Monday, July 7, 2014

Backyard Bucket List: Alberta's Devonian Botanical Gardens


This summer, my goal is to explore as much of the beautiful province of Alberta as I can with a six-month-old baby.  My little Peanut is a great traveler in the car, and loves to people-watch and explore new surroundings, so I am hopeful that I can get out and about as much as possible.

Our first 'mother-daughter' adventure took place at the Devonian Botanical Gardens just outside the town of Devon, Alberta (about half an hour south of Edmonton).  It was a smokin' hot summer day, my husband was away at a conference in Banff, and Avy Bear and I were looking for something relaxing to do.  The drive wasn't too far for us, and the weather for the day made an afternoon out seem promising.

Trying to get in some summer fun checking off our 'backyard bucket list' in Alberta!

It is pretty easy to find the gardens.  There are signs posted throughout the town of Devon, and it is a basic drive 6 minutes along the highway, skirting Devon, until you enter Parkland County and see the giant entrance sign.  For all you GPS lovers, type in 51227 Alberta 60, Parkland County.

The gates open at 10 a.m. each morning and stay open until around 5 p.m. (hours vary depending on the season, so check out their website before you plan your stay).  It is $13.50 (plus GST) for an adult to visit, $3.00 for kids 7-12, and $5.00 for teenagers.  Seniors and students can get special discounts with valid ID.  I thought it was decently priced seeing that you can stay as long as you like, and the gardens are extremely beautiful.

Enjoying a beautiful summer day at the Devonian Botanical Gardens outside of Edmonton.

Here's the breakdown of the Devonian Botanical Gardens: Under the guidance of the University of Alberta, the gardens were established in 1959.  It mainly acts as a tourist attraction, but due to its affiliation with the university, there are lots of ecology and conservation projects and experiments done by students there, too.  The gardens sprawl over 80 acres, and also include another 110 acres of protected natural areas.  Within these 80 acres are sectioned, themed gardens.

The themed gardens include the:
  • Kurimoto Japanese Gardens
  • Native People's Gardens
  • Patrick Seymour Alpine Garden
  • Plants of Alberta Garden
  • Herb Garden (which includes a children's sensory garden where kids can taste, touch and smell certain plants)
  • Peony Collection
  • Primula Dell
  • Greenhouses
Avy and I did not have the chance to explore it all, and we unfortunately discovered that not all areas are stroller (and therefore wheelchair) accessible.  We missed the Peony Collection altogether, and could not access Primula Dell as you had to walk across the grass and it was just too bumpy for the little one.  The Patrick Seymour Alpine Garden, which is shaped like a bowl, could be viewed from above when pushing a stroller, but the pathways down into the bottom were made of stepping stone stairs, or took you down a steep grassy incline.  So we skipped that area too.

There is a natural wetlands area as well, with two pathways leading to a beautiful lookout point - one pathway is cedar chipped and slightly difficult to navigate with a stroller (and I'd assume a wheelchair) but it is much better than the natural one that is riddled with tree roots and deep ruts. Avy and I started on that path and had to turn back.

Stuck on the natural wetlands pathway - we had to turn around.

Our favorite area was the Kurimoto Japanese Gardens - it is elegant, peaceful, and of course, beautiful.  There is a large lake (large for a botanical garden, that is) in the center, with wooden bridges spanning the narrower parts.  Waterfalls send bubbling water down into the lake.  A pagoda with a gong stands on a hill overlooking the lake, and several covered sitting areas dot the shoreline.  Koi fish swim in the peaceful waters.

Picnics are allowed in the gardens, and all the staff asks is that you clean up after yourself and not loiter on the grass for too long to prevent damage.  Avy and I enjoyed a brief picnic and diaper change, tidied up, and continued on our way, and the staff merely stopped by to say hello and coo over how happy the baby seemed.  There is also a place where you can buy food, in case you forget your picnic, and the prices seemed reasonable.

The gorgeous Kurimoto Japanese Gardens at the Devonian Botanical Gardens.

We also really enjoyed the greenhouses, particularly the tropical butterfly greenhouse. Massive butterflies soared through air, conglomerating on certain bushes, and even landing on my shirt!  None landed on Avy, although I had my camera waiting just in case.  The air was hot and humid, so for those of you who get uncomfortable easily, prepare yourself mentally before entering.  It is worth a stay inside the greenhouse - there are lots of colorful, exotic flowers and of course, lots of butterflies to discover!  The other greenhouses include an arid desert climate, and a temperate climate.

The tropical butterfly greenhouse at the Devonian Botanical Gardens.

Something I know Avy will enjoy in the future was the honeysuckle maze.  It was in need of a trim at the time of our visit, and I got pretty scratched up pushing the stroller through the pathways, but I could see it being grand once tidied up.  There were several end-of-year field trips attending the gardens while Avy and I were there, and the maze was riddled with happy children running in circles, shouting out to one another, and generally having a great time getting lost.  In the center of the maze was some sort of abstract metal art installation that the kids were climbing, trying to map their escape from the maze.

Getting scratched up and lost (but having fun) in the honeysuckle maze.

The pathways are made of a variety of mediums - pavement, cedar wood chips, and dirt were the most common.  They wind all throughout the gardens, leading you past the different sections.  As we strolled through the Plants of Alberta, we passed a second lake and watched several school groups participating in pond-dipping activities and scavenger hunts.  It seemed like a fun place for a school field trip.

For any gardeners out there, if you see something you like in the gardens, obviously you can't pick it or harvest seeds from it.  However, there are greenhouses on the premises that sell plants and seeds for you to try at home. (When I checked the prices seemed a bit expensive but what do you expect?)  Another no-no at the Devonian Botanical Gardens - don't bring your pets.  I can easily guess that having pets peeing on the plants is frowned upon.

Don't pick anything at the Gardens - but you can always buy what you need at their store!

Something I'd like to try that I discovered on the website are the Thursday night "Date Nights".  The facility opens late for registered couples and allows them to participate in a variety of fun couples' activities.  The ones I saw on the website include beer tastings, rumba dance lessons, taiko drumming workshops, and live music.  If it wasn't such a long drive for my hubby and I, I'd beg him to go to one (the taiko drumming sounds like a ton of fun)!

There you have it - a fun Alberta bucket list activity for either yourself, your family, or you and your significant other.  It is affordable, entertaining, and also gets you out and moving.  I highly recommend it!

4 comments:

  1. Love The Devonian Gardens. It's pretty close to where I live, and I do remember going on several field trips there in elementary school. Glad you had a good time. I believe they do high tea at the gardens, which I think would be fun to check out.

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    1. I saw the advertisements for High Tea - it looks very interesting! You should go and then do a post on that! :)

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  2. This looks so lovely! I love Canada, haven't been to Alberta, but hoping someday soon! :) -Alexandra

    Simply Alexandra: My Favorite Things

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    1. It WAS lovely! A nice way to spend a sunny day. When you come to Alberta, let me know! I can give you a great list of things to see and do that the typical visitor might not know about!

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