Robert Si­monet (1903—1989)

Alberta Gardener Magazine - - News -

Born near Paris, Robert Si­monet came to Ed­mon­ton in 1919 at the age of 16. He ac­com­pa­nied his sis­ter who had mar­ried a Cana­dian sol­dier after the First World War. With an early in­ter­est in hor­ti­cul­ture fos­tered by his grand­mother, he soon found work with lo­cal farm­ers and mar­ket gar­den­ers.

By 1930 Si­monet had his own mar­ket gar­den near Bon­nie Doon. There he cul­ti­vated 12 acres of fruit, trees, peren­ni­als and lilies. A self-taught plant breeder, he learned ge­net­ics through hours of study after work in the Univer­sity of Al­berta li­brary.

Si­monet was the first plant breeder out­side Ja­pan to de­velop com­pletely dou­ble petu­nias, by us­ing a sin­gle par­ent plant car­ry­ing com­plete dom­i­nance for dou­ble flow­ers. It took him three years, and he even­tu­ally in­tro­duced nine colours and larger blooms. His seeds sold for as much as $500 per ounce, ac­cord­ing to the Sher­wood Park News: “The petu­nias were the main­stay of the Si­monet busi­ness for years to come, with the Si­monet green­houses at one time em­ploy­ing five peo­ple just to pol­li­nate these flow­ers. This al­lowed Si­monet to find new pur­suits.

He won the pres­ti­gious Steven­son Memo­rial Gold Medal in 1960 and was in­ducted into the Al­berta Agri­cul­ture Hall of Fame in 1984. Si­monet’s plant in­tro­duc­tions in­cluded: dou­ble petu­nias, dou­ble hol­ly­hocks, Si­monet’s buff gla­di­o­lus, Alta-sweet turnips, Si­monet ap­ple, Al­berta straw­berry, and Black But­ter­fly lily.

Dou­ble Hol­ly­hocks were an­other in­ter­est.

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