Canada’s Central Experimental Farm (CEF), located in the middle of the capital city of Ottawa, has a rich history dating back to 1886. Founded in part to breed and test new crops suitable for the Canadian climate, an important part of this work was to document and share research with other institutions, farmers, and interested professional and amateur gardeners.
Naming flowers was part of the job of experimental horticulturists, and CEF horticulturalists such as Preston drew naming inspiration from lakes, rivers, royalty, and even CEF staff.
These lilies, Grace Marshall, were part of the Stenographer series, named after the Central Experimental Farm stenographers.
Farmers from across the country were also invited to send samples of cereal seeds (especially wheat) they planned to plant the following season, so a small amount could be test-planted in a CEF greenhouse. Frost at the end of the growing season could have potentially damaged the seeds, and these tests could save the farmer a failed crop.
Photographs of CEF staff activities could also be paired with illustrations and paintings during lectures or presentation, enhancing their impact.
For example, these men collecting soil samples could complement a painting of leaves grown in various soils, demonstrating the impact of nutrients on growth.
Documentation of new preservation techniques was also a priority for the CEF, especially during the Second World War.
During that time, CEF scientists concentrated on vegetable dehydration and preservation experiments.
These products were vital to the war effort and were sent overseas with soldiers as lightweight and non-perishable sources of nutrition.
Early attempts at such preservation, however, were unpalatable.
Fyles’s artistic talents were first revealed during her time as an assistant seed analyst for the department of Agriculture. She painted samples for colleagues, and in 1920 published her research and illustrations in a 100-page departmental bulletin called Principal Poisonous Plants of Canada.
Later that year, she became the resident botanical artist at the CEF and continued to paint a wide variety of fruits, flowers, and other plants.
Since the early days of the CEF, Canadians have been inspired by the work being done there. Photography and painting complemented the scientific and educational goals of the CEF, while also showing the artistic side of the Farm’s research efforts. By using a combination of these techniques, the CEF could create customized visual documentation to suit its needs.
Created by the Canada Agriculture and Food Museum, 2017.