Canada's 150th, Manitoba Gardener's 20th year We celebrate!
It was 1997 when I first decided to create Manitoba 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.
I 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, which became my model as I developed our own publication for the local gardener launched in 1998. Both these other magazines have folded now and we find ourselves alone in the field (no pun intended).
Two years later, in 2000, we created Ontario Gardener and two years after that we came out with Alberta Gardener, both of them still dedicated to providing local insight into the joys of gardening in each region.
When we launched Manitoba Gardener at the Home and Garden show in March 1998 (we sold 3,000 subscriptions in the first three months), 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. There were very few perennial varieties — even hostas were considered exotics and some people wondered why anyone would want to plant those tiresome, green things. I recall meeting a woman from Ontario at Shelmerdine, then just a small store on Roblin Blvd., where she was bemoaning all the lovely varieties she had left behind. Clematis was just a word hardly anyone knew how to pronounce (was is 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?
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. I planted the lovely four o’clocks and powder puff asters and State Fair zinnias, and of course, I always had bachelor buttons and cosmos. My borders were neat with sweet alyssum surrounding hothouse impatiens in the shady areas.
We had an editorial board back then that included people like Wendy Mackie, Dr. Wilbert Ronald, Jan Pedersen, Prof. Charlie Thomsen, Prof. Ted McLaughlin and Mike Allen, among others who joined over the years. Joan Cohen, who is still with us, was our tireless editor. Susan Morgan was our graphic designer. These folks were invaluable in providing hard work, 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 Alex- andruk and Tom Wilton have been tremendous associates and supports.
I also want to thank all my many guests and listeners on my weekly radio show on CJOB. We have been on the air since 2001, and every show has been a special thrill as I learn from my listeners and my guests alike. Kevin Twomey deserves a bow for his willingness to fill in, sometimes at short notice.
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.
Our first issue of the Manitoba Gardener.