Calgary Horticultural Society
Our Story Why We Exist
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.
Carol’s name has been changed to protect her privacy.
Our Impact What We Do
Vision: Gardening for Life!
Mission: To encourage gardening for the enhancement of our environment and quality of life.
- Put the fun into gardening;
- Connect and support new and experienced gardeners;
- Promote learning and successful gardening;
- Work with the environment to minimize our footprint;
- Lead in making Calgary a city of gardening excellence.
The Society’s mandate has a strong focus on gardening education and offers Calgarians the knowledge and skills to do it well. We are driven by the belief that as the gardening community grows, the city's quality of life is enhanced, and so is the environment. Gardening is a healthy activity growing in popularity in Calgary and across the country.
The Calgary Horticultural Society contributes to the city of Calgary in four important ways:
- Educates Calgarians on ways and means to garden successfully in this challenging climate, and as a result assists gardeners to enhance and beautify the city one garden at a time;
- Works to reduce negative water quality and quantity issues through yard smart education;
- Encourages rebuilidng of the urban forest canopy by providing tree education; and
- Contributes knowledge to food growing and building community connections through the supportive community gardens program.
Society participants can achieve these things because of our strong education focus and the philosophy that gardening is a life long pursuit and our mandate is creating experiences to capitalize on “gardening for life”.
In addition to providing education opportunities, staff and volunteers work together to operate an office, host a website, publish a newsletter eight times a year and e-newsletter throughout the year. They host talks and workshops on site and in the community, organize and host garden tours and special events and grow a demonstration and teaching garden. Volunteers play a key role in the organization. Key volunteer positions include a 11-member board of directors; newsletter managing editor, writer and editors; a gardening expert advice volunteer on the website; membership administration team; office maintenance and carpentry; three open garden tour coordinators; workshop monitors; speaker program coordinator; garden show committees and volunteers to assist in the running of the show (220 in all); a plant share committee and volunteers to assist running two events a year; and community gardens team assisting with events and working in the demonstration and teaching garden.
Volunteers work along side the staff, which includes one full-time director and part-time employees who support and deliver the programs. Current part-time staff include: Administrative Assistant, Volunteer Coordinator, Community Gardens Coordinator and Horticulturalist. The Exhibitor Coordinator and Event Manager assist with the Garden Show.
Our Programs How We Do It
Gardening in the Calgary area is challenging, from rapidly fluctuating temperatures and weather challenges, to cost of supplies, to actually finding space to garden. The Calgary Horticultural Society helps new and experienced gardeners learn ways to be successful by providing fun and educational programming all year round. Our programs are designed to help Calgarians enjoy a healthy, beautiful yard without compromising the environment. Volunteers play a major role in who we are, what we do and how we work.
1) Garden Show - Objectives include celebrating, educating and promoting gardening in Calgary and the Society and raising funds. A two-day event present each spring includes an education program of speakers and demonstrations, an information and garden trade show element, and a place for gardening organizations and groups to exhibit their programs and wares at a subsidized rate.
2) Workshops and Talks - Aim to engage, inspire and educate. A wide range of topics are presented throughout the year. Trees were a major focus this year following the 2014 fall snow storm that devastated up to 10% of the city's canopy. Workshops are open to the public and have a fee attached for attending and to cover costs and instructor's honorariums.
3) Demonstration and Teaching Garden at the Society Office - The back and front yards located at the Society's office have been transformed from a tradition al lawn into an outdoor classroom. The area includes variety of beds, spaces with yard smart modifications such as a rain garden, redirected downspouts for use with rain barrels and three large-size demonstration compost bins, and a wide range of plants and vegetables. Volunteers manage and tend the garden and classes held here enable participants to get their hands dirty.
4) The Community Gardens Resource Network (CGRN), now in its 8th year, is designed to strengthen and promote this movement through education, the creation of a network of resources, expertise and collaborative connections to provide start-up assistance for new gardens and ongoing support for established ones. Gail Blackhall is the Coordinator of the program and to many a mentor. The program includes an informative website and a searchable database to locate gardens; education workshops and sessions such as Kitchen Table Talks for garden leaders to share information and ideas and a twice monthly e-newsletter full of community information and events. The CGRN works closely with The City of Calgary Parks, and gathers its strength and success from its association with the many other organizations in the city and province that form the network.
