Al­fred Pike (1885—1981)

Alberta Gardener Magazine - - News -

In 1910, five years after Al­berta be­came a Cana­dian prov­ince, Al­fred Pike aban­doned a ca­reer as a law clerk in Not­ting­ham, Eng­land. Ar­riv­ing in Ed­mon­ton, he took a po­si­tion with A. E. Pot­ter Seed Co.

Be­tween 1910 and his death in 1981, aged 96 years, Pike changed the face of hor­ti­cul­ture in Ed­mon­ton and in Al­berta as a whole. In 1915, Pike opened a small store on Jasper Av­enue, founded his own seed com­pany and is­sued his first cat­a­logue.

As a friend of Ge­orge Har­court, Al­berta’s first deputy min­is­ter of agri­cul­ture and first pro­fes­sor of hor­ti­cul­ture at the Univer­sity of Al­berta, Pike se­cured a test plot at the Univer­sity of Al­berta and be­gan test­ing all the seeds he sold. This led to the firm’s slo­gan, “Pike’s seeds are the finest in the world for this cli­mate”. Whether it was the slo­gan or the qual­ity of the seed or both, Pike and Co. was an ex­tra­or­di­nary suc­cess.

Even be­fore he went into busi­ness, Pike had joined the Ed­mon­ton Hor­ti­cul­tural So­ci­ety, the be­gin­ning of an as­so­ci­a­tion that was to last a life­time. With other EHS mem­bers, he vol­un­teered his time in the 1920s on a tree-plant­ing com­mit­tee, and spent week­ends dig­ging trees from the coun­try­side to en­hance the city’s res­i­den­tial boule­vards.

Al­fred Pike loved roses and in the early 1930s he worked with Wal­ter Wil­son, a fel­low rose en­thu­si­ast and man­ager of the Capi­tol Theatre, on a scheme to make Ed­mon­ton the “Rose City of Canada”. He sourced, grafted and sold hardy rose stock and wrote a book­let on how to care for the plants. Wal­ter Wil­son of­fered the foyer of the Capi­tol Theatre as a venue for an an­nual show. For two decades, be­gin­ning in 1933, the Cap­i­tal Theatre Rose Show en­cour­aged Ed­mon­ton’s rose en­thu­si­asts to do the im­pos­si­ble – grow roses in Ed­mon­ton.

In 1982, the year after Pike died with­out heirs, Pike and Co. was snapped up by Mcken­zie Steel Briggs Seeds Ltd. of Brandon, Man. While the com­pany was bought out by Jiffy In­ter­na­tional in 2006, it still sells seeds un­der brands Pike, Mcken­zie, Thomp­son & Mor­gan and Gusto Italia, and op­er­ates Mc­fay­den and Mccon­nell (mail or­der com­pany) as well as re­tail­ing sev­eral other gar­den­ing prod­ucts and ac­ces­sories.

The com­pany that Al­fred Pike founded has traded hands over the years but the seed line is still avail­able.

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