History of 
The Prairie Garden

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~ The Prairie Garden : 1937 - 1980 ~

These timeless and out of print editions of TPG have been digitized and catalogued thanks to the efforts of the Manitoba Historical Society. 

Click here to view all available editions.

The Prairie Garden Committee began in 1956 as a standing committee of the Winnipeg Horticultural Society, which had published The Winnipeg Flower Garden and The Flower Garden, the precursor of The Prairie Garden, starting in 1937. The book began as the annual report of the Winnipeg Horticultural Society, and was free to members when they paid their annual membership fees.

​It was first called The Winnipeg Flower Garden and included not only the official annual report of the society, but also informational articles by prominent local horticulturists of the time. The name was changed to The Flower Garden in 1955 because of the book’s ever-increasing readership. However, it was only to be called The Flower Garden for two years before becoming The Prairie Garden in 1957, once again because of its ever-broadening popularity, now extending right across the Prairies and beyond and because of its applicability to gardening in this region in general, and not to Winnipeg in particular.

 

During this same time period (mid-50s), the annual statements of the Winnipeg Horticultural Society were no longer included. In 1957, in conjunction with the book's new name, Glad Reycraft began his long tenure as the Editor (1957 to 1973). Glad was involved with the publication prior to that period as a member of the Winnipeg Horticultural Society. He was a Director of this Winnipeg society in the early 1950s, then served consecutive terms as Vice President and then President. In 1956 he became Chairman of The Flower Garden Committee.

The newly formed committee became The Prairie Garden Committee in 1957. So, 1957, 20 years after the first edition was published, was an auspicious year for The Prairie Garden. The book had a new name, a new look, and a new process. Now The Prairie Garden Committee was responsible for publication of the book, but still under the continued auspices of The Winnipeg Horticultural Society.

Since the early years, the format of the book has changed somewhat. While colour photos first appeared in 1961, it was only in 1974 that the colour section became a regular feature. The colour photos in this issue targeted a particular topic or theme which was highlighted on the cover. The book was such a success that the practice has continued ever since. In 1974 the idea was expanded and a portion of the articles in the books were also chosen to expound on the theme highlighted by the colour photos.

This was the year after Glad Reycraft stepped down and Phyllis Thomson took over as Editor. A Treasurer position was also created the same year, and Roger Brown took over finances for the committee from Glad. During this time, the process to formalize the committee began, and in the late 1970s a set of regulations was adopted and positions for Editor, Treasurer, Secretary and Chair were ratified. This allowed for a more structured approach to the task at hand and a clearer delineation of responsibilities.

In 1987, the practice of inviting a Guest Editor began (Lynn Collicutt, Perennials for the Prairies) to assist with the collection of theme material.  Frances Wershler became Editor when Diane Wreford retired after completing her term as Editor with the 1989 issue featuring The Best of 50 Years of Prairie Gardening.  The digest-sized book (approximately 180 pages) now featured a 16-page colour insert that highlighted the theme and general gardening articles alike. In 2012, with Guest Editor Rick Durand and the release of Trees, The Prairie Garden featured its first edition with full colour throughout.

Committee members have changed over the years, usually after serving for a number of years. Glad Reycraft retired as Editor in 1973, after serving on the committee from 1950 to 1973. He was succeeded by Phyllis Thomson (1974 to 1979). That same year (1974) Roger Brown became the Treasurer. In 1981 Louis Lenz succeeded P. J. Peters who served as Chair from 1970 to 1980.

When Phyllis Thomson left in 1979, Dianne Wreford became the Editor (1982 to 1989). Frances Smith joined the committee in 1977 and soon became Secretary. Fran Wershler took over as editor in 1990. In 1990 Linda Pearn became Secretary when Frances Smith retired. 1991 was the first issue produced on a computer, and Fran's second issue as Editor.

In 1997 Jean Pomo became Treasurer, replacing Roger Brown, who stepped down from this position only to step back again in 2003 and serve as Co-Chair with Gary Platford. Roger Brown retired from the executive in mid-2007. Gary's other Co-Chair, Charlie Thomsen, shared the Chair position with Gary from 1990 to 1993. Gary Platford retired from the committee in 2009.

When the Winnipeg Horticultural Society disbanded in 1999/2000, The Prairie Garden Committee continued to publish the book. In 2002 Frances Wershler stepped down after being Editor for 12 consecutive issues, and was replaced by Yvonne Dean for the 2003 book. She was the first Editor to send the publication to the printer on disk. Audrey Hosegood became Editor, producing the 2004 to 2007 issues.

Audrey also developed our first website, giving The Prairie Garden its first Internet presence. Richard Denesiuk took over as Editor March 1, 2007, beginning with the 2008 edition featuring Roses with Paul Olsen as Guest Editor. He was the first Editor to include colour throughout the book.

Many members of this dedicated committee stay on for over a decade or more.  Susanne Olver, for example, joined The Prairie Garden Committee in 1976 and continues to serve. All of our current committee members are serious and distinguished gardeners, many being veteran professionals in one or more of a variety of specialties.