The Assinboine Park Gardens at the Leaf in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada: a series of outdoor gardens celebrating diversity through plants
In July of 2021, the outdoor Gardens at The Leaf in Winnipeg, Manitoba, Canada, opened to the public. Six green spaces with a central theme of celebrating cultural and biodiversity comprise the nearly 30 acres. The six areas are: Indigenous Peoples Garden, Kitchen Garden, Sensory Garden, Performance Garden, Seasonal Garden, and The Grove.
I love to visit gardens when I travel (and at home). Most of the gardens I’ve written about on this blog are well-established with years of history. It was interesting to visit a new garden. Work on Gardens at The Leaf began in the summer of 2017. The shrubs and trees planted are still young, but not all of the garden feels new. It has been created amidst a landscape of mature trees.
The Leaf Building at one end of the gardens is still under construction and scheduled to open in late 2022. This indoor, multi-seasonal attraction will contain a tropical biome, a Mediterranean biome, a display house showcasing rotating floral exhibits with global themes, and the Shirley Richardson Butterfly Garden. The Shirley Richardson Butterfly Garden is currently located within Assiniboine Park Zoo. The Leaf will also feature the tallest indoor waterfall in Canada. Although the Leaf is still under construction, the outdoor gardens around it are ready and open to the public.
Indigenous Peoples Garden
The Indigenous Peoples Garden recognizes Canada’s strong Indigenous heritage. The garden’s design was created through a collaborative process involving Indigenous elders, designers, and community leaders. It features local prairie grasses and perennials.
Two areas within the Indigenous Peoples Garden acknowledge the importance of water and fire. Signage shows the translation of “where the water is” and “where the fire is” in seven Indigenous languages.
For many Indigenous peoples, water is associated with birth and life’s journey. A gravel circle in front of a pond contains round pieces of wood with carvings in them. Several have been leveled off to create seating.
Fire is considered a gift from the Creator in many Indigenous cultures. Fire was used to cook, hunt, protect, and stay warm. Gathering around a fire to share stories, memories, and dance is a tradition that brings comfort and creates community.
The Kitchen Garden
The Kitchen Garden contains a variety of vegetables, fruits, herbs, and other edible plants. The space will also be used for demonstrations and classes.
The Three Sisters planting of corn, beans, and squash is a companion planting used for centuries by Indigenous peoples. The three plants grow and thrive together.
An espalier wall sits at one end of the Kitchen Garden. Espalier is the process of controlling plant growth in a flat plane, usually against a wall or fence. As well as being decorative, espalier saves space, provides for greater exposure to sunlight, and makes for easier picking of fruit. The process works particularly well with apple and pear trees, both of which can be found in the Kitchen Garden.
Marigolds surround most of the beds in the Kitchen Garden. Marigolds attract beneficial insects and repel harmful ones.
The Sensory Garden includes garden beds with rotating varieties of colourful and aromatic plants as well as hills of tall grasses.
The Performance Garden sits at the edge of the Sensory Garden. The outdoor stage in front of a gently tiered seating area can host a variety of art forms.
The Seasonal Garden contains perennial plant selections that will peak at different times through the spring, summer, and fall. There are paths through the beds and several inviting seating areas. The photos I’ve included here were taken in mid-August. Other times of the year would see different plants in bloom and different colours on display.
The Grove focuses on the majesty of trees. All of Manitoba’s 24 native species of trees will eventually be represented here.
The Citizens Hall of Fame, which was initiated by the Winnipeg Real Estate Board in the 1980s, sits between The Grove and the rest of the Gardens at The Leaf. Busts of Winnipeggers who have made outstanding contributions to Winnipeg’s quality of life border a green pathway between mature trees.
Visiting The Gardens At The Leaf
The Gardens at The Leaf sit at the southeast end of Assiniboine Park. The flat main walkways are mostly accessible. They are either paved or made of packed crushed gravel. They are free to visit and open year-round. The Kitchen Garden and the Seasonal Garden are open from 9 am to dusk. Other gardens are open 24 hours.
It will be a delight to see the gardens evolve with the seasons and mature over the years.
Other points of interest within Assiniboine Park include the Zoo (I’ve written about its Journey to Churchill exhibit), the English Garden, the Leo Mol Sculpture Garden, the art galleries and the Winnie the Pooh gallery at the Pavilion, and the Nature Playground.
Never miss a story. Sign up for Destinations Detours and Dreams free monthly e-newsletter and receive behind-the-scenes information and sneak peaks ahead.