Why We Exist
An idea and a community make a botanical garden through sweat equity and persistence.
Over 30 years ago, a small group of people in Silver Springs wanted to see more trees and more gardens in this new community built along the Bow River. Their problem was how to work with the multiple interested parties to be able to plant more trees and gardens. They initially just wanted to plant trees. Approaching the City of Calgary was not an easy task for the group, finding who to talk to who could give permission, working with other members of the community, partnering with the local counsellor and doing a little midnight tree planting finally resulted in permission to plant on a number of sites in the community. This initial idea resulted in 2000 trees planted in the community by volunteers
The group was keen to keep on with the greening of the community. Here were our environmental stewards well ahead of their time. In their brainstorming they conceived the idea of an urban forest. At the same time City of Calgary Parks was looking to corporate funding to enhance the Parks of Calgary. Another idea of creating a forest to commemorate births (We already had a program to plant a tree on the death of someone) was conceived. One of the members of the initial group was an employee of BP who took the idea forward. This was the initial idea that started the Birthplace Forests Partnership eventually creating urban forests in Calgary from 2001 to 2010. Silver Springs was a site for the forests in 2002 after consultation and wonderful support from our Community Association.
Now we had a beautiful urban forest in our community and our idea people partnered with the Community Association to form a group to determine what would be done to help the community have the most benefit from this urban forest. Based on input from a public consultation in Silver Springs a vision for the new Birthplace Forest site was established with an emphasis on gardens. Simultaneously, some of our intrepid neighbours had been planting gardens near the sound wall which separated Silver Springs from Crowchild Trail and was contiguous with the urban forest. Initially the City of Calgary parks people not being aware of the value of this were regularly whipper snippering the fledgling plants. The groups informed the City Parks and then took action. The initial garden was put in where the fruit trees are now. The City was unhappy with the site but agreed to support the idea of a garden and helped the group to build another one where the current Oval garden now sits. This solution met everyone’s needs, the garden had begun, an agreement with the City for ongoing relationship was signed and over many years more gardens were built. Support from the province through Alberta Lotteries, Community Spirit Grants and later Community Facilities Enhancement Program were a welcome source of funding.
The garden grew in popularity and individuals were increasingly volunteering financial support, sweat equity and word of mouth spread of the beauty of the gardens.
These gardens now exist with 19 separate gardens over 1.5 kilometers of length. The Rose garden has many unique specimens and is a repository for rare rose plants. The Rose Society has supported this garden with their deep knowledge of roses. The Crevice garden is a partnership with the Calgary Rock and Alpine Society. It is the only public crevice garden in the city and is a true joint venture of knowledge and labor with CRAG’s. One garden is a tribute to Shakespeare and his writing, one is an Old English Garden where the initial posts for the gate of the farm entrance used to be. Other gardens are specific to their environment, A low H2O garden on a hot, wind swept area, a Shade Garden nestled at the edge of the forest canopy.
Most summer days see groups of volunteers working to plant, weed, water and otherwise tend the garden. They all wear identifying t shirts or badges and are most happy to take a breather to speak with the visitors.
All of this was done without ongoing taxpayer support. Just an idea, a willing community and sweat equity.