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Our History


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, 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.


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                                                 1914 Board of Directors

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 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.


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Carol's Story

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.