Winnipeg Free Press - PRINT EDITION

Prairie Garden a boon to flatland green thumbs

The Prairie Garden Committee - Winnipeg FRee Press , Boris Minikebich

From left: Co-chairs Ed Czarnecki and Colleen Zacharias, Susanne Olver, Sandy Venton, Richard Denesiuk, Jean Pomo, Fran Wershler, Carla Hrycyna and Valerie Denesiuk
(photo Boris Minkevich - Winnipeg Free Press)

Some gardeners are content to sit back and relax during the Manitoba winters, there are dedicated Manitobans who have gardening on their minds 12 months of the year.

Volunteers with the Prairie Garden -- Western Canada's only gardening annual -- spend most of the year researching, writing and editing articles for the publication. Once a project of the Horticultural Society, the book has become an essential tool for many gardeners across the Prairies, put out annually by a team of nearly 20 volunteers. The 72nd edition of the Prairie Garden comes out this month, just in time for the holiday gift-giving season, and the group expects to sell nearly 5,000 copies.

Susanne Olver, a great-grandmother, has worked on the Prairie Garden since 1976. Before retiring 18 years ago, she was a horticulturalist at the University of Manitoba.

"I like to be involved and I'm still interested in horticulture and plants," she said of why she's volunteered for so long.

She adds that each year the Prairie Garden takes on a new theme that has allowed volunteer editors like herself to establish a large network of contacts. The 2011 book features articles on healthy gardening while the 2010 edition focused on annuals and biennials. Past editions have documented shrubs, roses and the edible landscape, among many other themes. Olver adds that the book's volunteer committee is made up of experts from a wide range of fields.

Volunteer Fran Wershler has worked on the Prairie Garden committee for the past 21 years. She said the publication, which started out as the Flower Garden magazine in 1937, was established as a way to assist newcomers to Winnipeg with their gardening.

"So many people come to Winnipeg and they bring the gardening knowledge they have from some other place. They don't know how to handle the Winnipeg gumbo for instance or the other Prairie conditions like the winter and so forth," she explained.

Valarie Dennichuk has worked on the annual since 2007 and said it's a great collection of practical information for any Prairie gardener.

"My favourite saying is 'no California translation required,'" she joked. "It's all useable stuff that you can deal with and that makes sense to people. It's the best book for anyone in this area because it's written by people who have this experience."

For more information about the Prairie Garden, please call 489-3466 or visit the publication's website at The book sells at McNally Robinson and several garden centres around Winnipeg for $12.

Republished from the Winnipeg Free Press print edition November 15, 2010 B2