The Gardens at The Leaf, a “place where nature and culture unite,” opened this summer at Assiniboine Park. This outdoor attraction is part of the final phase of Assiniboine Park’s 2009 redevelopment plan.
This nearly 30-acre greenspace comprises six distinct exhibits. The Indigenous Peoples Garden, which was planned by Indigenous landscape and architectural designers, focuses on cultural understanding. The Kitchen Garden will grow edible plants and focus on demonstrations and classes. The Sensory Garden engages visitors through all the senses, and The Grove “focuses on the majesty of trees.” The Seasonal Garden will change throughout the year, while the Performance Garden features an outdoor stage.
Kevin Klein, city councillor for Charleswood-Tuxedo-Westwood and board member of the Assiniboine Park Conservancy, says he is delighted to have a “world-class facility” in his ward and credits an entire community of volunteers, staff and donors for its creation.
“I think about how lucky our city is to have such a dedicated group of people,” he says. “There are trickle-down effects when you build something like this,” Klein says, adding that he is optimistic about the positive economic impact this facility will have. He believes The Gardens at The Leaf will attract tourists from around the world.
Lee Ann Block, an associate professor at the University of Winnipeg who specializes in cultural sustainability and outdoor learning, says it is a place where “a lot of educational activity could happen, both formally and informally.”
“Any green space that kids go to, they learn directly and indirectly,” she says, adding that “they learn directly when a guide gives them a tour, but they also learn just by being in that space and exploring it.”
“Young children, particularly, notice everything and ask questions,” Block says. She believes that the Indigenous Peoples Garden, the Kitchen Garden and the Sensory Garden are particularly innovative and could be great for children and families.
“When I was visiting, the staff were really interested in talking about what they’ve been doing and what they’ve been growing,” she says.
Research has shown that the COVID-19 pandemic has changed the way people interact with the outdoors and nature.
“Talking to kids, parents and teachers (since March 2020), certainly more people have thought about taking their kids outside,” Block says. She believes that being outside more often is one of the few positive changes to come from the pandemic.
The final stage of this project is The Leaf, which has yet to open. This indoor attraction will have gardens, exotic plants, butterflies and more, and the designers of the park hope it will “be the most visually stunning place of its kind in North America,” according to the Assiniboine Park website.
The Gardens at The Leaf are located in the southeast corner of Assiniboine Park. The Indigenous Peoples Garden, the Sensory Garden, the Performance Garden and The Grove are open 24 hours a day. The Kitchen Garden and Seasonal Garden are open from 9 a.m. to dusk. For more information, visit assiniboinepark.ca/leaf/vision.
Published in Volume 76, Number 4 of The Uniter (October 1, 2021)