Monday, May 10, 2010

Honeywood nursery

Its a peculiarly prairie thing that some communities want to build really big things in a likely misguided attempt to promote tourism.  We’ve got the really big egg at Vegreville, the really big coffee pot at Davidson, a very big truck at Sparwood and the big lily at Parkside, among others.  If any of you watch Corner Gas you may remember the episode where Dog River considered building a really big dirty hoe.  Sometime I’m going to do a post about all the big things in the west but that’s not the point today.

Parkside seems like a strange place for a really big lily but there it is.  In fact its about all that is left in Parkside now.  There’s still the obligatory prairie grain elevator in what’s left of the town but the company affiliation on the elevator (formerly Sask. Wheat Pool) is now obscured by a big splotch of white paint.  I suppose there is likely still a Post Office in town because the postal union seems to have been able to preserve employment in communities that have long since ceased to exist.  Even 40+ years ago when we lived in Shellbrook my memory of Parkside is that there wasn’t much there and the passing time hasn’t been kind to the community.

The lily is there to celebrate the history of Honeywood Nursery which was established in the early 1930’s by A.J.(Bert) Porter.  Its hard for me to think of him as Dr. Porter but later in life he received an honourary Doctorate so I guess that’s the correct appellation now. 

My memories of Bert and his wife Winnie are not doctoral.  When we lived in Shellbrook the nursery was just a collection of fruit trees and flowers set in a few clearings in the trees at the end of a winding overgrown lane.  Invariably when we entered the yard we would be met by Winnie who was a jovial woman with an eccentric sense of wardrobe.  Grandpa used to enjoy visiting the orchard just to see how much cleavage Winnie might be showing.  Grandma loved to tell the story of Winnie warning them to make lots of noise as they drove further back into the orchard because Bert liked to work in the nude. 

With no formal training in horticulture, Bert established the nursery to supplement a teaching salary.  Over the years he developed many original lily varieties and attained a worldwide reputation as a lily breeder.  I believe he also had some success with hardy fruit varieties but his real fame came from lilies.  The provincial government press release about the nursery makes it sound like it had fallen into disrepair and was rescued by a local society.  In point of fact the nursery always looked like it was falling apart at the seams and I am loathe to visit it now for fear it will look so antiseptically organized  that it will destroy my fond memories of the place. 

1 comment:

RVThereYet said...

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RVThereYet