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!


Inversa Norway Spruce

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. 

A friendly (if not slightly soggy looking) Inversa Norway spruce hanging around

Amur Cherry

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…

A small Amur cherry tree flaunting its effervescent bark.

Dappled willow

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.

A bushy dappled willow putting on a floral display

Brewer Spruce

Appearing as if being draped in holiday tinsel is its natural form; the Brewer Spruce always seems to beckon a closer look.

The “weeping” foliage behaviour of this rare sub-species moulds a tropical and boreal aesthetic into one truly unique spectacle. 

The mesmerizing cascade effect of the stately Brewer Spruce

Canadian White Blenheim Apricot

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. 

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

Juicy apricots right in your Canadian backyard, who would have thought?

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