Gla­dys Reeves (1890—1974)

Alberta Gardener Magazine - - News -

Gla­dys Reeves ar­rived in Al­berta with her par­ents and older sib­lings in 1904 – the year Ed­mon­ton be­came a city. She was 14 years old, and promptly en­rolled at the school where Wal­ter Ram­say, soon to be Ed­mon­ton’s most prom­i­nent florist and nurs­ery­man, was the prin­ci­pal.

Within a year Reeves be­gan to work for cel­e­brated Al­berta pho­tog­ra­pher, Ernest Brown. By 1920, she and Brown had be­come dis­creet but life­long part­ners, and she had set up her own pho­tog­ra­phy busi­ness, The Art League, on Jasper Av­enue.

But if pho­tog­ra­phy was her vo­ca­tion and source of in­come, city beau­ti­fi­ca­tion was her mis­sion: Gla­dys may have done more than any other Ed­mon­to­nian to pro­mote tree-plant­ing and gar­den­ing as ex­pres­sions of cit­i­zen­ship.

In 1924 she was elected the Ed­mon­ton Hor­ti­cul­ture So­ci­ety’s first fe­male pres­i­dent. In one dy­namic term of of­fice she over­saw a mind-bog­gling ar­ray of ac­com­plish­ments. All these were car­ried out, in Reeves’ words, “with a view to mak­ing Ed­mon­ton a “city beau­ti­ful”, by the plant­ing of trees, lay­ing out grounds, and re­ward­ing the qual­ity and per­fec­tion of gar­den prod­ucts in the Ed­mon­ton Bench Show and en­cour­ag­ing the love of gar­den­ing by pro­mot­ing com­pe­ti­tion in gar­den con­tests.”

Four thou­sand peo­ple at­tended the bench show that year, 1,311 va­cant lots were rented to Ed­mon­to­ni­ans for gar­den­ing pur­poses, seven free lec­tures were of­fered to the pub­lic, a gar­den com­pe­ti­tion was staged and many other ini­tia­tives were un­der­taken.

Reeves brought the same en­thu­si­asm and en­ergy to the Ed­mon­ton tree-plant­ing com­mit­tee, of which she was char­ter mem­ber and sec­re­tary. Gar­den­ing and tree-plant­ing were, for Reeves, acts of faith in the fu­ture. She must have been pleased to read about her­self in a May 1931, is­sue of the Mon­treal Daily Star: “She has given hours of her time, and bound­less en­ergy to the beau­ti­fi­ca­tion of her city, with no other re­mu­ner­a­tion than the knowl­edge that the world will be a more gra­cious place, Ed­mon­ton a more beau­ti­ful city, be­cause of her work. Some stranger in days when this young city has grown old may find friend­ship and re­fresh­ment in a strong and stately tree and the in­flu­ence of Miss Reeves. Mem­bers of her in­de­fati­ga­ble com­mit­tee and all those who have planted trees in this and past sea­sons on Memo­rial Drive, city boule­vards, pub­lic grounds and their own prop­erty, will reach bravely into the fu­ture while a tree stands in Ed­mon­ton.”

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