Blooming beautiful: Six selfie-perfect parks to visit in the Edmonton area
Alberta gardens have been going (or, should we say, growing) gangbusters
We're sharing six parks-in-bloom staycation spots where you can soak up the splendour and snap that floral-filled selfie.
The Lois Hole Memorial Garden
Let's face it, the whole of the Alberta Legislature grounds, at 10800 97th Ave., are a feast for the eyes so you could be forgiven for overlooking a tiny spot at the northeast corner of the south grounds that is the Lois Hole Memorial Garden.
The space was dedicated in 2006 and named in honour of entrepreneur, author, avid gardener and the former lieutenant governor of Alberta who served from 2000 until her death in 2005.
There's more information on Hole's life and passion displayed in this terraced garden dotted with a mix of annuals and perennials. Several benches line the wheelchair-accessible path and there's a bronze plaque with the apt quotation from Lois Hole that "caring is the soul of gardening."
Sandwiched between the LRT construction and the renovations at the Muttart Conservatory, set to reopen in 2021, is this little oasis and a selfie-takers paradise.
Several flower beds, established in 2016 and lovingly maintained by Edmonton Horticultural Society (EHS) volunteers, are in full bloom. You can take a trail heading east from the parking lot, at 9626 96A Street, to access sunflowers, daylilies, dusty miller and more. Construction has kept the crowds to a minimum this summer at the gazebo and picnic tables.
You can see more from the Muttart Gardens this week on Our Edmonton on Saturday at 10 a.m., Sunday at 3 p.m. and 11 a.m. Monday on CBC TV and the CBC GEM.
Edmonton Valley Zoo
Visitors come for the fauna but there is some interesting flora to be had at the Edmonton Valley Zoo, 13315 Buena Vista Road and 87th Avenue. The EHS volunteers have a hand in this space as well. Some of the more than 500 members of this longstanding society, which has been dedicated to beautification since 1909, help grow treats for the animals, according to society president Megan Andre.
They've planned beds specifically to draw pollinators and grow enrichments for the zoo animals like corn for the snow leopard, green onions for the primates and sweetgrass for Lucy the elephant. Regular admission rates to Edmonton Valley Zoo apply.
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St Albert Botanic Park
This park, located at 265 Sturgeon Road, is well laid-out, labelled and maintained by local volunteers. Right now, the rose garden is really popping.
The five-acre spot first sprung up as an idea in 1990, the grassroots concept of former mayor Richard Plain and retired city landscape planner John Beedle. Over the last 30 years, the space has flourished with theme areas like the heritage, cottage, shade and restful gardens.
The St. Albert Botanic Park is open year-round from dusk until dawn. Due to COVID-19, the patio, gift shop and washrooms are all closed. The parking lot is spacious and the paths are not crowded. Access is free but dogs and bikes aren't permitted.
Front yard or community garden near you
It's not an overstatement to say that this has been a blooming year for community gardeners. The City of Edmonton reports that nominations for its Front Yards in Bloom program is up eight per cent over last year to 5,574 in categories that include edible yards, natural yards and balconies in bloom. That's a whole lot of green thumb pride. And a stroll along Ada Boulevard or in the Ramsey Park neighbourhood is all the proof you need.
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Similarly, pop-up and permanent community gardens have been spouting up during the pandemic. The City of Edmonton estimates close to 100 such as the Strathearn Community Garden, at 9511 90th St.
University of Alberta Botanic Garden
Last on this list — but certainly not least, since it is the largest in Alberta — is the University of Alberta Botanic Garden. When I say big, I mean "wear your walking shoes big" if you're going to take in all this 97-hectare property has to offer.
Located in Parkland County, about 20 minutes southwest of Edmonton, it features theme areas like the Indigenous Garden, the Kurimoto Japanese Garden and its latest addition, the Aga Khan Garden.
For close to 60 years now, this green space operated by the Faculty of Agricultural, Life and Environmental Sciences has had a mission to inspire connections between plants and people.
If you're making the drive out, don't forget that COVID-19 means admission is now reservation-only and walk ups are not permitted. It also means water fountains, the gift shop and the concession are closed — but they are offering trendy tasty picnics featuring fare by local food producers, which can be booked in advance.