History of EHS Gardens at the Muttart

The EHS has a long history of volunteering at various outdoor sites on the grounds of the Muttart Conservatory. The EHS City Gardeners Team Members have contributed many thousands of hours to enhancing the beauty of Edmonton’s river valley.

A large perennial bed was one of the earliest projects. It contained a variety of hardy perennials and shrubs for summer-long bloom. For many years the EHS participated in trials of All-America Selections annuals, maintained two beds of hardy roses and one bed of lilacs, lilies, and bulbs. The EHS no longer participates in annual plant trials and that bed has taken over by the Edmonton Native Plant Group. The City has taken over one of the two rose beds and planted it with a variety of grasses. In 2007 the EHS planted four new perennial and shrub beds as a tribute to the EHS Centennial in 2009. These colour-themed beds were located in the Henrietta Muir Edwards Park, close to the river and footbridge. From 2007 to 2015 thousands of local residents and visitors enjoyed the colourful plantings.

Moving the Gardens

Around 2012, the City of Edmonton announced plans for the Light Rapid Transit (LRT) Valley Line from downtown to Mill Woods. The line would cross the river close to the existing footbridge and continue to a station on the Muttart grounds. This meant the destruction of the Centennial Garden and the perennial bed due to staging and construction needs.

The City agreed to replace the EHS beds with equivalent square footage in a public space. The EHS wanted those beds to be in a high-profile location with safe, easy access for volunteers and access to water. Thus began a two year process to find a mutually agreeable location for the new beds and determine the final size and shape. This was approved early in 2015. The design team, Maggie Easton, Britta Johnson and landscape designer Maggie Nielsen, spent many hours discussing plant choices before Maggie N. put it all down on paper. The stunning, cohesive design included some of the existing plants and an assortment of hardy, newer varieties. It would provide a long season of colour and texture with a minimum of pruning and staking.

Although the City Gardeners hoped to move and replant the existing plants in late summer of 2015, the new beds were not ready in time. Worried about not having access to Henrietta Muir Edwards Park in the spring, they dug and potted up about 300 perennials. These were hauled to a member’s vegetable garden, where they were sunk in their pots into trenches for the winter. EHS members and the public were invited to come and dig the remaining plants, so many more plants found new homes. Over the winter, the design team inventoried existing plants and made lists of the new ones needed. In early spring 2016 they met with three local nurseries to place orders. Mill Creek Nursery provided all the trees and shrubs, Greenland Garden Centre provided the roses and some perennials, and Salisbury Greenhouses supplied the balance of the perennials.

Planting the New Garden

In spring 2016 the City dug the new beds to a depth of 1 meter and filled them with triple mix soil. In early May, the volunteeers uncovered, lifted, and sorted the overwintered pots into groups by species. The survival rate was very high and the plants were already starting to grow. On May 13, 2016, volunteers armed with plans, stakes, and measuring tapes arrived early to lay out the location of trees and shrubs. 65 plants were then delivered and the rest of the volunteers arrived to start planting. Over the next few weeks, the remaining rescued perennials, 35 more new trees and shrubs, and about 300 new perennials were planted.

How Did It Grow?

The City Gardeners were busy almost every Tuesday in summer 2016, watering the new plants and pulling the prolific crop of weeds that sprouted from the new soil. New growth and new flowers appeared every week. Thanks to the wonderful soil, cooler summer temperatures, and an abundance of moisture, the plants grew very well. By the end of the summer, it looked like a 2-3 year old garden. Martagon lilies, daisies, echinacea, hydrangeas, sedums, daylilies and spectacular roses all bloomed in their first season. In September, volunteers planted approximately 1000 hardy bulbs, including alliums, grape hyacinths, snow crocus, squills and tulips. They also spread three truckloads of mulch over all the beds.

By the Numbers:

  • 4 years of planning and implementing
  • 100 trees, shrubs and roses
  • 600 perennials
  • 1000 bulbs
  • Thousands of volunteer hours

2017 and Onwards

On June 17, 2017, EHS and the City held a Garden Day party to introduce the new garden officially.

The City Gardeners: Muttart team maintains and enhances the beds throughout the growing season. They replace winter-killed or under-performing plants, prune, divide, water, deadhead, and weed. They monitor plants for diseases and pests like lily beetles. While working, they often chat with visitors to the Muttart grounds, answering questions about the plants and gardening in general.


EHS thanks the City for their participation, Maggie Neilson for the design, Mill Creek Nursery, Salisbury Greenhouses and Greenland Garden Centre for the plants, and the dedicated, hard-working volunteers who made this project a reality.

By Britta Johnson, Program Lead for the EHS City Gardeners: Muttart