Unearthing Surrey’s roots in the garden

An exhibition at Stewart Farm that closes this weekend reveals a connection between tulips, a former mayor, and the B.C. legislature.

An exhibition at Surrey’s historic Stewart Farm reveals the connection between tulips, a former mayor of Surrey, and the B.C. legislature.

Dig It!, which ends Saturday (Nov. 1), unearths early gardening practices in the city, featuring artifacts and photos from Surrey’s collections.

They tell the stories behind the growing business of backyard gardening, along with contemporary paintings, and the heritage garden.

The exhibit is about gardening – it’s a cornucopia of tidbits of what we’ve learned in the past, and how it’s influencing things today.

Gardening for pleasure – rather than for sustenance – has been part of Surrey’s culture since its earliest days, and the passion has only grown.

Former B.C. premier William Vander Zalm, for example, got his start out of high school selling tulip bulbs, and later ran a garden centre.

Vander Zalm would later enter politics, first as an alderman, then becoming mayor of Surrey, and finally premier of the province, but his garden would never be too far away.

He even penned a gardening book and ran Fantasy Garden World in Richmond.

The main focus of the small exhibit is the art and science and technique of gardening and how gardening has changed through time – even as many things about gardening stay the same, says Spence.

Travelling salesmen used to sell seeds to the burgeoning home market of the backyard gardeners who would later crowd garden centres like Art Knapp’s and Potters each spring.

There have been ebbs and flows to its popularity over the centuries.

Gardening took off in the Renaissance era. Then there was another peak after the First World War, when soldiers returning from home gardened for therapeutic purposes.

Now, with throngs of Baby Boomers hitting their retirement years and opening up more leisure time, gardening is enjoying another surge in popularity.

It’s open Tuesday to Friday from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., and Saturday from noon to 4 p.m. It’s closed Sundays, Mondays and statutory holidays. Entrance by donation.

For more, visit www.surrey.ca/heritage, or call 605-592-6956.

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