Flower gardens at City Park in 1951.

Flower gardens at City Park in 1951.

City Park historical photo sparks floral conversation

Picture causes recollection on who was responsible for tending the park's flowers back in the 1950s.

Kelowna photographer Brian Sprout recently posted a picture on Facebook of a floral bed in City Park taken in 1951,  published with my column today, which has spurred considerable conversation.

The picture, now more than 60 years old (almost as old as me!), depicts a bed of geraniums with petunias as a solid border and in the centre a large alocasia or Elephant Ears as it is commonly known.

The conversation began with the question who was in charge of the beautification of the parks and in particular our City Park.

As far as I can remember going back to the 1950s, a gentleman by the name of Geof Cottle was the supervisor for the parks department and he was a frequent visitor/customer to our garden centre on Ethel Street.

In those days, I recall Cottle and my dad  trading notes on plant material. His strong British accent made him sound like the true garden guru.

As I grew into my teens, I was spending more and more time at the store with my dad cutting my teeth on all things gardening.

As a result, I became closer to Geof as the years went by.

I remember him giving me advice on rose pruning—I can still see him holding his hand as if it were a freshly pruned hybrid tea.

As he described to me: “It should look like a cupped hand laying backside to the ground with the fingers representing the five canes pruned to an outward facing bud.”

I remember him dreaming of the day when the city would have the modern greenhouse facilities it has today and I remember his passion for the job he performed so well.

Sprout’s picture reminded me of just how that passion translated into innovative plantings that were far removed from the old English garden themes you might think he would create.

Nothing wrong with old English gardens, mind you, but in the park setting his simple geometric designs with a focal point surrounded by mass plantings really fit the bill.

Another interesting observation I had from the photo was the tall geraniums filling the bed.

Over the years the geranium has become shorter and shorter to accommodate planters and tubs, which is a good thing.

But I feel there is room for the old tall varieties in the market as well.

Come on you geranium hybridizers out there, give us some tall ones!

With all the ideas coming forward to “enhance” “modernize” and discover “best use” of our wonderful City Park, I am compelled to suggest building a tourist information facility with parking for motorhomes is not the best use for the park.

I suggest by beautifying the park with plantings such as was been done in the past and creating a stunning place for people to gather makes more sense…but, I’m just saying.


A correction from my last column about Clematis; the name of the red clematis I am going to plant in my garden is Rebecca, not Ramona as I stated.

Ramona is an older mauve variety and Rebecca is a beautiful new red.

Funny how I could get those ladies mixed up.

Tune in to The Don Burnett Garden Show on AM 1150 News Talk Sports Saturday mornings from 8 to 10 a.m.

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