Does the City of Calgary use its own WaterWise Gardening and Planting advice along its bike paths, walking trails and public green spaces within the city? This question arose at the City’s booth at the 2009 EcoLiving Fair held at the Mount Royal University campus, September 26 & 27, 2009. There are lots of native plants in the “Special Protection Natural Areas” around the city but not in these other spaces that now seem to have the ubiquitous Canadian coast-to-coast urban plants. Calgary has such a unique setting and ecosystem with stunning visual potential for planned urban local/native/wild flowers.

Apparently it has been a hard sell for local suppliers such as ALCLA Native Plant Restoration Inc competing against petunias.

WaterWise workshop leaders encourage Calgary gardeners to go ditch-diving for native wild plants. But our ditches have pretty slim picking. The incredibly hardy and year-round attractive and useful Kinnikinnick, aka Bearberry or Arctostaphylos uva-ursi is not easy to find in Calgary in city parks let alone ditches (although robust 3.5″ plugs in ‘deep root trainers’ are available at Bow Point Nursery).

Why is there not more sweetgrass Hierachloe odorata planted ?

Plants that are abundant on the lands of the Tsuu T’ina Nation for example could easily be grown anywhere in Calgary with less cost and maintenance than the urban selections we now have. If the city set the example by changing the aesthetic perhaps private corporations and business owners would include more low-maintenance but high-impact native plant varieties. We would also be encouraging local entrepreneurs who have already begun to shift.

Familiarity with native plants could be much enhanced by having more of them in urban parks-perhaps even labelled as hardy native plants-in urban areas and eventually gardeners would surely be attracted to these healthy alternatives.

There are several local small businesses that market native wild plants while slowly educating the public to a shift in aesthetics towards water-wise planting. Bow Point Nursery, has its own glossary of native plants. Bow Point Nursery is also a reliable place to get Sheep’s Fescue seed and extraordinary lawn grass substitute that can be over-seeded with great results in three years. Laureen Rama was at the EcoLiving Fair with huge bins of Sheep’s Fescue seed and very practical hints. For more info on her services visit Eco-yards. The ALCLA Native Plant Restoration Inc. includes this long list of native plants they have available.


1. Dorothy Harvie Gardens at the Calgary Zoo use ‘deep root trainers’. Root trainer cell packs for seedlings encourage deep root growth, reducing the risk of stress when planted.

2. Westgro Horticultural Supplies Inc., 1557 Hastings Crescent SE, Calgary, AB T2G 4C8, Canada and Professional Gardener Co Ltd
915 23 Avenue Se, Calgary, AB T2G 1P1 -Telephone : 403-263-4200 both have ‘deep root trainers.’

3. Arctostaphylos uva-ursi – Kinnikinnick – Low mat forming evergreen groundcover. Dark green, leathery leaves, turn red in full sun. Small red berries. Full sun or shade. (Bow Point Nursery glossary).

4. Calgary and Area Native Plant Nurseries and Services: Bow Point Nursery, Springbank, 403-686-4434, www.bowpointnursery.com, for native trees and shrubs, and low-maintenance grass seed. Also for composted soil, compost, wood chip mulch, wooden rounds; ALCLA Native Plant Restoration, 3208 Bearspaw Drive, NW, Calgary, AB, 403-282-6515, www.alclanativeplants.com for native perennial flowers and native grass seed mixes; Wild About Flowers, Turner Valley, 403-933-3903, www.wildaboutflowers.ca for native perennial flowers and native grass mixes; Laureen Rama’s Eco-yards.

5. Calgary-based author and gardener, Donna Balzer’s list of water-wise plant recommendations for Calgary gardens which includes many native plants available on the City of Calgary’s website.

Earth Day in Calgary

April 20, 2008

“Just like spring time in Alberta Warm sunny days endless skies of blue Then without a warning Another winter storm comes raging through . . . ” http://www.lyrics007.com

The living room is exploding with tomato, thyme, parsley, chive, pansies, geranium, wheat plants, etc waiting for May 24th. As the snow falls I think of composters, rainbarrels, herb gardens . . .

