Ieuan Evans

Alberta Gardener Magazine - - News -

En­thu­si­asm and per­sis­tence per­son­i­fied

So how did Ieuan, whose Welsh ac­cent is still very ev­i­dent, end up in ru­ral Al­berta? He grew up on the west coast of Wales in a hor­ti­cul­tural mi­lieu. His par­ents were both avid gar­den­ers (his fa­ther grew ap­ples, his mother grew roses and glads), and his in­laws from sib­lings’ mar­riages were in­volved in hor­ti­cul­ture.

At the Uni­ver­sity of Wales, Evans earned an hon­ours de­gree in agri­cul­ture. “Then I couldn’t de­cide whether to go to Cam­bridge, North Bor­neo, the Cook Is­lands, Trinidad, Aus­tralia or Hong Kong,” he re­calls.

With the as­sis­tance of a schol­ar­ship pro­vided by a Welsh fam­ily liv­ing in Flor­ida, he ended up at the Uni­ver­sity of Flor­ida. There, he ob­tained a PHD in bio­chem­istry, plant sciences and vi­rol­ogy, qual­i­fy­ing him as a plant pathol­o­gist.

His ca­reer in­cluded teach­ing at the Uni­ver­sity of Guelph, 16 years as Al­berta’s plant di­ag­nos­tic pathol­o­gist and 12 years as re­search pathol­o­gist, be­fore he re­tired from the pro­vin­cial gov­ern­ment and joined Agri-trend Agrol­ogy as a con­sul­tant. Evans has writ­ten and con­trib­uted to hun­dreds of doc­u­ments, ar­ti­cles and pa­pers in­clud­ing in­valu­able con­tri­bu­tions to dis­eases of field crops in Canada.

Ieuan Evans has fre­quently found him­self, as he puts it, “swim­ming against the cur­rent” with his ideas, and he chides sci­en­tists who “do the same old thing in the same old way.” His work is based on ob­ser­va­tions in the field, and a readi­ness to jump in and try some­thing rather than set­ting up for­mal ex­per­i­ments.

When he worked for the prov­ince of Al­berta as a plant di­ag­nos­tic pathol­o­gist, de­ter­min­ing why plants have died, he pushed some ideas that were crit­i­cized and laughed at but which proved to be cor­rect. He be­came known as “Dr. Sulphur” when he pro­moted the ad­di­tion of sulphur for canola crops; and later, “Dr. Cop­per” be­cause he in­sisted that the ma­jor prob­lem on al­most half the fields pro­duc­ing wheat and bar­ley was a short­age of cop­per. When Al­berta’s “prove-it-to-me” farm­ers found fewer crop dis­eases, they be­came believ­ers.

Evans likes to chal­lenge con­ven­tional ideas and neg­a­tive, self-lim­it­ing think­ing. And his en­thu­si­asm knows no bounds. He’s an op­ti­mist, a can-do per­son who en­cour­ages oth­ers to try things, too. Which is why he got into plant breed­ing: “The real thrill is you can tinker around and pro­duce some­thing new by chance or de­sign,” he says.

Evans al­ways has lots of breed­ing projects on the go. In ad­di­tion to lilies, he has worked with lilacs, pinks, irises, amaryl­lis, May­day blos­soms, even ap­ples. How­ever, he cheer­fully ad­mits he has been “spec­tac­u­larly un­suc­cess­ful” at cross­breed­ing ap­ples.

He was in­ducted into the Al­berta Agri­cul­ture Hall of Fame in 2012. The gala din­ner cul­mi­nated with a cheese­cake dessert topped with “Evans Cherry” com­pote from his Al­berta-de­vel­oped Evans Cherry trees!

Whether it’s di­ag­nos­ing the prob­lems of a lawn or crop, or breed­ing plants to com­bine the prac­ti­cal with the beau­ti­ful, Ieuan Evans is keen to make gar­den­ing bet­ter and to see oth­ers do the same. “Gar­den­ing is my life,” he says. “It’s all tied up in gar­den­ing and re­sults.”

Ieuan Evans’ favourite lily, named ‘Gwyneth’ for his mother.

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