What Grows Here? Edmonton Gardens Have A History of Pushing the Limits of What’s Possible.
Running a garden experiment? Tell me about here.
One-hundred years ago, Edmontonians longed for apples while present-day Edmontonians have so much fruit that not-for-profits like Fruits of Sherbrook and Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton (OFRE) have emerged to deal with the surplus. But how did that happen?
Chase Merrett’s book “Why Grow Here: Essays on Edmonton’s Gardening History” offers some answers. Primarily that Edmonton has a strong history of backyard experimentation, plant breeding, and pushing the horticultural limits of what grows here. The plant varieties we currently enjoy are the result of thousands of formal and informal experiments; often performed in backyards by amateurs and hobbyists. FYI, if you haven’t read “Why Grow Here“, I couldn’t recommend it enough.
Edmonton’s Global Gardeners
Goerges Bugnet (1879 – 1981) developed hardy and famous rose varieties. Robert Simonet (1903 – 1989) made a fortune breeding double flowering petunias, apples, apricots, lilies, strawberries, and corn varieties (among others). And gardener and community advocate Gladys Reeves (1890 – 1974) “may have done more than any other Edmontonian to promote tree-planting and gardening as an expression of citizenship” (link). But why so much experimentation and why Edmonton? I suspect that immigration is a piece of the puzzle. As a young city, most of us are only a few generations removed from somewhere else. For many, especially recent immigrants, a longing for plants and food varieties grown back home breeds ambitious gardeners; think Italians trying to grow Mediterranean grapes or Vietnamese refugees growing Cai Lan.
Edmonton Gardeners Are Still Pushing The Limits
Generally speaking, Edmonton gardeners are enthusiastic (and optimistic). Gardeners are always pushing the limits, trying to extend the growing season, or planting things that shouldn’t be able to grow here.
I can’t resist planting something new if there’s a chance that it will survive. Case in point – I recently purchased hardy pawpaw, persimmon, and magnolia trees for the backyard; trees that for all intents and purposes will probably die. I have to try.
Share Your Backyard Experiments!
Do you have a favourite plant to you think more Edmontonians should be growing? I’d love to hear about it. Maybe you inherited an interesting perennial, shrub, or fruit tree? A peony you got from your Grandmother? Perhaps you’ve been saving seeds or were given something special by a friend or family member. Much (if not most) of Edmonton’s horticultural history and knowledge is undocumented and exists in the minds of gardeners. Let’s bring that experience into the open. I’d love to know what you’re doing!
I’ve compiled a short google form (~3min). Tell me what you’re doing in your yard. Together, let’s continue a history of horticultural innovation in Edmonton.