Garden tour: Devonian Gardens, Calgary.

A couple of weeks ago, my hubby and I finally got a chance to see the revamped Devonian Gardens in the city’s downtown mall, The Core. Formerly called TD Square, the entire mall was pretty much gutted and rebuilt on the same site between 2008 and 2011.  As well as housing the Devonian Gardens, The Core boasts the ” largest point-supported structural glass skylight in the world,” at 85 feet (26 metres) wide and 656 feet (200 metres) long.  (There’s a photo of the skylight at the link).   The Gardens themselves were closed for nearly four years, and were reopened in June of this year…to lukewarm response.

If the inteviewees’ statements in this article are any indication, I’m not the only one who feels this way.  (Did I mention that the renovation to the Gardens alone cost 37 million dollars?).

You see, the former Devonian Gardens were a tropical respite from the hustle and bustle of downtown, a warm, cozy, and inviting place to sit with a book or to watch the resident turtles and feed the trout. Countless wedding photo shoots and fashion shows and Christmas parties were held there. During the winter, especially, the Gardens were a little piece of paradise! Sure, the plants were a little rambling in the 30 year old space, and maybe the worn floors needed a little update, but the whole effect was gloriously lush and diverse…and above, all, welcoming. (I really wish I had my own photos to share with you, but this great pic on Flickr will give you an inkling of what used to be).

Now, we have this:







Well, it definitely looks like we’re in a mall!

The City says it will look better as it grows in, but I can’t quite understand that statement, as the whole landscape will require meticulous, regular pruning, and is already about as “grown-in” as it will be allowed to get. I am impressed with the additional seating areas and I absolutely love the living walls (although people have taken to removing plant plugs, which necessitates large signs to notify customers that the plants are truly “real” and shouldn’t be plucked). And I have to admit, the design of the new Gardens completely fits with the ultra-modern The Core – which, after all, is what planners were going for. It’s simply not to my taste, though, and I really miss the old Gardens!

Perhaps I’m being overly sentimental!   Maybe indoor public gardens should have that ultra-coiffed look…what do you think?


    • If you do get a chance to go see them, please let me know what you think! I’m not sure how I feel about this sort of “pod” style design, even if it does clearly fit with the mall’s modern concept. I really love the living walls, though, and there are quite a few of them.

  1. 37 million! This would also not be a place I’d want to sit in – it seems cold and has a plastic look to it. I’ve never seen an indoor garden, except for some living walls in my bank, which looked great when first installed, but now look a little tired. I think outdoor gardens with sheltered places to sit are much nicer, and an ice rink indoors would be more fitting! 😉

    • I know – isn’t the price tag outrageous? And I agree with the “plastic” bit – some of the plants really don’t look real until you get a close view of them. I LOVE your idea of the ice rink indoors – that would be amazing in a mall like this!

    • It was always a treat to visit the old gardens, especially in the wintertime. Now, I’m not certain I will deliberately make an effort to go back.

    • The new gardens do have a bit of a tropical flair! It is interesting that the whole design is based on foliage colour, texture and shape, not flowers or fruit. That’s definitely something to appreciate, even if I miss the diversity of the old gardens.

  2. I think the new garden is gorgeous and so much more pleasing to the eye. What a great place! Sounds like a lot of money but considering they’d spend that anyways on something else, I say money well spent.

    • The gardens are definitely well-suited to their surroundings – and they remain a fantastic place to sit and sip a coffee and read a book, or have a chat with a friend! A space for public greenery is always welcome in the heart of the city. I may not be as fond of them as I was of the old gardens, but they more than serve their purpose! 🙂

  3. I agree with you Sheryl. They aren’t as eye-catching as one might have thought they should be or would be. They are lush, don’t get me wrong, but not what I expected to see in the pictures, and I don’t even live in Calgary.

    • Yes, I so agree…they are lush and tropical and appropriate for the space, but I can’t help but wonder if they couldn’t have done something that looked a little less artificial. I can’t argue that the old space needed updating, either – the new Gardens are just such a dramatically different design.

  4. I went to the gardens today, the first time seeing the gardens after the renovations and my heart sank. I was showing out of town guests and gushed at how it was like being in a forest in the middle of downtown. How there were winding paths, and hidden spaces.

    We got to the gardens and I kepted looking around for more. Those hidden places, the things that made it feel like you were in a secret garden. This…. has no soul. It has trees… but no forest.

    The city of my birth once again takes away something great, and replaces it with something blah. (sigh)

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