Edmonton Gardeners Have a Long History of Pushing the Limits
One-hundred years ago, Edmontonians longed to grow apples. Today, the City has so many apples that not-for-profits like Fruits of Sherbrook and Operation Fruit Rescue Edmonton (OFRE) work with the community to save fruit that would otherwise go unharvested. So what happened? In short, 100 years of backyard tinkering.
The plant varieties we currently enjoy are the result of thousands of formal and informal experiments; often performed in backyards by amateurs and hobbyists. In her book, “Why Grow Here: Essays on Edmonton’s Gardening History” Kathryn Chase Merrett outlines Edmonton’s strong history of backyard experimentation, plant breeding, and pushing the horticultural limits.
Edmonton’s Global Gardeners
Goerges Bugnet (1879 – 1981) famously developed hardy rose varieties that are now enjoyed all over the world. 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 one piece of the puzzle. As a young city, many of us are only a few generations removed from the farm. For others, especially new immigrants – who bring with them their horticultural practices – trying to grow plants from “back home” expands our collective sense of what’s possible; think Edmonton early Italians immigrants trying to grow Mediterranean grapes varieties or Vietnamese refugees growing Cai Lan.
Edmonton Gardeners Are Still Pushing The Limits
Edmonton gardeners are experimental optimists and always looking for new things to grow and ways to extend the growing season. Personally, I can’t resist trying new things – Last spring, I planted hardy pawpaw, persimmon, and magnolia trees in my backyard. It’s now February of the following year and things are still looking good for these Edmonton oddball plants.
Share Your Backyard Experiments!
Are you working on your own backyard experiment? Do you have an Edmonton oddball plant? 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? I’d love to hear and share what you’re working on!