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Landscape Architecture: Advice for the Calgary Gardener

Last updated 7 years ago

Matrix Landscape Architecture is an integral part of BKDI Architects and they have worked seamlessly together as a team since 1988. Matrix is a landscape architecture, urban design and environmental design firm that provides innovative approaches for the integration of Landscape Architectural design principals with Architectural and Engineering practice. Victor, our registered landscape architect, is passionate about landscape design and lives by the maxim “creative mess is better than tidy idleness.”

When it comes to choosing plants, most Calgarians know how difficult it is to find ones that thrive in our extreme climate. We are officially a Plant Zone 3A but the different microclimates in the City mean you can be gardening in a Zone 2b, 4 or even a 5. The chinook winds, with their resultant rapid temperature changes, mean plants that can handle extreme temperatures in regions as close as Edmonton are not able to survive here. “There are really only two types of street trees that can survive Calgary’s extreme weather,” says Victor – elm and ash. Some of his favourite varieties include: Flowering Crabapples; Tree Lilac; Mayday Tree, and Aspens. In addition to our extreme temperature fluctuations, Calgary’s dry climate provides another challenge for landscape design. Xeriscaping – a method of landscaping that minimizes water use by using plants that are drought tolerant – is one option to combat this challenge. Ultimately, this means that landscaping in Calgary requires chinook-hardy, low water use plants.

There is a ton of information specific to Calgary to help you, so have some fun in the garden this year, its therapeutic and good for your health!



For more information on trees, shrubs and perennials for Southern Alberta, our landscaping team recommends visiting websites like the Eagle Lake Nursery site This is an excellent comprehensive website that allows you to conduct plant searches based on relevant criteria.

The following list of books can be found at bookstores, the public library or the Calgary Horticultural Society library:

-          Perennials for Prairies by Edgar W. Toop & Sara Williams

-          Prairie Xeriscape by Sara Williams

-          Annuals for Prairies by Edgar W. Toop

-          Woody Ornamentals for Prairies by Hugh Knowles

-          Prairie Rose Garden by Jan Mather

-          Lois Holes books and Spring magazine on almost every aspect of gardening in Alberta

-          101 Best Plants for Prairies by Leatherbarrow & Reynolds

-          Prairie Rock Garden by Donna Balzer

-          Gardening for Goofs by Donna Balzer

-          The Calgary Gardener Series by Calgary Horticultural Society


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