Beauty on a Budget Program – Yard Smart Education Series. The purpose is to engage, educate and empower Calgarians to reduce outdoor water consumption and manage storm water quality and quantity on their properties, while learning to successfully garden.
Working with City of Calgary, Water Resources, the program has three parts that include:
- Beauty on a Budget – for beginners. This 3-hour workshop was developed and is delivered by Kath Smyth, Staff Horticulturist and will teach beginner gardeners how build a successful, environmentally friendly garden in Calgary.
- Compost Workshop - This 5 hours comprehensive and in-depth workshop delve deeply into discussions of soil, composting benefits and techniques and the impact of gardening.
- Digging In: Yard Smart Makeover Workshop - for intermediate gardeners. This is an in-depth, half day workshop that provides the opportunity to receive hands-on experience transforming a garden. Participants will walk away with resources and an understanding of the steps involved to create and maintain a yard smart garden.
5) Harvest and Plant Sharing - Plant Shares - The Society hosts two plant shares a year in the fall and spring for members to share excess plant material with other members and provide information about plants, their cultures and habits. The Garlic Exchange, traditionally a community gardens event, celebrates and promotes growing heritage garlic hardy to the Calgary climate and growing conditions and to maintain the cultivation of varieties of heritage garlic for future gardening generations. Over the last few years, The Society has been working with Fort Calgary, shared garden at Inglewood and McClure community gardens, Southern Alberta Institute of Technology (SAIT) Culinary Arts chefs, growing heritage garlic to share and exchange. Last year, 81 people participated in exchange: 64 individual and 17 community gardens and 38 garlic varieties (257 garlic bulbs). This year we combined these two events and groups of gardeners, invited the public to join in and celebrate the harvest.
6) Publications - Calgary Gardening Magazine published 8 times a year, monthly e-newsletters and a community gardens e-newsletter updates are distributed twice a monthly and other gardening resources. We also host a website full of resources and information, including a gardening advice services entitled: Ask the Expert where gardening questions can be posed by email and are answered by volunteer gardening experts.
We are a member organization and there are special benefits that come with that designation. Check our website for details and consider joining us. You will receive our newsletter, and discounts at gardening centres, workshops and some special events, and be a part of an organization that is really special. We love to garden and hope you will come grow with us.
Our Requests What You Can Do
We invite you to:
Join us. We are the best and oldest resource for gardening! The benefits of being a member are many: eight issues of Calgary Gardening magazine; open garden tours; spring and fall plant shares; discounts at garden retailers; discounts on workshops, books, bus tours; informative website with a special members only section and on-line discussion forum; community gardens resource network; monthly e-news updates; special speaker events; rewarding volunteer and learning events; addtional benefits for corporate and affiliate society members. Society memberships also make a super gift for the gardener in your life. For membership information see our website www.calhort.org.
Volunteer with us. Four hundred Calgarians already do as board members; committee planners; workshop monitors; gardeners; garden show hosts; horticultural experts; house painters, builders and building maintainers; Calgary Gardening magazine writers and editors; social media and media representatives, compost turners, pruners and more. We have a variety of opportunities to chose from. Volunteering with us is fun, educational and essential to the successof our work.
Come grow with us. Sure Calgary's growing conditions can be tricky but you can create a beautiful garden space no matter where you live. We are passionate about helping Calgarians achieve gardening success. Grow with us and learn about tools, resources and knowledge to implement long term, sustainable yard practices. We will provide tips and tricks that help save money when maintaining or transforming your yard and that are easy on the environment. You will find there is a lot more to this activity then one initally thinks: health, beauty, good food, friends, community, relaxation...one can garden for life!
Donate to us. The Calgary Horticultural Society is a charitable organization that raises funds and issues tax receipts for all donations of $20 or more. Your support will help to sustain our organization so we will be able to continue to help gardeners and communities grow for years to come. You will also have the satisfaction of knowing you have supported a historical gardening organization that has been educating, promoting, and celebrating gardening throughout the Calgary area for more than a century and working to enhance our environment and the quality of life.
It is through kind donors and sponsors that we continue to thrive in Calgary, so please donate now.