Saanich Cottage Garden Societies

Increased Production and Firmer Community Friendship

Alice Mary and Ellen Elizabeth Girling in flower garden in front of family home at Swan Lake, photograph by Annie Girling. Caption reads “You can just see the Dorothy Perkins [rose] on the house and L & M have been picking your Shasta daisies”. Photo credit: Saanich Archives

The second annual exhibition of the Cottage Gardener’s Society of Ward Seven was held yesterday at the Tillicum School. Mr. F.A. Pauline, M.P.P. opened the exhibition with a short address, in which he emphasized the value of increased production and the desirability of promoting firmer community friendship.

The Daily Colonist, September 7 1919

In the 1910s, the Municipality of Saanich’s population boomed as housing developments were built just north of the City of Victoria. People moved out of the city to larger lots with room for gardens. At the same time, World War One began. By 1917, the war had been dragging on for three years and there was an impending food shortage for the people of Europe, and crucially, the Allied troops. The Government of Canada promoted “Increased Production” campaigns so that Canadians would eat the food that they grew, freeing up farm produce to be exported to Europe. Saanich’s popular Cottage Garden Societies were formed in response to this situation. In supporting the war from the Home Front, Saanich residents learned how to grow their own vegetables, had fun showing off their gardens and produce for prizes, and most of all, made friends.

The story of Saanich Cottage Garden Societies from 1917-1920 is told through contemporary accounts in local newspapers and records of Saanich Council meetings. The story is illustrated with photographs by Annie Girling, whose family had a garden at Swan Lake. Annie Girling’s over 900 images have been digitized by the Saanich Archives and provide a valuable snapshot of what Saanich residents were growing in their home gardens during World War One.

Next – Part One – Meet the gardeners