Earth Day April 2009

See Calgary events 2009 


The Calgary Horticulture Society is hosted an even 2009 at the Spruce Meadows, Calgary, AB with an entrance fee of $10. “This annual event brings together over 7,000 gardening and outdoor living enthusiasts for a trade fair complete with vendors, speakers from across Canada, and experts from the gardening community. From its start in the Hillhurst Community Centre with a few hundred guests, the Show has grown considerably each year.” Experts will be available to answer questions. They also host a Plant Share event on Saturday, May ?, 2009 from 9 a.m. to 12 Noon (Hours may be reduced if weather is poor) on the grassy field west of the Society office at 208 – 50 Ave. S.W.

The Calgary Earth Day events will be held from 10:00 a.m. to 4:00 p.m, Saturday, April 25, 2009 at the TELUS World of Science,  (701 11 Street SW). The event will be hosted by environmental groups from Calgary and across Alberta, and will feature fun and educational environmentally-themed games for the whole family. While the workshops and green activities are free with regular admission to the World of Science. These local environmental groups, businesses and projects will present their green projects:REAP, City of Calgary Waste and Recycling Services, Alberta Conservation Team, Cerebral Palsy Association in Alberta, Claudia’s Choices, Community Natural Foods, Students from Tanbridge Academy, Alberta Institute for Wildlife Conservation, Scouts Canada A .pdf list of Earth Day Celebration Workshops and Activities in Calgary 2009.

In contrast to the grey skies and high moisture of Vancouver Island’s unique ecosystem, Calgary’s sunny blue skies and dry summers provide different gardening challenges. I’ve become very interested by xeriscape gardening principles which include choosing low-maintenance and drought-resistant plants like stonecrops, sage, goldenrod, yucca and shrub roses. See Calgary Zoo and Botanical Gardens.


With so many green areas in Calgary has a lot of wildlife such as the wooded areas of Fish Creek Provincial Park along Fish Creek, Sandy Beach Park, Weaselhead, Griffith Woods Natural Areas, Bowness Park, Edworthy Park and along the shores of the Bow and Elbow riversbut they ares along the Bow River., Calgary has a lot of wildlife in the city including huge Snowshoe Hares with voracious appetites. Various gardeners have suggested cayenne pepper. I’ve also been told to try orange peels .

Ground cover

Ground cover, such as rocks, wood chips (cedar chips) conserves moisture in the soil and protects it against effects of weathering while reducing the growth of weeds.


Mulching “is one of the best ways to conserve water. It also reduces erosion and discourages weeds. Spread grass clippings or other mulch materials around the base of plants and shrubs. Applying organic matter (such as ground bark, animal manure, softwood sawdust, peat moss, leaves and wood or vegetable products) to soil increases its ability to hold water, and improves nutrient content.”

Geotextiles . . .

Landmaster, a weed control fabric is sold in rolls (3′ x 50′) that last five years. The fabric lets water and air through to the vegetable and/or floral plants but prevents weeds from growing. Weeds should be cleared from the planting area before laying the fabric which can be fit around existing plants or cut with X-shapes to place new plants through fabric. The fabric should be covered with 3″ – 4″ of mulch. Large or medium bark nuggets are recommended since weeds may grow through finer mulch.

Low-maintenance alpine plants suit rock gardens.

Lawns are high maintenance and thirsty.

Rain Barrels

The Clean Calgary Association: Environmental Education, Products and Services, are having a Rain Barrel Sale in partnership with the City of Calgary on

Rain Barrel Description:
The rain barrels are 45-gallon, food-grade plastic barrels fitted with two taps and a screened hole for a downspout.

More choices of rainbarrels . . .

Rainbarrels, composters and many other environmentally friendly products are available all year round at

The EcoStore

809 4th Avenue SW

tel: 230-1443 ext 222

Wed, Fri, Sat 10-4 pm


Use large recycled containers from restaurants, usually used for bulk supplies of tomato paste, etc.


“Composting helps reduce greenhouse gas (GHG) emissions by reducing the number of trips trucks must make to the landfill as well as the amount of methane released by our landfills (See here for more info).”

“Nourish your lawn and garden with a thin layer of well-decomposed compost and rely less on chemical fertilizers.You can make your own compost for free. Compost helps the soil hold moisture so plants need less water, and provides a slow-release source of nutrients for plants.”

