Fresh red gooseberry on a branch of a gooseberry bush in the garden. A red berry bush grows in the garden


If you’re like me, you’ve found yourself outside on a cold day where the air itself stings like acid, wondering “how does anything survive here…how do I survive here?”. This ubiquitous Alberta feeling has many resigned to the idea that only a handful of commonplace plants can brave our climate. That’s a myth I hope to dispel.

Though Alberta’s zone 2-4 climate feels inhospitable, its actually able to support a stunning array of seemingly exotic plant species.

I’ve spent the past 5 years exploring Edmonton’s exquisite  (and underrated) urban forest. What follows is a carefully curated account of what I consider to be the most overlooked, but spectacular, Edmonton hardy trees and shrubs. Enjoy!


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Inversa Norway Spruce

Why Its Great:

  • Very unique appearance is sure to be conversation piece 
  • Compact and low maintenance 

The first time I experienced the friendly, comforting energy that seems to radiate from the Inversa Spruce, I found myself having to resist the urge to pet it.

This vigorous, hardy, and unique shrub enjoys staying close to the ground, begging the question; “why spend all that energy standing all day when you can simply lounge”. If propped up it can reach a height of around 20′, and requires no pruning. This all around well behaved yard friend makes an excellent conversation piece and property/privacy divider. 

Alternatives: Weeping Larch

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Amur Cherry

Why Its Great:

  • Gorgeous signature glossy copper bark
  • Magnet for small birds and wildlife 

A true statement piece; the Amur Cherry is a luxurious, year round,  accent piece. The dense canopy of flowers in the spring, give way to bright red fruit clusters, the foliage then transitions to a stunning tapestry of yellow and orange, is sheds to reveal a decadent copper-red clad trunk. Not only are the fruits edible and fantastic in jams, the aesthetic experience is almost enough to make your mouth water…

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Korean Maple

Why Its Great:

  • Exotic foliage and shape
  • Uncommon in Edmonto

Do you love the delicate exotic look of the classic Japanese maple trees? Were you also bummed to learn they can’t survive Alberta winters? Well we have great news….

There’s now a cold hardy maple variety with all the charm of the coveted Japanese maple. Hailing from the Korean mountain ranges this distinctive little beauty sports delicate textured leaves, striking fall foliage, and the character exotic shape and size we all know and love.


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Dappled willow

Why Its Great:

  • Bright leaves bring colour contrast all spring and summer

You may notice that I’m partial to floral bark displays.. enter the Dappled Willow. Named for its “dappled” pink, yellow, silver, and green foliage; this fast growing dwarf variety of willow is a spectacular (and often over looked) option for elegant and decorative privacy screens.

Alternatives: Nishiki Willow

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Weeping White Pine

Why Its Great:

  • Uncommon jungle like appearance brings an exotic accent to the yard
  • Delicate fine needles contrast texture of broad leaf trees 

This hunched over, almost “fluffy” appearance of the Weeping White Pine gives it a friendly and attention grabbing puppy dog look. With very few of these used in Edmonton landscapes its sure to be a conversation piece.

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Casino Apricot

Why Its Great:

  • Apricots are typically reserved for warm tropical climates
  • Stunning flowers followed by delicious fruit 

When you think of Alberta hardy fruit trees, do you think “apricot”? Well you will now! 

A refreshing departure from the cherries and apples typically found in the urban micro-orchard; the apricot tree boasts stunning floral displays in the spring, and self pollinates to create delicious apricot fruits. 

Tip: Casino apricots can be self pollinating, but not always. Its recommended to plant a nanking cherry or other apricot variety to ensure high quality fruits.

Bonus: when you prune an apricot tree the wood has a strong marmalade fragrance.

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