One of the most interesting and educational outdoor plant spaces at the University of Saskatchewan is Patterson Garden Arboretum (http://patterson-arboretum.usask.ca), a two-hectare arboretum in Saskatoon tucked into the southeast corner of Preston Avenue and College Drive. The arboretum, established in 1966, was named to honour Dr. Cecil Patterson, the first head of the University’s Department of Horticulture Science. Established originally as part of a now discontinued network of woody ornamental hardiness trial sites on the Prairies, the arboretum continues to be used for teaching and has long been a popular stop for the local horticultural community.
Patterson Garden is the most diverse arboretum in Saskatchewan, containing about 850 different trees, shrubs and vines. While the core of the arboretum consists of more than 40-year-old trees and shrubs, new plant material is constantly being added to replace the non-hardy, the victims of significant disease or insect problems or the ones that have simply reached the end their natural lifespans. All the plants are labelled with common and botanical name plus the year they were planted.
Spring is both an aromatic and colourful time to wander through. Several willows bloom in early spring while more than 40 lilacs (Syringa) are in flower from mid-May into June. The blossoms of a dozen different flowering crabapples (Malus) usher in summer.
A collection of vines, forming the eastern edge of the arboretum, includes commonly grown plants such as Virginia creeper (Parthenocissus quinquefolia) and Dropmore Scarlet Trumpet honeysuckle (Lonicera brownii) along with the less known hairy honeysuckle (Lonicera hirsute) and Oak Lake Frost grape (Vitis riparia).
A large part of the arboretum contains various species and cultivars of shade trees such as oak, ash, poplar, elm, linden and birch. Seek out 44 year-old silver maple (Acer saccharinum).Also among the rare-for-the-Prairies are red ash (Fraxinus pennsylvanica), Serotina de Selys poplar (Populus canadensis), Japanese elm (Ulmus japonica), Mongolian lime (Tilia mongolica) and yellow birch (Betula lutea).Not to be missed are black walnut (Juglans nigra), scarlet oak (Quercus coccinea), the 48-year-old Shore pine (Pinuscontorta) and the nine-year-old Chinese catalpa tree (Catalpa ovata).
During the summer months, come and smell the 50 species and varieties of roses. Other flowering shrubs include 23 species of mature spirea and nearly 20 potentilla cultivars.
Scarlet oak, along with many of the deciduous burning bush (Euonymous spp.)varieties, provide spectacular red fall colour. Bark texture and colour, along with the large selection of conifers, provide interest during the cold winter months. There are 17 creeping juniper cultivars (Juniperus horizontalis) along with numerous other juniper species. Over 20 cedar cultivars (Thuja occidentalis) can be found in varying shapes and sizes. Thirteen spruce species (Picea) and varieties, planted over the last forty years, are also on display. Among the pines (Pinus) is a 48-year-old Swiss stone pine (Pinus cembra) as well as a ponderosa pine (Pinus ponderosa). An extremely attractive 34-year-old white pine (Pinus strobus), native to the eastern North America but rarely grown in Saskatchewan, can be found in the middle of the garden.
If you haven’t had a chance to visit Patterson Garden, I invite you to take a tour. It provides an opportunity to see what that tree you just planted or are planning to plant might look like in 20 or 40 years, as well as simply the wide variety of trees beyond poplar, ash and linden that are possible to grow in Saskatoon. Bring a friend or go by yourself on a contemplative walk among these mature trees to learn, clear your thoughts and listen to birds.
Patterson Garden is open to the public 365 days a year, 24 hours a day. Maintenance and support for the arboretum is provided by the Department of Plant Sciences at the University of Saskatchewan and the Meewasin Valley Authority.
Bantle is a horticulturist living in Saskatoon.