Gosling Wildlife Gardens - History
The Gosling Wildlife Gardens is one of the oldest of its kind in North America. Begun in 1986, the gardens are undergoing a multi-year revitalization supported by a generous 2020 gift from the Gosling Foundation.
In 1986, 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 design pictured here is the winning entry by Kathy Dunster, a Landscape Architecture student.
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.
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.
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.
1987 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 (now the Pollinator Garden).
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.
Gardens are constantly changing and growing over time. The Gosling Wildlife Gardens have undergone many changes and developments over the decades.
The large Garden One (now Pollinator Garden) pond was installed in 1988.
The plantings around the Garden One pond can be seen filling in (photo taken in 1990).
Another view of the Garden one (now Pollinator Garden) pond in 1990.
The growth of the trees surrounding the Garden one pond can be seen (photo taken in 2010).
Ric Jordan, Arboretum Manager, cutting the Prairie in 1997.
Garden Three (now the Native Plant Garden) was originally "The Prairie" and was a beautiful mass of native prairie plants. While one of our favourite features, the Prairie was very high maintenance and not very practical for most homeowners.
Burning a prairie helps it regenerate and keeps down invasive plants.
A view of Garden Four (now Permaculture Garden) from the "woodland" in the winter of 1989-1990.
The woodland in Garden Four in summer 1990.
Garden Five (now the Collector's Garden) pond installation in 1995.
In 2020 a new gift from the Gosling Foundation sparked a multi-year revitalization project.
Then and Now
The Gosling Wildlife Gardens have been enhanced and expanded since their opening in 1988. To view the dramatic changes in these gardens, please look at the Then and Now pictures below.
Garden One showing the autumnal colours of Victoria Woods in the background in 1988..
Garden one (now the Pollinator Garden) shows off its full, bright blooms during summer 2007.
Garden two, now known as the Enhanced Lawn Garden.
The Enhanced Lawn Garden, 2020.
Garden Two (now the Enhanced Lawn Garden) 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.
Arboretum staff in Garden Three (now The Native Plants Garden) in 2003, partway through the installation of the new Native Plants Garden.
Garden Three, now the Native Plants garden, can be seen thriving in 2020.
The initial veggie gardens in Garden Four.
Garden Four (now known as the Permaculture Garden) prepares for hard scraping, 2020.
The Garden Five (now the Collector's Garden) 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.
The Collector's Garden pond surrounded by perennials, 2005.
For more information about the Gosling Wildlife Gardens or to make a donation, please contact the Arboretum Director at 519-824-4120 Ext. 52356.