The tiny town of Trochu, Alberta, has a really nice golf course that I’ve played a few times over the years; what I didn’t know until recently was that just a few streets north of the course, there is an absolutely wonderful arboretum and gardens. This past weekend I had the opportunity to tour the site, and what a fabulous treat it was!
Opened in 1989, the Arboretum sits on five acres of land that was originally owned by the Calgary and Edmonton Railway Company and purchased by the town’s first doctor, Dr. J.B. Milne, in 1911. Dr. Milne did not develop the land, however, and the land transferred ownership to Mr. William H.S. Garrick, who planted many trees and built the house that still stands on the property today. Dr. A.J.S. Hay subsequently bought the land in 1947 and resided there until his death in 1973. Dr. Hay was an avid gardener and naturalist, and he designed and planted many flowerbeds and pathways on the property. Vacant for nearly a decade, Sandy and Mary Welbourne bought the land in 1982 and spent the next six years restoring the existing gardens and developing the Arboretum, which was subsequently sold to the Town. The Arboretum cultivates over 100 woody plants for the education and enjoyment of the public; the interpretive centre (which unfortunately was closed when I was there – it was very early in the morning) and outdoor classroom serve as teaching facilities. Trees and shrubs on the property are boldly tagged with their botanical and common names, and there is an excellent paper booklet available at the gate that details most of the major species planted. They’re all here, it seems, all of the hardy types that can be grown in Alberta: white and bur oak, lodgepole and jack and Ponderosa and western white pine, black ash, tower poplar, American linden, Nanking cherry, paper birch, Manitoba and amur maple, Colorado blue spruce, American elm, larch…numerous specimens line the shale pathways, interspersed with gorgeous perennial and annual flowerbeds in varying conditions of shade and light. There is a lilac bed planted with the most suitable and best-loved types for our province; a rose garden nestled up against the house shows off the finest Explorers and Mordens. A small fruit garden contains saskatoons, sour cherries, and raspberries – and at this time of year, they were plump and heavy with ripe, tantalizing fruit. Crabapples, apples, plums and pears are features of the Alberta Horticulture Association Fruit Tree Garden: can you imagine what this must look like when in full bloom in the spring? Gorgeous statuary (including wood carvings by local artists) are placed in complementary locations and there is a large gazebo and open green space that can be used for picnicking and for wedding ceremonies. One of my favourite spots is the Dr. Hay Memorial Pond, a beautifully-planted pond containing tiny colourful koi – I could have sat there all day on the bench that overlooks the water. This place is a plant lover’s paradise, a thorough collection of excellently-maintained specimens in a beautiful and serene setting. For me, golfing in Trochu will now be accompanied by a leisurely stroll through the Arboretum and gardens – what more pleasure in life can you ask for?
Related posts: Mr. Pegg\’s botanical legacy.