Man­i­toba Gar­dener and our prov­ince – grow­ing to­gether for 20 years

Manitoba Gardener Magazine - - Contents -

Twenty years ago, we launched the first is­sue of Man­i­toba Gar­dener and in­tro­duced it at the Winnipeg Home and Gar­den show in March, 1998. It was an in­stant hit. We had a tiny booth with peo­ple lined up down the aisle to get a sub­scrip­tion.

It was a funny lit­tle mag­a­zine, cre­ated on a com­puter with a mem­ory the size of a kid’s toy to­day. Build­ing a 4-colour mag­a­zine on a com­puter was still novel in those days and dig­i­tal files had to go to an in­ter­me­di­ary to be turned into film, then burned to plates for print­ing. (To­day, the dig­i­tal file goes straight to plate.) It was an ex­pen­sive propo­si­tion so we shopped around for the cheap­est ser­vice provider and printer we could find. Turns out, the ser­vice provider was in Regina and the printer was in Saska­toon. Be­cause of the long dis­tance, we couldn’t see a fi­nal proof.

Much to our hor­ror, the mag­a­zines came back printed in bold type! The file had cor­rupted and the ser­vice provider didn’t re­al­ize what the fi­nal prod­uct was sup­posed to look like.

The read­ers were not de­terred, how­ever. The older ones con­grat­u­lated us on print­ing some­thing they could ac­tu­ally read!

That first is­sue we printed 30,000 copies, sell­ing sub­scrip­tions like crazy and in­tro­duc­ing the mag­a­zine through a door to door drop. When the sec­ond is­sue ap­peared, we got a num­ber of fu­ri­ous calls: “How come I had to pay for my mag­a­zine when my neigh­bour got his for free!” was the com­plaint. The free dis­tri­bu­tion stopped. Vir­tu­ally ev­ery copy in cir­cu­la­tion has been paid for since then.

And what a change in the world of gar­den­ing. Back then, gar­den cen­tres such as Shelmer­dine and St. Mary’s, were just lit­tle shops out on the prairie. T & T Seeds was still down­town. And the list of prod­uct was very lim­ited. The big news was clema­tis that year as peo­ple were just dis­cov­er­ing that there were va­ri­eties that could be grown here. I re­mem­ber bump­ing into a frus­trated cus­tomer at Shelmer­dine who said she was from On­tario and was very sad to see there were no hosta va­ri­eties for sale!

Most bed­ding plants were an­nu­als, sown and grown right in the shops and sold six or nine to a pack for a dol­lar or two. The choice was largely re­stricted to petu­nias and im­pa­tiens with per­haps some pan­sies and snap­drag­ons and, of course, gera­ni­ums.

Peren­ni­als were few. Most peo­ple that grew ex­otics, such as dahlias or glad­i­o­las, planted them from corms care­fully saved and re­newed year af­ter year.

But once we be­gan talk­ing about the pos­si­bil­i­ties in the Man­i­toba Gar­dener, the gar­den cen­tres and the pub­lic were quick to re­spond. The plant se­lec­tion ex­ploded and so did the prices. The gar­den cen­tres grew as we con­tin­ued to chal­lenge lo­cal gar­den­ers with new ideas.

As for us, our first edi­tor was Joan Co­hen, who had just moved back to Winnipeg from Ot­tawa where she was heav­ily into pol­i­tics as the bureau chief for the Winnipeg Free Press. Now she had to bend her mind to gar­den­ing as did we all – and we were all just learn­ing. But what a won­der­ful jour­ney it was, and not just an in­tel­lec­tual one. The jour­ney took us well be­yond the com­puter key­board and our imag­i­na­tions. We ex­plored the prov­ince from top to bot­tom, look­ing for gar­dens in the far­thest reaches and be­ing care­ful to give equal at­ten­tion to both ur­ban and ru­ral gar­dens.

It has been a won­der­ful 20 years. thank you all for your sup­port and for shar­ing your gar­dens.

– Dorothy Dob­bie

Man­i­toba Gar­dener's first is­sue.

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