Alfred Pike (1885—1981)
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.