DEEP ROOTS: The Hilda McAfee Rose Bush by Andrew Switzer

Flora and Fauna

flora of Fort Edmonton Park


Fort Edmonton Park is where Edmonton’s memories find physical form. Often this is in the shape or a building or artifact, but you’ll also find benches, cairns, and plaques dedicated to the memory of persons or groups.

 This autumn, Fort Edmonton Park would like to showcase living trees and bushes that are dedicated to women who have made a significant impact on Edmonton and Canada. These flora stand to remind us of our potential – we too have the ability to act in a way worthy of remembrance! Check out parts 1 and 2 of this series for stories of the Princess Diana Tree and the Jan Reimer Oak.


Visitors walking on the sidewalk between our administration building and the front entrance of the train station may have noticed a simple plaque on a green post dedicated to Hilda McAfee. Behind the plaque lies the rose bush purchased and planted in her name. Garden enthusiast and expert Hilda McAfee would have been well-known by her generation for her passionate gardening and, in particular, her wonderful roses. She also brought Edmonton international recognition in gardening when, in 1955, she became Edmonton’s first Fellow of the prestigious Royal Horticultural Society.

In 1948 McAfee won first prize for her garden from the Edmonton Horticultural Society. The archival image (pictured) shows that the garden behind her home took up the majority of her yard; dense with flowers and featuring a lily pond, and a stone walkway. By 1949, at the latest, she also hung a single flower pot just above her lily pond using a special apparatus. Her garden structure at this time shows a peculiar contrast between the more freely organized flower area and a carefully manicured grassy patch nearer to the house. This offers symmetry to the global layout of the garden.

Hilda McAfee's Winning Garden of the Edmonton Horticultural Society Contest, July 27, 1948 EA-600-1269

Hilda McAfee’s Winning Garden of the Edmonton
Horticultural Society Contest, July 27 1948

In 1983, McAfee’s husband, Jim McAfee, bequeathed two thousand dollars to the City of Edmonton Parks Department “to establish a memorial rose bed and a memorial plaque in the memory of my late wife Hilda May McAfee,” who had died in 1960. After some negotiations, the rose bed was installed outside our Train Station, where it blossomed until recently. It came under threat from scurrilous tree roots and languished nearly forgotten for several years. Our Heritage Gardeners,  inspired by the rediscovered McAfee story, have begun to re-invigorate the garden and you can look forward to its renewed splendour next summer!

Hilda McAfee, "Fragrant Blooms Fill Market for Show," August 16, 1949  EA-600-2747c

Hilda McAfee, “Fragrant Blooms Fill Market for Show,” August 16, 1949
EA-600-274McAfee’s memorial integrates well into gardens of Fort Edmonton Park, which span the large sustenance garden of the 1846 Fort, the smaller private and medicinal gardens of the 1880s, the beautiful Victorian influenced gardens of the early 1900s, the Silver Heights Peony Garden of the 1920s, and conclude with the memorial of roses for Hilda McAfee.

View from the BushMcAffee’s memory is a continuing testimonial towards the beautification of our city through gardening and the value of having a life-long passion. As an historical figure and a determined woman she can inspire all of us who face personal obstacles and difficulties in achieving success within our community.


Special thanks to the City of Edmonton Archives  

for providing the images for this article!