Museum nurtures locally adapted plants

The giant strawberry strain is just one local variety tucked away in the Heritage Park Museum gardens.

  • May. 1, 2015 4:00 p.m.

By Terra Nord

As the days lengthen and the planting of community gardens begins, we at Heritage Park Museum consider the fascinating history of heirloom plants in the Terrace area.

For example, the Skeena Wonder Strawberry was a hardy plant bred specifically for the local climate. These strawberries were heavy producers which had great flavour, colour, and size. It is said that the strawberries were so large that you required egg cartons, one per section, to transport them.

The interest in the Skeena Wonder Strawberry has been outstanding: the strawberries have now been featured on the radio, on television, and in this newspaper. After all of this publicity, Heritage Park Museum has now given away over 150 runners to people who want to preserve and cultivate this historical fruit. The museum has also started a running list of the people who wish to attain a runner of this strawberry, so give us a call if you would like your name to be added.      This heritage berry is located in the organic heritage garden at the museum. This garden houses many other heritage plants which can be directly traced to early settlers, some of which date back more than 100 years. And the stock continues to grow as more people contribute.

The museum acquired 10 donations last season. One of these donations includes banana potatoes that were bred by the Michaud brothers in Thornhill in the early 1900s and donated to us by Ewa Luby, via Emil Froese’s garden. The potatoes have been planted near the Skeena Wonder Strawberry in a recently built potato planter box, which was built by myself and volunteer blacksmith Curtis Hampton. The wood used for the planter was from the old porch on the Kalum Lake Hotel.

Dr. Norma Kerby established the garden in the 1980s and continues to help us. Her donations include a Double French Purple Lilac that was originally from Eva and Chris Haugland’s house on Park Avenue, which was built in 1939.

This lilac is thought to have been exclusively found in “upper class” ladies’ gardens. Dr. Kerby also donated a Snowball Bush, which was also originally from Eva and Chris Haugland’s garden. The Snowball Bush was passed around by the 1920s and was found in other gardens at that time, such as Bruce and Beatrice Johnstone’s garden who were the first owners of the Lakelse Hot Springs.

The preservation of these pioneer plants is important for future generations as it reminds us about the significance of early agriculture and gardening in the Terrace area. The importance cannot be overemphasized: cultural heritage affirms our identity as a people, creates bonds within communities and is a source of social memory. Heritage Park Museum actively engages the public to ensure the continuation of knowledge and history. We encourage everyone in the community, as well as outside the community to visit what we have to offer. As well, we are always seeking information and donations to expand our heritage garden. For more information, please contact us at Heritage Park Museum.

Terra Nord was Heritage Park Museum’s garden coordinator for the past two summers. In gardening’s off-season, she studies ecology at the University of Northern British Columbia.