We celebrate Alberta Gardener’s 16th year
It was 1997 when I first decided to create a local Gardener magazine. The reason was simple. There was simply no information about local gardening to be had at the bookstands and I was a novice gardener, eager to learn about what was becoming a passionate interest. didn’t know then about the Prairie Gardener, the little digest-sized gardening book that had been around for years — if you knew where to look — and all I could find, and rarely at that, was Canadian Gardening which seemed to be all about Toronto. There was also Vancouver-based Gardens West, but it was all about gardening on the Coast, a vastly different experience. Both these other magazines have folded now and we find ourselves alone in the field (no pun intended).
So I created the local gardener magazines, starting with Manitoba Gardener, then Ontario Gardener and finally Alberta Gardener in 2002.
I remember coming to Edmonton to consult the Donna Dawson before I started in Alberta. I wanted to know how she, then the Canadian gardening guru on the Internet, felt about this idea. She and Tom bought me breakfast as they filled me with encouragement.
When we launched the magazine, it was a vastly different world from the one we now live in. The garden centres were small and the plants were mostly annuals done up in six- and even nine-packs of seedlings. Sweet peas seemed to be the most popular Calgary flower in the early days. There were very few perennial varieties – even hostas were considered exotics and some people wondered why anyone would want to plant those plain, green things. Clematis was just a word hardly anyone knew how to pronounce (was it clem’- a- tis or cle-mat’-us?) and there was one purple variety available. Daylilies were all orange and finding astilbe was considered a coup. As for daffodils – why, they weren’t hardy here, were they?
I recall writing a garden story about a garden in Calgary where the owner knitted covers to protect her precious roses. There was so little information. One gardener recalled with a laugh how she had planted her six-pack in one lump and another told of how she planted her bulbs pointy side down (makes sense, doesn’t it?).
People planted other bulbs – dahlias and gladiola were important. We knew about canna from civic plantings. We were just learning about the tiny scilla and the lovely grape hyacinth. We dug up the tender bulbs and corms and stored them carefully for the winter. Every year brought something new and exciting to our local stores.
We couldn’t wait for seeds to come in each fall. We planted the lovely four o’clocks and powder puff asters and State Fair zinnias, and of course, there were always bachelor buttons and cosmos. Our borders were neat with sweet alyssum surrounding hothouse impatiens in the shady areas.
We had an editorial board back then that included people like Donna Balzer, Jeff dejong, Hildur Childs, Donna Dawson, John Helder, Edgar Toop and Michael Hickman. Many thanks to Joan Cohen our first editor. These folks and the others who followed were invaluable in providing expertise and ideas.
John and Judith Perrin were our partners then and they spent countless hours diligently promoting the magazine and helping with all the endless detail magazine publishing takes. Along the way, Prolific Graphics became an equity partner and Al Alexandruk and Tom Wilton have been tremendous associates and supports.
So here we are, about to celebrate Canada’s 150th birthday. We are thrilled to be able to present this special edition to honour our nation and our province’s history in the garden. We have tried to mention as many of our pioneer gardeners and gardens as possible. If we have inadvertently left a significant player out, please let us know because we plan to do a return edition next fall, looking toward the next 150 years. Dorothy Dobbie Founder and President Pegasus Publications Inc.
P.S. don’t forget to enter the garden contest.