One of the Edmonton-area’s oldest greenhouse families is celebrating a 95-year-old tradition, with a special birthday party May 3.
Wallish Greenhouse got its start in 1919 when John and Sally Wallish started growing market-garden vegetables for sale at Edmonton’s market.
“His first market garden was located in Edmonton on what is now Wayne Gretzky Drive. It was there until it was expropriated so the city could build Rexall Place. Its present location near Sherwood Park, is its third location,” said Dan Murphy.
Murphy, a grandson-in-law to John, explained that the business is still family owned.
“John and Sally’s son Charlie and his wife Nellie are still involved in the business and my wife, Sharon Wallish-Murphy, and her brother Glenn and his wife Louise, operate Wallish Greenhouse,” Murphy said.
Back in the day, the Wallishes made their living from growing fresh vegetables that were easily transported to Edmonton’s core in the downtown market. The family maintained its vegetable-market-growing tradition for 75 years.
“At that time, they leased 10 acres of land from the City of Edmonton and farmed it for the market,” Murphy said.
But each spring, Sally would start a few bedding plants, which were also sold at the market and by the 1960s, bedding plants were taking over from the vegetable growing, Murphy said.
“She would start bedding plants in the spring such as marigolds and geraniums. People loved them because they were green and growing and they could plant them in their own yards.”
With the construction of Rexall Place, Wallish Greenhouse made its first move to a location in Strathcona County before moving in 1992 to its present Sherwood Park site.
“Now we have 2.5 acres dedicated to growing bedding plants and 99 per cent of everything we sell, is started and grown right here,” Murphy said, adding that in the 95 years or so since Sally started a few geraniums in her back greenhouse, the family has noticed the cyclical nature of gardening tastes.
“Everything has a cycle. Geraniums were out for awhile, but they are becoming popular again because they are easy to grow and have lots of colour. There’s a reason Grandma grew what she did and what traditionally worked for her, still works,” said Murphy.
While Wallish Greenhouse is already a bright sea of colour with hundreds of bedding plant annuals to choose from, Murphy said there is also a gardening trend towards growing some of the old perennials too.
“Old, old plants, like the gas plant are popular again. It’s a slow grower, but its hardy to Zone 2 and if it’s in a good location, could last 60, 80 or 90 years,” he said.
The 95th birthday party for Wallish Greenhouse marks the seasonal grand opening of the store, located at 53218 – Range Road 231 (Clover Bar Road).
“Come out and celebrate with us and have a piece of birthday cake. We’ll cut the cake at noon and we’ll have live music all day long,” Wallish said.