Worm composter:

The “two types of earthworm best suited to worm composting are the redworms: Eisenia foetida (commonly known as red wiggler, brandling, or manure worm) and Lumbricus rubellus They are often found in aged manure and compost heaps. Dew-worms (large size worms found in soil and compost) are not likely to survive.” For detailed information on worm composting visit this site.


Xeriscape gardening principles include choosing low-maintenance and drought-resistant plants like stonecrops, sage, goldenrod, yucca and shrub roses See Calgary Zoo and Botanical Gardens.

“Choose labour-saving plants such as those that are drought tolerant and pest resistant. There will be less need to control pests, which eliminates the need for pesticides that might affect your health, harm other living things and find their way into local streams. And you will use less water.”

Plant waterwise plants. “By reducing lawn area or by incorporating drought-tolerant plants that need less water, gardeners can help conserve water during hot, dry summer months. Small leaves, fat leaves, grey leaves, and fuzzy leaves are all indicators of drought-hardy plants.” See here for more info.

Native plants

Ornamental Grasses


“Natural yard care (or “ecoscaping”) is about working with nature to create a yard that is attractive and easy to maintain with a minimum of resources. Consider transforming a high-maintenance lawn into an inviting, drought-tolerant landscape that will become an inspiration for the neighbourhood and an important part of its biodiversity.”

Middle ground gardening


“Types of grasses in most Calgary lawns are actually cold season varieties which is why they require so much water and maintenance.” Gerald Vander Pyl for the Calgary Herald.

“Leave grass clippings on the lawn after you mow instead of raking and bagging them. This is also known as “grasscycling.”You save time, and the nutrients in the clippings provide organic matter and from 15 to 40 per cent of your lawn’s nitrogen needs.”


Kalanchoe blossfeldiana is valued for its unusual foliage. Flowers can be cut to remain fresh for as long as eight weeks. Popular varieties of the kalanchoe are the “Calypso,” “Bonanza,” and “Garnet.” Kalanchoe is both a house-plant and gardening favorite since it requires very little care in order to thrive. Kalanchoe plants are attractive in a basket with ivy and curly willows.

Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinderKalanchoe blossfeldiana Courtesy Missouri Botanical Garden PlantFinder

Common Name: kalanchoe
Zone: 10 to 12
Plant Type: Herbaceous perennial
Family: Crassulaceae
Native Range: Madagascar
Height: 0.5 to 1.5 feet
Spread: 0.5 to 1.5 feet
Bloom Time: Seasonal bloomer
Bloom Color: Scarlet, pink, salmon or yellow
Sun: Full sun to part shade
Water: Dry to medium
Maintenance: Low


Birds along the Bow River in Calgary in April: Bald Eagle, Northern Flicker, White-throated Sparrow, Black-billed Magpie, Black-capped Chickadee, Rock Pigeon, Mallard, Canada Goose, Herring Gull, House Sparrow, Franklin’s Gull (small, black-headed) is very common in the prairies.

Birds in Fish Creek park . . .



An expert gardener suggested that a very small, inexpensive (?) container could be installed with minimal change to a garden even on a rental property or where ownership is temporary. (It can be dug up when you leave if the next owner does not like it). Koy are relatively inexpensive (easy to replace), quite hardy and work hard to keep ponds clean of insects. Her neighbourhood cats don’t bother them. Water plants are expensive but even one adds to the pond’s appeal.

Potentially Problematic Plants

Avoid introducing plants described as “seeds freely.” List of Calgary “weeds.”

Didymosphenia geminata algae

January 15, 2008

Bow River Pristine Ice Flows

Calgary is the world’s cleanest city and the Bow River is clean enough for fly fishers. Algal ecologists are closely monitoring a bumper crop of Didymosphenia geminata bloom, an algae that thrives on dams and clean water.

Folksonomy: algal ecologist, bumper-crop blooming, jet-set fly fishers, Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences, rock snot, NB, Quebec, East Coast, New Zealand, headwater rivers of South Saskatchewan River basin, Bow River, Red Deer River,

Who’s who

Didymosphenia geminata (aka Didymo, rock snot) is a single-celled algae called a diatom which is attracted to pristine clear water, an unusual characteristic for algae. When it blooms it covers river bottom rocks with a shag carpet that can completely inundate kilometres of river bottom. Trout like clean waters and their habitat can be destroyed by this invasive Didymosphenia geminata bloom. It has been noticed in the Bow River near Calgary. See Kirkwood, Andrea E.

