Viscountess Willingdon lilac at Central Experimental Farm

Viscountess Willingdon

Photo credit: Anne Besner-Johnston

 

Isabella lilac at the Central Experimental Farm

Isabella

Photo credit: Anne Besner-Johnston

Grace lilac at the Central Experimental Farm

Grace

Photo credit: Anne Besner-Johnston

 

Constance lilac at the Central Experimental Farm

 Constance

Photo credit: Anne Besner-Johnston

Isabella Preston was the first person at the Central Experimental Farm in Ottawa to focus solely on the breeding of ornamental plants. Although she had little formal training in horticulture, she introduced about 200 hybrids of lilac, lily, crabapple, iris and roses, and laid the groundwork for the breeding programs at the Farm. A pioneering woman in the field of plant breeding, she became world renowned and is celebrated for the breadth and quality of her work.

Preston worked at the Farm from 1920 until 1946. During this time, she developed many new varieties of plants, designed for Canadian climatic conditions. Many of her introductions have unfortunately been superseded or lost, but examples of her lilacs, crabapples, roses, and Siberian irises are still visible at the Farm. Her work provided an important basis for the Canadian tradition of hybridization.  

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