Gosling Wildlife Gardens - History
The Gosling Wildlife Gardens is one of the oldest of its kind in North America. Here is some of its interesting history.
A competition was held for designs for a "backyard wildlife habitat" display that was to be put near the J.C. Taylor Nature Centre. The site was a 0.5 hectare area that was to be divided into 3-6 spaces that would be on the scale of urban or suburban backyards. The competition was open to any University of Guelph student. First place received $300, second $200 and third $100.
The winning entry was by Kathy Dunster.
An article in a local newspaper on the winning entry attracted the attention of Philip and Jean Gosling. Jean, a former president of the Federation of Ontario Naturalists, and Philip, one of two men who initiated the Bruce Trail, were both intrigued by the concept of promoting wildlife habitat to homeowners. They decided to fund the project and the Gosling Wildlife Gardens was born.
This year was spent preparing the site and planting some specimen trees.
The grand opening of the Gosling Wildlife Gardens occurred in 1988. Many features were installed this year as well, such as the large pond in Garden One.
Follow the photos below and read the captions to learn about more developments and changes that have happened in the Gosling Wildlife Gardens.
Future site of the Gosling Wildlife Gardens (spring, 1987). This is taken from the service road turnaround near Victoria Road. The J.C. Taylor Nature Centre is in the background. Note the row of young cedars leading from the Taylor Centre; these are now the large cedars that line the west side of the gardens.
Keith Ronald (past Arboretum Director), Philip Gosling, Jean Gosling and Alan Watson (then the Arboretum Biologist and now past Arboretum Director) on the site in early spring, 1987
This is part of the winning design by student Kathy Dunster.
Philip and Jean Gosling at the 1988 opening of the Gosling Wildlife Gardens. They are holding the winning design. Arboretum Biologist Alan Watson is at the podium. Photo by Henry Kock.
Here is the Garden Two Eastern White Pine in 1988.
The large Garden One pond was installed in 1988.
A view of Garden Four from the "woodland" in the winter of 1989-1990.
In 1990, the plantings around the Garden One pond were filling in.
Another view of the Garden One pond in 1990.
Garden Three was originally "The Prairie" and was a beautiful mass of native prairie plants.
The woodland in Garden Four in 1990.
The Garden Five garden shed in 1993. Note the annuals planted in the foreground. Annuals were used to fill in new beds initially and then replaced with less water-dependent perennials later.
Garden Five pond installation in 1995.
Garden Two was originally an annual and perennial meadow garden. Both of these ideas didn't work well as one needed too much water and both were constantly invaded with too much goldenrod. In 1996, the area was replaced with grass and we use this "Lawn Garden" to represent what most most homeowners have and contrast it with the other four gardens.
The initial veggie gardens in Garden Four. We've learned a lot since!
Ric Jordan, Arboretum Manager, cutting the Prairie (Garden Three) in 1997. While one of our favourite features, the Prairie was very high maintenance and not very practical for most homeowners. The next photo shows why! We replaced the prairie with the Native Plants Garden.
Burning a prairie helps it regenerate and keeps down invasive plants.
Arboretum staff in Garden Three in 2003, partway through the installation of the new Native Plants Garden.
2007 - Garden One twenty years after the beginning.
For more information about the Gosling Wildlife Gardens or to make a donation, please contact the Arboretum Director at 519-824-4120 Ext. 52356.