Alberta is experiencing late fall weather early with snow, rain, and overcast skies. We could have changed our plan to visit the new addition to the University of Alberta Botanical Gardens, the Aga Khan Garden, but despite the 2 degree Celcius temperature, we didn’t. Two native Albertans and a transplanted Vancouverite are not that easily deterred.
The chill gave us the advantage of being three among very few other visitors. There was a bus of school kids and then it was like we had a private viewing. The Aga Khan Garden is a spectacular 4.8 hectares developed for Edmonton’s region and climate, inspired by Mughal traditions, and made possible by the Aga Khan’s $25 million dollar gift. The Garden has been 10 years in creation and is now open to the public. It is meant as a meeting place; a place to connect with nature, and other humans; it is a symbol of hope, peace and unity.
We thought that the main feature would be the Aga Khan Garden but were surprised at the other elements. First we walked by the Wedding Pavilion, and toward the Patrick Seymour Alpine Garden. At this time of the year, it was a stroll through the woods with squirrels, blue jays and robins. Ponds held huge Canada geese who were quite unperturbed by us going by.
Farther along, we entered the Indigenous Garden which is the only one of its kind in Canada. It features the plants that Indigenous people used for medicine, domestic purposes, and of course, ornamentation. It was too bad that most of the plants were heading to dormancy.
The Kurimoto Japanese Garden is groomed, formal (to me), and designed in the kaiyou (walking style.) There are ornaments, pagodas, and water features. The Garden is named after Dr. Yuichi Kurimoto, the first Japanese national to graduate from the University of Alberta Faculty of Arts in 1930.
After walking through the Japanese Garden, we were excited to come to the Indoor Show Rooms. We chose the Tropical and Bufferfly Room first because we needed to warm up. There were beautiful blooms and as the name says, several types of butterflies fluttering about.
The other two rooms were interesting but not as eye catching. The Arid room held, of course, cacti of many varieties. The Temperate Room had plants we were more familiar with and fewer blooms.
We wanted to have a cup of coffee, and we could have, but hardy as we Albertans are, we said, no, to a cuppa on the patio of the Outdoor Cafe. The heater was on in the car on the drive back.
The day and weather weren’t ideal, but good company, proper jackets, and footwear made it fun. I’m a little embarrassed that although I live so close, I haven’t been to these gardens before. I’ll be back when my “hardiness” is a non-factor and the gardens are in their full glory.