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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

    Railway Station Gardening

    Influenced by the social reform ideas of the period, public institutions began to take responsibility for improving the property within their management. For the Canadian Pacific Railway this coincided with the desire to promote the fertility of the prairies, in order to encourage immigration. They started with a simple program in 1908 to provide seeds as an encouragement to station agents to cultivate small gardens on station property. The idea was enthusiastically adopted across the country. A forestry department was established to formalize the program. Greenhouses were built to give plants an early start before they were distributed to the individual stations. Teams of experts crossed the country inspecting the gardens. Other railway lines, not to be outdone, started their own programs. As the station agents gained expertise, it was often they who helped to create local horticultural societies and garden clubs.
    Image of flower

    Rhetoric and Roses : A History of Canadian Gardening, 1900-1930.
    von Baeyer, Edwinna.
    Rhetoric and Roses: A History of Canadian Gardening, 1900-1930.
    Toronto: Fitzhenry and Whiteside, 1984.
    Image of flower
    "Because western railway stations were often the hub of small towns, representing their only link with the outside world, Department employees soon found themselves dispensing valuable horticultural information to entire communities."

    Designing Alberta Gardens: The Complete Guide to Beautiful Gardens.
    Mather, Jan.
    Designing Alberta Gardens: The Complete Guide to Beautiful Gardens.
    Red Deer, Alta.: Red Deer College, 1994, p. 9.
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    "The pictures selected this month are from points widely separated, showing how general is the movement for beautification of the Company's premises and how well the object is being attained."

    Canadian Pacific Staff Bulletin.
    "Canadian Pacific Station Gardens", Canadian Pacific Staff Bulletin, 129A, October 1, 1919, p. 3.
    Image of flower
    The station garden program in the West, some 38 years after its initiation, was maintained in the smaller centres by "over 1,250 employees who voluntarily maintain gardens on Company property. To them some 10,000 packets of seeds are sent out each season."

    Canadian Pacific Staff Bulletin.
    "Bloom Bloom Along the Right-of-way," Canadian Pacific Staff Bulletin, July 1946, p. 13.