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Cultivating Canadian Gardens: A History of Gardening in Canada

Planting the Seeds
Cultivating the Garden
The Cultivators

Reaping the Harvest

  • Harrowsmith
  • The New Experts
  • Their Own Gardens
  • The Garden in Literature
  • Gardening from Sea to Sea to Sea
  • All Kinds of Gardens in All Kinds of Spaces

    Photos by Beth Powning
    Other Gardening Sites

  • Reaping the Harvest: Gardening Today

    Canadian Books in Print for 1997 lists 190 English-language titles under the category of gardening. How different this is from even 24 years ago! In 1973, the first year a subject catalogue was published, only 26 titles were listed. A similar increase, on a smaller scale, has more recently taken place with French-language titles. The turning point seems to have been about 1976, just about the time the magazine Harrowsmith appeared, in response to and as a stimulation to the back-to-the-land movement. Within the last decade, the number of Canadian gardening books published has increased each year. There are now bookstores in several cities devoted solely to books on gardening, and even antiquarian book dealers who make this their speciality.


    The Harrowsmith story is a Canadian phenomenon. Created in the Ontario countryside by American expatriate James Lawrence, it was immediately successful and was soon winning prestigious magazine awards. But success brought financial problems. Harrowsmith was bought by the media giant Telemedia and moved to Toronto early in the 90s. Recently it was resold and moved to Montreal.
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    The first issue of Harrowsmith was on the stands in May of 1976. For the gardener it had much to commend it. There were articles on starting a serious vegetable garden and on the Stokes Seed Company, advice on dealing with garden pests, on blackberries, on early planting and more.

    Harrowsmith, Vol. 1, No. 1, May/June 1976.
    Harrowsmith, Vol. 1, No. 1, May/June 1976.
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    Soon, aware that there was a desperate need for gardening books for the burgeoning Canadian audience, Harrowsmith entered book publishing. One of its early successes came with Patrick Lima's classic book on growing perennials in the Canadian climate based on experiences in his own garden in Larkwhistle, Ontario, on the Bruce Peninsula.

    The Harrowsmith Perennial Garden
    Lima, Patrick.
    The Harrowsmith Perennial Garden.
    Camden East, Ont.: Camden House, 1981.
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    "The aim of this book is to inspire the reader to grow a garden that is as economical as it is enjoyable; that is free of gimmicks and fads; that is a very personal expression of the reader's own likes and dislikes, climate and environment."

    The Harrowsmith Northern Gardener
    Bennett, Jennifer.
    The Harrowsmith Northern Gardener.
    Camden East, Ont.: Camden, 1989, p. 13.