless environment and to aid in the beautifying and improvement of the city of Calgary.
In the early years, the Society’s programs focused on an annual flower show, a garden competition, regular meetings and gardening articles in the Calgary Herald.
William Reader, as the first superintendent of the Calgary Parks Department, ensured that the Society and the City worked closely together. For example, in 1914 more than 10,000 trees were planted through the efforts of the Society, and the City planted a further 10,000 seedlings that same year.
As the Society evolved over the years, the projects changed and the number of members waxed and waned. By the early 1980s, when membership had dropped to an all-time low, one of Calgary’s oldest societies was in danger of disappearing.
The unflagging enthusiasm and hard work of volunteers David Matthews and Sheila Paulson saw memberships soar from 27 to more than 1,500 in just three years. They established a new Board of Directors, began significant fundraising efforts and increased public relations.
These dedicated supporters of gardening in Calgary also introduced a newsletter and initiated plant shares, bus tours, monthly speakers, garden visits and workshops, all of which are still major components of current Society activities. Since this rejuvenation, membership in Calgary’s oldest gardening society has climbed to over 4,000 and is still growing.
In 1989 the Society helped select an official flower for Calgary. After narrowing down the choices to five plants, citizens voted for the red pasque flower (Pulsatilla vulgaris rubra). Now, each year a team of Society volunteers chooses a ‘Perennial Plant of the Year’ that is especially well suited to the local growing conditions.