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
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, 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.
1914 Board of
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
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 and began significant
fundraising efforts and increased public relations.
These dedicated supporters of gardening in Calgary also
introduced a newsletter, 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 5,000 members and is still growing.
Carol came to Calgary, as many people do, because of work. Once
settled, she started looking for things to do and ways to connect
with other people.
One day, Carol spotted a community garden from the bus on her
way home. That fleeting glimpse of a well-tended veggie patch
flooded her with longing and fond memories of her Grandma's garden
back home. As a child, she often visited and "helped out" by
sampling fresh peas in the pod, sweet raspberries and countless
other home-grown treats.
Although she was living in a small condo with no yard of her
own, Carol felt inspired and determined to try her own hand at
gardening, satisfying that nostalgic urge to taste truly
fresh-picked produce again. She searched for community gardens in
Calgary online and found the Calgary Horticultural Society's
website, which informed her that there was indeed a community
garden not too far from her condo. She also found that the Society
offered a wealth of tips and information on growing vegetables,
flowers and trees in Calgary's unique climate.
Carol eagerly joined the Society and signed on for a number of
workshops, learning which vegetables and plants grow best in
Calgary, how to start plants from seed, how to improve the soil,
water wisely and when to harvest.
At her local community garden Carol met people of all ages from
within her own neighbourhood who shared her love of gardening and
spending time in the outdoors. From her first season in the garden,
Carol was amazed at her success and the number of friends and
acquaintances she made. She was very proud to be able to serve some
of her own vegetables to dinner guests.
During her second season at the garden she was asked to help
co-ordinate the group's efforts to improve their heavy clay soil.
Back she went to the Horticultural Society to educate herself on
best practices for composting and soil amendment. With the help of
other volunteers, Carol created a successful composting program
that is still in place today. She joined in on the Society's
monthly Kitchen Table Talks for community garden leaders,
shared her knowledge and ideas and picked up additional gardening
and community building tips.
By attending education sessions, plant and garlic exchanges and
events, reading the newsletter and using her member's discount,
Carol realized that there are many dimensions to this enjoyable,
rewarding and affordable activity in her newly adopted city.
Years later, when she married and purchased a house with her new
partner, Carol moved her gardening base from the community garden
to her very own back yard. She enjoys encouraging her small
children to help out and hopes to instil a love of gardening in
them as well. She maintains her connection with her many gardening
buddies and is still an active member in the Calgary Horticultural
Society. She especially enjoys and appreciates the Society's plant
sharing events, and Open Garden program, which allows her to visit
other members' gardens, picking up lots of tips and fresh ideas
along the way.
While Carol's story is unique to her, countless other
individuals have learned a great deal about gardening and have
formed lasting friendships through the Calgary Horticultural
Society. Although our climate can be a challenge, we can all
beautify our own yards, balconies and public spaces with an almost
endless variety of gorgeous plants and trees. The Society has just
under 5,000 members and we always have room for
more-so please consider joining us, learning from us, sharing with
us and volunteering as time permits.