Garden tour: Dorothy Harvie Gardens, Calgary.

A couple of weekends ago, my husband and I spent a few hours at the Calgary Zoo.  There were several reasons for going at that time.  For one, the weather was AMAZING, a hot, sunny break from the seemingly unending rain we received during the month of June.  For another, three tiger cubs had recently been born to mama Katja and papa Baikal – and, in my books, there’s not a whole lot cuter than a baby cat, domestic or otherwise.  And, best of all, there was the attraction of touring the Dorothy Harvie Gardens while in full splendour.

Philanthropist and prominent businessman Eric Harvie (1892-1975) and his wife Dorothy (1895-1988) are well-known in Calgary – their names are permanently connected to several city institutions, such as the Glenbow Museum and the Calgary Zoo, as well as the Centre for the Arts in nearby Banff.  Eric Harvie came into his multi-million dollar fortune in 1947, when oil was struck on land he owned.  The Harvie’s generously gave of their wealth, and citizens and visitors alike are still enjoying the benefits.

In the early ’80s, Dorothy Harvie donated the money required to construct the gardens that bear her name.  They opened in 1985, with the plant collection growing and changing ever since.  Presently, there are over 4,000 species and cultivars thriving over six acres of land.  The gardens were designed to showcase plants that work in Calgary (if you’re from this area or regularly read my blog, you’ll understand – and sympathize with! – how tricky gardening is here in the foothills of the Rocky Mountains).  Every plant is carefully labelled and catalogued:  the gardens are a teaching tool in addition to being spectacularly beautiful!

Here’s a little photo-tour for you:

Itoh peony ‘Singing in the Rain’

 ‘Morden Centennial’ rose (Photo credit:  R. Normandeau)

‘Strawberries and Cream’ nasturtiums 

European ginger (Asarum europaeum) 

Asiatic lily 

‘Arctic Beauty’ kiwi (no fruit yet!)

‘Fireglow’ spurge (Euphorbia griffithii ‘Fireglow’) 

Alkanet (Anchusa azurea ‘Feltham Pride Strain’)

What a way to use succulents!  Isn’t this fantastic?

Disappointingly, the baby tigers were in naptime mode when we visited, and would not come out of their hiding-space with their mother no matter how fervently I wished and paced outside their cage.  I had to make do with this video the Zoo has placed on YouTube.


For more information about the history of the Dorothy Harvie Gardens, check out this article in Alberta Views.

The gardens are not the only botanical attraction at the Zoo – the recently-renovated Conservatory houses a massive collection of tropical plants, and touring the butterfly garden is a thrilling way to interact with these amazing insects.  I particularly love going to the Conservatory when the weather is foul outside – you can’t help but feel warm and happy inside the glass walls, surrounded by beautiful plants!

(Photo credit: R. Normandeau)

Related posts:  Trochu treasure.  (Flowery Prose)

Mr. Pegg’s botanical legacy.  (Flowery Prose)


  1. I used to love the tropical plant house when we went when I was a kid. There was a cafeteria and we always had lunch there. The butterflies and the tropical plants made it seem like it was miles away from Calgary. When Paul and I were there last I got to take a good tour of the garden.

    • Thank you very much – I appreciate it! I just stopped by your blog, as well – it’s very beautifully done, fantastic photography.

  2. I enjoy touring this garden when I’m down in Calgary and visiting the zoo. I’ll have to check out the new tiger cubs, too. Asarum europaeum is one of my favourite groundcovers for the shade. Those nice shiny leaves look great under the trees.

    • It’s one of my favourite places in the city! I love the foliage of Asarum europaeum as well, I’m keen on the heart-shaped form. Very pretty! 🙂

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