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Cultivating Canadian Gardens: A History of Gardening in Canada

Planting the Seeds

Cultivating the Garden

  • Second-Generation Gardening
  • Landscape Architecture
  • Railway Station Gardening
  • Gardening in the Schools

    The Cultivators
    Reaping the Harvest
    Photos by Beth Powning
    Other Gardening Sites

  • Cultivating the Garden

    From the 1890s through the early decades of the 20th century a social awakening, known as the "social gospel", spread throughout most of the Western world. This Protestant movement, based on the idea that no personal salvation was possible without social salvation, led to a wide range of social reforms. One of these was a new emphasis on nature and the importance of improving the landscape in and around the cities: around homes, around institutions such as the railways, and in the schools to instill these ideas in children. All of this led to an increased interest in gardens and their role in the new, socially responsible Canada.

    [This section of the exhibition owes much to Edwinna von Baeyer's detailed research to be found in her book, included in the section on Railway Station Gardening, Rhetoric and Roses: A History of Canadian Gardening 1900-1930, and in A Selected Bibliography for Garden History in Canada in The New Experts section.]

    Second-Generation Gardening

    Already, by the early 19th century, Lower Canada was into a second generation of landscaping gardens on its great estates. The wealthy fur and lumber barons were building elegant homes with elaborate grounds and gardens. Towards the end of the century, serious gardeners in Ontario were into second-generation gardening as well and were beginning to produce helpful guides about gardening in the Canadian environment, or writing loving descriptions of their own gardens and gardening practices. Seed companies had become well established and were including beautiful art illustrating the kinds of flowers, fruits and vegetables growers dream of.
    Image of flower
    D.W. Beadle, the son of nurseryman Chauncey Beadle, was the first editor of the Canadian Horticulturist. As such he was an appropriate person to put together this very detailed guide dedicated to the Fruit Growers' Association of Ontario and supported by them. Not surprisingly, it includes much advice on the cultivation of fruits and the way to successfully sustain an orchard. For many years it was the only English-language, comprehensive text on gardening in the Canadian climate.

    Canadian Fruit, Flower and Kitchen Gardener.
    Beadle, Delos W.
    Canadian Fruit, Flower and Kitchen Gardener.
    Toronto: James Campbell, 1872.
    Image of flower
    "We hope that this little work will be of some use not only to the settlers and farmers living far from town, but also to everyone who posesses a small portion of land near the house, as you find in most of our villages". [translation]

    Le Potager: Jardin du cultivateur.
    Santerre, Alec.
    Le Potager: Jardin du cultivateur.
    Québec: Darveau, 1902, p. 4.
    Image of flower
    Annie Jack wrote "Garden Talks", a column of gardening advice published in the newspaper Montreal Witness, at the turn of the century. Almost a century later her practical advice on the kitchen garden, and on growing fruit, flowers, and hedges still holds true. She finishes up with a year-round calendar of reminders. There are tasks for every month but she allows that in December, if the garden has been faithfully tended, amateur gardeners may "rest from their labours".

      Jack, Annie L.
      The Canadian Garden: A Pocket Help for the Amateur.
      Toronto: Ryerson, 1903.