Garden Gear - Gardening Books

Book Review: A History Of Canadian Gardening

A History Of Canadian Gardening,
by Carol Martin;
McArthur & Company;
188 pages;

Not a history of this magazine as its title might imply, Carol Martin's book offers a compact overview of gardening in Canada, and a parallel social history to boot. Cleanly written, it is far from being a dull, dusty tome, and engages the imagination as it examines the tribulations and triumphs of pioneering gardeners. The book's pages are peppered with fascinating historical documents and photographs.

The reader is treated to juicy tidbits of information. About the Hurons: “They were highly successful gardeners who concentrated mainly on the Three Sisters-corn, beans and squash...The seeds of all three were planted together in hills. As the corn grew tall and strong, the beans twined around the stalks (fixing nitrogen and thus improving the soil), and the squash spread its broad leaves on the ground at the base of the corn, thereby controlling weeds, an excellent example of companion planting.”

Elsewhere, Martin recounts England's lack of understanding of growing conditions in the colonies. The directors of the Hudson's Bay Company reasoned that as Fort Albany (on James Bay) shared a similar latitude to that of London, settlers would be able to grow similar crops, and sent them wildly unsuitable garden seeds and grains (a list is provided).

Martin covers vast territory and subject matter in her slim book, including subjects as diverse as railroad gardens, seed companies, landscape architects, modern garden gurus-maybe too much territory. Being a sucker for details, I was left feeling hungry for more information. I would have liked to know much more about the astonishing work of some of Canada's horticulturists, for example. But this is a minor quibble.
-Aldona Satterthwaite

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