Kirkwood, Andrea E. akirkwoo@uncalgary.ca; Shea, T.; Jackson, L. J.; McCauley, E. Department of Biological Sciences, University of Calgary, 2500 University Drive

TERA Environmental Consultants, Suite 1100, 815-8th Avenue S.W., Calgary, AB T2P 3P2


2002 “[A]nglers and provincial scientists noticed blooms on lower reaches of the Bow River near Calgary, and the Oldman River below the Oldman Dam (Kirkwood, Shea, Jackson, McCauley 2007 ).”

2004 a “large-scale periphyton study in Red Deer and Bow rivers to investigate natural and anthropolical driven transitions in Alberta rivers” [. . .] The Bow River sub-basin is 26,240 km squared, whereas the Red Deer River sub-basin is 47,831 squared. The SSRB is located in the transition between the Rocky Mountains of western Alberta and the eastern Great Plains. Source water for these rivers originates along the eastern slopes of the Rocky Mountains and is a mixture (depending on the time of year) of rain water, glacial and snowmelt water, and groundwater. Though the Bow and Red rivers share similar edaphic and land-use characteristics, they differ with respect to urban footprints, sewage-agricultural inputs, and flow regulation-diversion by dams and hydroelectric utilties. The Bow River has five dams and one substantial weir that regulates and stabilizes flows, while the Red Deer River has only one dam (Kirkwood, Shea, Jackson, McCauley 2007).”

2005 “95% of the freshwater users of the South Island of New Zealand knew about didymo, yet it is hardly recognized within the general populace of North America and Europe (Special Session on Didymosphenia geminata ).”

2006 Special Session on Didymosphenia geminata. Western Division American Fisheries Society Meeting. May 15-16, 2006 Bozeman, Montana. REVISED Post meeting update. Over 60 scientists and aquatic managers from across the US, western Canada, New Zealand, England, and Iceland gathered to exchange information and discuss new findings at the special symposium in Bozeman. The symposium offered the opportunity for people to meet, develop ideas and collaborations, and to express concerns about the impacts of didymo. Donors included Federation of Fly Fishers, US Environmental Protection Agency, the Trout and Salmon Foundation, the Black Hills Fly Fishers, and the Overmountain Chapter of Trout Unlimited.

2007 Kirkwood et al noted the relationship between dams and Didymosphenia geminata bloom.

Webliography and Bibliography

2006. Special Session on Didymosphenia geminata. Western Division American Fisheries Society Meeting. May 15-16, 2006 Bozeman, Montana.

Brooymans, Hanneke, 2008. “‘Rock snot’ threatens rivers.” Calgary Herald. January 14. B2.

Kirkwood, Andrea E.; Shea, T.; Jackson, L. J.; McCauley, E. 2007. “Didymosphenia geminate in two Alberta headwater rivers: an emerging invasive species that challenges conventional views on algal bloom development.” Vol. 64. pp.1703-1709. http://restigouche.org/reports/Didymo_CJFAS.pdf

Kirkwood, Andrea. 2008. Canadian Journal of Fisheries and Aquatic Sciences.

Flynn-Burhoe, Maureen. 2008. “Dams, Didymo and jetset flyfishers: Didymosphenia geminata algae.”

Bow River Basin

December 20, 2007

The Bow River Basin is fed by ouflow glaciers of the Wapta Icefield which rests along the Continental divide. Wapta Icefield’s glaciers the Bow Glacier (37 km northwest of Lake Louise) at Bow Lake (altitude 1920m 51°40′18″N 116°27′22″W) and the Lake Vulture Glacier, which feeds into Hector Lake (51°34’43.21″N 116°22’3.38″W), both feed into the Bow River. Bow Lake lies south of the Bow Summitt, east of the Waputik Range (views including Wapta Icefield, Bow Glacier, Bow Peak, Mount Thompson, Crowfoot Glacier and Crowfoot Mountain) and west of the Dolomite Pass, Dolomite Peak and Cirque Peak. Bow Lake is one of the lakes that line the Icefields Parkway in Banff National Park and Jasper National Park. Bow Lake is the closest lake to the headwaters of Bow River, and has a total area of 3.21 km².

