Saskatchewan's Environmental Champions

Saskatchewan Horticultural Pioneers

The development of prairie hardy varieties of trees, fruits and flowers has been integral to adaptation to the prairie environment. Among many pioneers in this area four have been inducted in the Saskatchewn Agriculture Hall of Fame and the following profiles are adapted from their website.*

Adolph Heyer

Adolph Heyer received international acclaim for his work in developing hardy tree fruits. Many of his selections are still being grown on the Prairies. He was born in Norway in 1875 and in 1905 he homesteaded near Neville, Saskatchewan. Distressed by the lack of trees in the area, he first tried, unsuccessfully, to transplant young trees from nearby coulees. He was enamored by spruce and planted thousands of them in the drought prone region. His acres of peonies provided a splash of color on what was formerly open prairie.

He became interested in developing new varieties of tree fruits, mostly apples, crabapples, pears and plums. The Heyer 8 and Heyer 7 crabapples and the Heyer 12 and Heyer 20 apples, all introduced between 1938 and 1940, are widely grown in farm and city gardens. His hardy seedstock is still used in development of new varieties. Horticulture became such a passion with Heyer that he seeded down a large part of his farm to grass and turned the rest over to his brother to farm! He was an inspiration to farm families across the west. Some of the techniques he developed for tree growing contributed to the establishment of hundreds of farm shelterbelts.

Cecil Frederick Patterson (1891-1961)

Dr. Cecil Patterson came to the University of Saskatchewan from Ontario in 1921 as a lecturer in horticulture. He became the first head of the new Department of Horticulture in 1922 and held the position for 38 years. In his own work he developed over 52 new varieties of hardy fruits for the prairies and over 18 varieties of hybrid lilies, as well as several varieties of ornamental plants and a prairie-hardy potato variety. Indeed, he is credited with originating fruit breeding work on the prairies, effectively extending the growing potential of gardens across the west. His experimental and non-irrigated nursery was believed to be the world's largest at the time. In addition to his plant-breeding research, from 1922 to 1948 Patterson was responsible for all landscaping on the university campus.

Dr. Patterson was a charter member of the Agricultural Institute of Canada and of the Western Canadian Society for Horticulture. His apparently unlimited energy, his loyalty to the University, and his devotion to the students are legendary. It was noted on his retirement in 1960 that he had served the University for 39 years, practically without a holiday and without sabbatical leave.

It was said at the time of his death in 1961, that Dr. Patterson's greatest reward was the knowledge that his long labor brought greater productiveness and more beauty to many a prairie garden and joy to many a prairie gardener. In 1966, work began to create a garden with over 600 different varieties of plants, on a four-acre parcel of University land. The gardens, located at Preston Avenue and College Drive in Saskatoon, were formally dedicated to C.F. Patterson in 1969 and bear his name.

Albert John Porter (1901-2000)

Bert Porter is widely recognized for his work in developing new lily varieties and small fruits. Raised on a homestead in the Parkside area he began his career teaching school. In 1934 he took up a vocation he had been experimenting with for years-horticulture. Initially his nursery stock consisted of crabapples, hardy plums, strawberries and raspberries. In the 1950s he obtained some lily bulbs and launched into developing new lily varieties.

He always stressed hardiness, disease and insect resistance as well as flower quality and this made 'Honeywood Lilies' in great demand internationally. He received the highest award to a lily breeder on the North American continent, the E.H. Wilson Memorial Award from the North American Lily Society. He received numerous other professional awards and in 1963 the University of Saskatchewan conferred on him an honorary doctor of laws degree.

William Leslie Kerr (1902-1983)

W.L."Les" Kerr is best well known for his role as superintendent of the Tree Nursery in Sutherland from 1942 until its closing in 1965. He was educated in Ontario and Maryland, and first came to Western Canada in 1932. He was fruit breeder at the Research Station in Morden, Manitoba for ten years and developed several varieties. After coming to Sutherland, he continued his internationally recognized breeding work with fruit and ornamentals and developed the upright "Sutherland" caragana and the Almey and Royalty ornamental crabapples which were chosen as Canada's Centennial Trees in 1967. He also began breeding work on sour cherries and hazelnuts. (LINK)

Kerr was the driving force responsible for creating the park-like atmosphere of the Nursery grounds in the 1942 to 1970 period. The area blossomed into an oasis for horticulturists, home owners, picnicers, and nursery operators. In these surroundings, Les was able to display most of the well over 100 cultivars of fruit and perennial ornamentals that he had been responsible for introducing into the nursery trade. He was instrumental in developing the zoo, starting the Saskatchewan Nursery Trades Association, and was active in many other professional associations.

The citation for his honourary doctorate at the University of Saskatchewan in 1982 notes: "few Canadians have contributed so much to the beauty of our surroundings, and his contributions to conservation and enhancement of the beauty evidenced around us will be recorded forever in what we can see, smell and touch."

William Hugh Cram

Bill Cram helped change the face of Saskatchewan in his roles as a plant breeder and shelterbelt promoter.

After service in WW II, he was appointed research horticulturist at the Indian Head Experimental Farm. In 1947, he moved to the Prairie Farm Rehabilitation Administration tree nursery at Indian Head to become a plant breeder. He focused on resolving propagation problems with spruce and conducting improvement programs for caragana and Colorado spruce. His enthusiastic promotion of tree plantings to protect the fields, gardens, orchards and homes of Prairie farmers is regarded as his greatest contribution. His extensive work with the sturdy caragana earned him the nickname 'Caragana Bill.'

He was superintendent of the Indian Head Forest Nursery Station from 1958 until 1977. He also published 42 scientific research papers on the propagation and breeding of tree species.

*For full profiles of Cram, Heyer, Patterson and Porter see Saskatchewan Agriculture Hall of Fame at

For more information on Bert Porter see

For C.F. Patterson see

The profile on Les Kerr is adapted from the Encyclopedia of Saskatchewan and

Adolph Heyer was among the most prominent of Saskatchewan's horticultural pioneers.
Credit: Saskatchewan Agriculture Hall of Fame