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Cultivating Canadian Gardens: A History of Gardening in Canada


Planting the Seeds

  • Native Agriculture and Plant Use
  • Canadian Flora
  • Pioneer Gardening
  • 19th Century Seed Catalogues

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

  • Planting the Seeds

    Pioneer Gardening

    The pioneer era of gardening in Canada stretches over a long period of time and continues even today in the more remote parts of the country. From the 17th century, with Champlain's first settlement at Isle Sainte-Croix and the gardens at early northern Hudson's Bay Company Posts, to the early 20th century on the prairies and in the Northwest, for more than 300 years tenacious pioneers struggled with land  -  sometimes fertile but just as often rock-ridden or dense with forests  -  to raise the crops on which their survival depended. Their letters, diaries, books, sketches, and paintings give an idea of just what a daunting task it could be.
    Image of flower
    The map of Champlain's earliest settlement in 1604, at Isle Sainte-Croix on the south shore of the Bay of Fundy, included areas set aside for gardens, but the settlement failed too soon for these to be realized.

    Voyages du Sieur de Champlain, ou, Journal ès découvertes de la Nouvelle France.
    Champlain, Samuel de.
    Voyages du Sieur de Champlain, ou, Journal ès découvertes de la Nouvelle France.
    Paris: Imprimé aux frais du gouvernement ..., 1830.
    Image of flower
    Louis Hébert, who supervised the gardens of Port Royal, the second settlement established by Champlain, later settled at Quebec and is known as New France's first farmer. His stone house can be seen here at the top of the cliff.

    Louis Hébert, premier colon canadien et sa famille.
    Couillard-Despres, Azarie.
    Louis Hébert, premier colon canadien et sa famille.
    Paris: Sainte-Augustin, Desclee, DeBrouwer & Cie, c1913.
    Image of flower
    As early as the 1670s, the Hudson's Bay Company's northern forts planted gardens with seeds sent from England. The greens especially (mustard sprouts, radish and turnip tops, and cabbages) were an important addition to the diet of the men who often suffered from scurvy.

      Moodie, D.W.
      "Gardening on Hudson Bay: The First Century", The Beaver, Summer 1978.
    Image of flower
    The sophisticated gardens of 18th-century France, based on logic, order, discipline, and beauty, were adapted to the potager requirements of the Louisbourg gardens.

      O'Neill, Anne.
      "Discipline and Beauty: The Orderly Gardens of 18th century Louisbourg", Canadian Collector, Vol. 20, No. 2, March/April 1985.
    Image of flower
    Pehr Kalm, who visited Quebec City in 1749, noted the flourishing kitchen gardens and listed the vegetables he found there.

    Grande et petite histoire des jardins potagers québécois.
    Arseneault, Celine et Daniel Fortin.
    "Grande et petite histoire des jardins potagers québécois", Quatre-Temps, La Revue des Amis du Jardin botanique de Montréal, Vol. 18, No. 1., 1994.