Reader Rock Garden
About the park
Reader Rock Garden Historic Park is one of the city's most unique cultural landscapes and the first Legacy Park to open. Its restoration was honoured with a Calgary Heritage Authority Lion Award in Landscape Preservation, earning official designation as a Provincial Historic Resource. Its restoration was completed in 2006 and earned an official designation as a Provincial Historic Resource. In 2018, the garden was designated as an official national historic site.
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Reader Rock Garden has four beautiful locations for your wedding, picnic, meeting, family gathering or other outdoor event.Learn more about booking Reader Rock Garden
Reader Rock Garden is a designated provincial historic site. When visiting the garden, please respect the uniqueness of the plant collection, wildlife and facility by following these simple rules:
- It is prohibited to disturb any part of the plant collection including seed collecting, fruit or flower picking or removal of any plants.
- Stay on designated trails and grassy areas at all times. This helps to protect the plants.
- Garden users must exercise caution at all times due to the sloped and uneven nature of the trails. Please wear appropriate footwear.
- Due to the nature of the pathway system, groups must be broken into smaller sizes of 15 people maximum.
- Animals in the garden are wild, do not disturb or feed them.
- Dogs are not permitted in the garden.
- Be considerate of all other visitors to the garden.
- Adhering to the rules will ensure the protection of the Garden's valuable plant collection and historical features.
This historic garden created in 1913 is a tribute to one man's passion for plants and beauty. William Roland Reader was the Superintendent for Calgary Parks from 1913 – 1942 who transformed a bare hillside into an internationally-acclaimed garden.
Reader Rock Garden was historically used as accompanying gardens for the private residence of Calgary's Superintendent of Parks and Cemeteries. The house was constructed in 1912, and the garden's creation began one year later.
During the turn of the century, it was common for horticulturists to collect alpine plants on their travels and create gardens as living artifacts of their journeys. Reader actively engaged in this practice and for thirty years the Garden trialed over 4000 different plant species, making it one of the few significant gardens in western Canada.
Both Reader and his plant collection were known internationally, and the quality of the plants and seeds were recognized by the most prestigious horticultural agencies in the world. While the garden was essentially completed by the end of the 1920s, Reader continued collecting and experimenting with plant material until his death in 1943. One year later, the garden was named in his honour and opened to the public as a City park. Though the garden underwent periods of neglect and revival between 1950 and 1990, both they and the superintendent's cottage were restored and re-opened to the public in 2006.
Lovingly rehabilitated according to Reader's original plans, the garden blooms from mid-March to mid-November. The reconstructed Arts and Crafts style house features a café and classroom space for educational programs. Visit Friends of Reader Rock Garden Society for more information.
Layout of the original gardens
Reader's famous garden had five main areas:
- The west garden featured two constructed pools, a stream, a small bridge and a bog garden.
- The high rockery was structured around stone pathways and retaining walls, and the flower beds were filled with numerous varieties of alpine plants, flowering perennials, shrubs and ornamental trees.
- The garden by the house offered a small gazebo and was surrounded by perennial beds.
- The south slope separated the house from the cemetery and contained an abundance of trees, shrubs and shade-loving perennials.
- The western slope was the final section to be developed and was an extension of the high rockery.
William Roland Reader, circa 1910's - courtesy of the Reader Family.
Initial grading of the slope, circa 1913/14 - courtesy of the Reader Family.
Outlook to the West, 1920 - courtesy of the Reader Family.
Plan of the Garden, circa 1930's (note: labels added in 2006).
Photos of William Reader and Reader Rock Garden courtesy of the Reader Family.
There are numerous community and public parks in Calgary to explore.
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