I can’t believe it took us 25+ years to check out Calgary’s Reader Rock Garden. In my defense for many years it was more or less abandoned, however that is no excuse. In fact, it would have been fun to explore a deserted overgrown garden.
Garden & Cemetery
Reader Rock garden first opened in 1913, the brainchild of the City’s Superintendent of Parks, Cemeteries & Recreation (1913 to 1942) William Roland Reader. He lived in a house at the top of the hill just south of Stampede Park, enjoying spectacular views of downtown.
Over the years, he experimented with upwards of 4,000 different plant species from around the world, many of which ended up in parks across the city, as the City of Calgary’s first nursery was at the base of the gardens.
Not Always Rosy
In 2006, it received provincial historical resource designation and this year, 2018, it received national historic designation. However, things were not always rosy (pun intended). In 1961, maintenance records began to indicate the garden was being neglected, in the ‘70s, trees were being cut down and garden beds removed. In the ‘80s, the greenhouses were removed for LRT construction.
Then more than two decades later, in 2003, Friends of Reader Rock Garden Society (FoRRGS) was established and in 2004, the garden is fenced off for renovations by volunteers and paid staff. The garden reopened in 2006, with improvements added each year since then.
Link: Friends of Reader Garden
Food & Flowers
In addition to the gardens, there is a lovely café in the house at the top of the hill with daily specials (including a pastry special) and a popular Sunday brunch. As well there are special events like the High Tea on Sunday, August 26th 2018 from 3 to 4pm – reservations required.
If you want to bring your own food for a picnic, there are lots of places to have a family or romantic picnic.
Link: Reader’s Garden Café
- Several historical plaques tell the story of the gardens and the people involved. It is a mini outdoor history museum as well as a garden.
- The Garden are not very wheelchair or stroller-friendly.
- Bring your phone and camera, you will want to take photos.
- Bring some water if it is going to be hot.
- Wear good shoes, as there is lots of climbing on rock steps.
- The Union Cemetery is next to the gardens and makes for some additional strolling and a history lesson as several Calgary pioneers are buried here.
- Plan on spending one hour exploring the garden, even more if you plan to have something to eat.
- The Garden is very close to the Erlton LRT Station, or about a 30-minute walk from downtown.
- Parking is FREE at the base of the gardens on 25th Ave just east of Macleod Trail.
We spent two hours on a lovely Sunday afternoon strolling the gardens and part of the cemetery. There is a lovely tranquility in this garden oasis.
We highly recommend you take visiting family and friends who are in town from May to September. If they are really into gardens you will also want to take them to see the Silver Springs Botanical Garden and Senator Patrick Burns Rock Gardens.
Everyday Tourist Blog Link: Silver Springs Botanical Garden
Everyday Tourist Blog Link: Senator Patrick Burns Rock Garden