- A passion for gardening
- Over 30 years (shh—don’t tell anyone) of hands-on gardening experience in Calgary
- Founder and owner of Garden Gal
- Master Gardener course graduate
- Woody Plant Identification course graduate
- Working towards horticultural certificate from Guelph University in Sustainability
I grew up in a small agricultural community in south western Ontario in hardiness Zone 6 which is in the most northern part of the Carolinian Forest.
As a small child I enjoyed digging in the dirt and helping my mother as she tended to the garden and the yard work. I learned about perennials, annuals, and how to sow seeds. Our family often went for walks in the woods and I learned how to identify many native plant species. Plant identification continues to be big interest to me especially when I travel to different parts of the world. My mother used to get us to dig up plants in the woods in the fall and she’d make up a terrarium to enjoy indoor all winter. She often dug up plants she found in the woods and had good luck establishing many plants that still thrive today.
In my neighborhood there were some really interesting gardens that I loved to stop and gaze at on the way to and from school. I have always loved being outside and believe that stopping to smell the roses makes life that much more pleasurable.
When I was 17 I had a summer job with the Ministry of Natural Resources as a Junior Forest Ranger. When I was a young adult I spent two summers working at the town’s largest cemetery. Part of my responsibilities there were to select, plant and maintain the annual plants for the big showy bed at the front entrance. I loved that summer job!
I moved to Calgary in 1981. Through constant experimentation, reading and learning from other gardening enthusiasts, I learned about gardening in the Chinook area. My husband Kevin holds a Soil Science Diploma from Olds College and knows all kinds of interesting stuff.
I have had a career in the oil and gas industry specializing in Land and Asset Management for almost 30 years. Gardening has been my passion all these years and is now my business.
My Gardening Philosophy
Perennials, shrubbery and trees form the bones of all good designs but I think annuals are great for filling in blank spaces especially while perennials are developing for the first few years.
There’s a saying about perennials that the first year they sleep, the second year they creep and the third year they leap. I believe that one has to be patient and that there is no such thing as an instant garden.
I love to drive around and see that people are starting to get rid of their lawns and now are opting for low water solutions with great plant selection and interesting designs. This trend just makes sense in our southern Alberta climate.
Eco-conscience decisions are in vogue but the really great ones through the ages were designed that way. Post-WWII our developed societies got further and further away from living an organic way of life. Sustainability is a trendy term and it is the only way I know to garden.
I’m happy to see that the way I have always lived is now acceptable instead of being considered strange. There is never a need to use anything other than organic matter in your garden. Composting just makes sense: it keeps our contribution to the landfill down and provides a free source of organic matter to amend soil in garden beds. Using rain water collected in rain barrels minimizes the amount of tap water needed for garden plants. Who would have thought that eating in season and buying locally whenever possible would become popular again. Victory gardens, community gardens are back in fashion and people are re-learning that urban agriculture is worthwhile because the food tastes so good and cuts down the grocery bill.
OF THE CLASS
~ ALFRED AUSTIN