The Bow River Basin runs through the Rocky Mountains from Bow Lake (51°40′18″N 116°27′22″W) to Lake Hector past Lake Louise, Banff (51°10’19.21″N 115°33’59.86″W), Seebee (51° 5’48.44″N 115° 3’51.19″W), Chief Hector Lake Nakoda Lodge and Conference Centre, Stoney Nation , Morley, (51° 9’43.60″N 114°50’55.68″W), Cochrane (51° 2’42.25″N 114° 3’47.48″W), Calgary (population 1,107,200 – 2006), Carseland, Arrowwood, Bassano (near Bow River), Bow City (50°25’59.03″N 112°13’39.55″W), Scandia, Rolling Hills and Ronalane where the Bow River joins the Oldman River join at “The Grand Forks” to form the South Saskatchewan River (R.J.W. Turner, GSC 2005-194 ). The Bow, Red Deer, and Oldman rivers are tributaries of the South Saskatchewan River. This family of rivers carries water from the Rocky Mountains across the dry southern prairies of Alberta and Saskatchewan.

The North Saskatchewan and South Saskatchewan Rivers meet east of Saskatoon then continue to merge with other rivers emptying into Hudson Bay.


1850 End of the Little Ice Age

1850-1953 Bow Glacier retreated an estimated 1,100 meters (3,600 ft).

1994 Bow River Basin report

Calgary installed a state of the art sewage system

1980s In the 1980s the Wapta Icefield, on the Continental Divide in the British Columbia and Abertan Rockies covered an area of approximately 80 km² (30 miles²).

2005 Turner, R.J.W., Franklin, R.G., Grasby, S.E., and Nowlan, G.S. 2005. “Bow River Basin Waterscape.” Geological Survey of Canada. Miscellaneous Report 90, 2005.

Webliography and Bibliography

Bivouac.com. “Wapta Icefield.” Canadian Mountain Encyclopedia.

Turner, R.J.W., Franklin, R.G., Grasby, S.E., and Nowlan, G.S. 2005. “Bow River Basin Waterscape.” Geological Survey of Canada. Miscellaneous Report 90, 2005.

State of the Canadian Cryosphere. Peyto Glacier Case Study. Past Variability of Canadian Glaciers.


Tag cloud: hydrogeology; environmental geology; educational geology; watersheds; rivers; surface waters; lake water; reservoirs; groundwater; water utilization; water quality; groundwater circulation; groundwater flow; groundwater resources; groundwater discharge; groundwater regimes; groundwater movement; climate effects; climatic fluctuations; conservation; environmental impacts; environmental controls; hydrologic environment; environmental studies; urban planning; wildlife; pollution; resource management; pollution; resource management; Bow River basin; water cycle

Area: Bow River; Rocky Mountains; Rocky Mountain Foothills; Prairies; Bow Lake; Lake Louise; Banff; Canmore; Stoney Nakoda Reserve; Morley; Cochrane; Bragg Creek; Tsuu T’ina Reserve; Crossfield; Airdrie; Calgary; Longview; High River; Turner Valley; Black Diamond; Okotoks; Strathmore; Siksika Reserve; Gleichen; Cluny; Standard; Bassano; Brooks; Tilley; Vauxhall; Bow Island; South Saskatchewan River Rolling Hills (near Bow River)

Flynn-Burhoe Maureen. 2007. Bow River Basin. > Google Docs

Schmap is the latest of the web 2.0 technologies that heighten my connectivity on the Internet. One of my Creative Commons Flickr photos of Calgary’s Nose Hill Park was picked up by Schmap through Flickr’s powerful Search Engine Optimized tagging tools  – folksonomy for Flickr photo folks. We were planning a trip to the 12 Days of Christmas at Calgary’ Heritage Park. As I use Schmap to prepare for our outing this weekend, I feel somewhat like a 2.0 volunteer in my newly-adopted city.  

North Carolina-based Schmap has been operating since 2004 providing free digital travel guides for 200 destinations throughout the United States, Europe, Canada (with Calgary as one of its highlighted cities), Australia and New Zealand.

They also offer an innovative technology that lets bloggers insert schmapplets – a range of fully customizable map mashups and map widgets  on their personal blogs. I have tried to add the widget to Speechless but it didn’t work. Probably just as well as I am concerned that my WordPress blog is slow to open on machines that don’t have my images and files in cache.