Exploring the Botanical Gardens of Silver Springs
Definition: bo·tan·i·cal gar·den noun: an establishment where plants are grown for display to the public and often for scientific study.
There is a substantial piece of real estate nestled in the crook of Crowchild Trail and Sarcee Trail that is overlooked by most passers-by, perhaps due to its understated curb-side presence. Yet, once you know about it, you can only wonder how come it’s not publicized more. And perhaps that’s one of the appealing factors about it: it’s not overstated, not over-publicized and so not overrun by visitors. None the less it’s still worthwhile highlighting the unique, hidden neighbourhood gem that is known as the Botanical Gardens of Silver Springs.
We were told about this sweet destination by family members who happened upon it one winter. I made a mental note about it and determined to visit the following spring. That was three years ago. Since then, I visit here at least two or three times during the gardening season despite not living in the neighbourhood. The gardens and Birthplace Forest Park occupy over 871,000 square feet of real estate. This is hardly an inconsequential space. The cultivated gardens occupy close to 40,000 square foot within this area.
The gardens are open year-round, from sunrise to sunset. There is a car park at the eastern end of Silver Springs Drive NW. As a newcomer you will likely want to visit here during the growing season (May through September). Surrounded by a Birthplace Forest Park, the gardens inch northwards along the northern perimeter of Silver Springs Gate NW then dogleg in a northwesterly direction along Crowchild Trail NW, an easy 1.4km one-way saunter.
Along the user-friendly route, interconnected mulch-covered walkways connect you to 14 individual, beautifully maintained gardens. Each garden is identified by hand-painted signs created by local artists and each is home to some unique flora and features. A variety of shrubs and fruit trees, besides the trees that make up the birthplace forest, create groves and gathering places along the walkways between the “formal” gardens. If you choose to follow the contemplative detour along the thyme-bound paved Labyrinth, you might clock up quite a bit more mileage during your visit! The 9,000 paving stones that create the Labyrinth walkway reportedly make this the biggest outdoor labyrinth in Canada. Benches and lawns create welcoming areas where you can pause and enjoy the delightful, tranquil surrounds.
The extensive gardens are maintained by more than 30 hard-working, enthusiastic volunteers who clearly love what they do. With support from the City of Calgary Parks Department and the Silver Springs Community Association, as well as donations from visitors and corporate groups, the gardens are not only a place for enjoyment, reflection or catching up with friends. For myself, they provide a fabulous opportunity to see what plant specimens can look like if I were to have them growing in my yard! Here I get to see the plants in all their glory: how tall, small or wide-spread they might become; what colours work together; what type of soil they might thrive in; and whether they prefer shade or are sun-loving. It is here that I’ve managed to glean ideas of what to buy in preparation for gathering planting material for the current – or more often than not – the next growing season.
While your four-legged canine friends are welcome to also enjoy the gardens, they should do this from the confines of their leash, unless otherwise indicated. Doggie bags and disposal boxes are available in the Park.
Don’t forget to bring your binoculars and educational books to enjoy some of the diverse birdlife and insects that share the gardens.
Here is a summary of the speciality gardens and areas:
- The Shakespeare and Herb Garden,
- the Crevice Rock and Alpine Garden,
- the Labyrinth,
- the Rose Bowl,
- the Edible Fruit Tree Grove,
- the Oak Grove Picnic area
The main garden areas are:
- Oval Garden,
- Sunflower Garden,
- Border Garden,
- Half Moon Garden,
- Wall Garden,
- Swan Garden,
- Eagle Garden,
- Owl Garden,
- Lo H20,
- Alpine Crevice and Native Plant Gardens,
- Old Post Garden, and
- Shade Garden
During your visit, don’t forget to show some love and appreciation for the work done in creating and maintaining these gardens by depositing a cash donation in the boxes provided near the Labyrinth and also at the Shakespeare Garden.
While visiting the neighbourhood, enjoy a refreshment stop at Café le Matin. This is my neighbourhood go-to destination for a London fog and slice of home-made carrot cake, or even an inexpensive cooked breakfast.