One of my greatest passions in life is gardening though I appreciate you wouldn’t know it from reading my blog. From spring until fall it’s a rare day (when I’m home) that I don’t dig in the dirt. So when I was asked by Explore Edmonton if I’d like to visit the Botanical Gardens in Edmonton (formerly the Devonian Gardens) it was a definite yes – though I have to admit I didn’t even know this place existed until I was asked.
Location of the Botanical Gardens in Edmonton
Getting to the University of Alberta Botanical Gardens takes about 30 minutes from downtown Edmonton – and even longer if you follow Google maps and get lost like I did. The 240-acre property – owned and operated by the University of Alberta, is a mix of cultivated gardens and natural areas that includes wetlands, woods and meadows.
Hiking trails in Edmonton’s Botanical Gardens
One of the things that sets the botanic gardens in Edmonton apart from others is the presence of several hiking trails. I don’t know how many kilometres there are in total, but I do know it would be easy to get a solid half day of hiking in when the trails are open. (Right now call ahead as there are ongoing closures because of construction.)
The Devonian Link Trail is a new addition since I visited. Over its approximate 7 km length, the gravel-granular trail takes you from the Devonian Gardens to the Prospector’s Point Day Use Area on the North Saskatchewan River. The trail meanders through a range of terrain including wetlands, the river valley, dense forest, and boardwalks.
What you’ll see in the Botanic Gardens
The gardens can be walked in an hour if you move quickly but this is a place where you’ll want to linger; find a bench in the shade and enjoy the sights and the smells.
The Kurimoto Japanese Garden is definitely a highlight. The five acre garden is meant for strolling. Although the design is done in an authentic Japanese style, the plants that have been used are ones that thrive in Edmonton’s harsh winters.
I really enjoyed wandering the paths through the main garden, with stops to check out what was in bloom like the beautiful lady’s slipper below. The Herb Garden was my favourite with its interesting collection of plants that are used for both flavouring and medicinal purposes.
As an example, the buds of Meadowsweet (Filipendula ulmaria) yields salicylic acid from which aspirin is derived. There are a number of plants including wormwood, mugswort and coltsfoot that were used as medicinals before we had drugs.
Other gardens you’ll find here include the Rose Garden (not much happening when I was visiting), the Patrick Seymour Alpine Garden, the Native Peoples Garden, the Sensory Garden and the Trial, Fruit and Vegetable Gardens. Many of them had colour but were nowhere near as magnificent as they’ll be in a few weeks.
Don’t miss a quick stop at the Indoor Showhouses where you’ll see tropical plants and butterflies.
The Botanical Gardens in Edmonton can be very busy on school days. It’s a popular destination for a field trip and a winner by the look on the kid’s faces especially around the ponds.
Need to eat?
The Patio Café, around the corner from the Shop in the Garden offers soups, sandwiches, salads as well as drinks and ice cream. They also offer a Twilight Picnic and a Northern Light Dining Experience.
A garden based on Islamic design
A gift donated by His Highness Aga Khan for the building of a garden based on Islamic Design opened in October 2018. The garden is described as being a “contemporary interpretation of Islamic landscape architecture is northernmost in the world.”
What else happens at the Botanical Gardens in Edmonton?
There is a lot going on in the University of Alberta Botanic Gardens – from educational courses like the Master Gardener Certificate Program to summer camps for kids to Thursday date nights – with Improv Comedy and craft beer and croquet as examples for experiences. For now all programs (July 2023) have been cancelled – and who knows why???
If you visit the University of Alberta Botanic Garden