Builders of the Floriculture Industry in Canada
Lulu Waters (Mrs. Percy Waters)
When Mr. Waters decided to open a flower store, he had an able
assistant in his wife, who, from the start, became actively engaged in
the business with him.
Lulu Waters (Mrs. Percy Waters)
When Mr. Waters decided to open a flower store, he had an able assistant in his wife, who, from the start, became actively engaged in the business with him. When Mr. Waters died, Mrs. Waters took charge of the store and lost no time gaining all the new ideas possible, while at the same time carrying out the old principles of a dollar’s worth for a dollar, but gradually trying to educate her clientele to buy something better in flowers.
Few people played so prominent and important a role in the formative years of the Canadian florist industry as Waters. Not only was she an excellent florist and a designer of international reputation, she was equally an enthusiastic worker for the betterment of her chosen profession.
After her young family grew, she was able to combine the roles of mother, father, and businesswomen with unprecedented vigour. She found time to take an active role in the Toronto Florists Club, the Florists Telegraph Delivery Association, and the Canadian Florists and Growers Association. Always a keen believer in trade cooperation, advertising and flower sales promotion, Waters was instrumental in running many of the big floral events of the twenties and
thirties; The Toronto convention of the FTDA, the great International Flower Show at the CNE, the many publicity affairs like special “Shut-in Days.” Under joint sponsorship of FTDA, Canadian Florists and Growers Associations, she operated floral design schools across Canada. She passed away on March 16th, 1961.
Cecil I. Delworth
‘Uncle Cecil,’ as thousands in the trade affectionately knew him, came into the business as a young man who found it pretty mush as it had been for centuries – a craft based on green thumbs and the habits of old gardeners. At the time of his death in 1966, the industry had been transformed into something quite different – a booming industry with long range plans, scientifically based production methods and educational facilities, and research institutions undreamed of in the early part of the century.
In this change, Cecil Delworth was one of the primary moving forces. His entire life was devoted to improvements within the industry into which he was born, in which he earned his living, and within which he died.
He was instrumental in changing the way the industry grew flowers. No longer could flowers be grown or profitably sold by the haphazard methods of the industry’s forefathers. The industry needed research into better methods and better varieties, and it needed to work together. In Canada, he reached the peak with his election to the presidency of the Allied Florists and Growers Inc. in 1949. He had a hand in the establishment and improvement of just about every floricultural research program available in Canada.
Thomas A. Ivey
One of Canada’s leading florists in the early 20th century, Thomas Ivey was born in Haldimand County and moved to Brantford, where he entered the telephone business with William Bell. Later he embarked in the florist business, both as a retailer and as a grower, and founded Thomas A. Ivey & Sons in Port Dover, Ontario. He died on August 14th, 1915 in a car accident.
Harry Dale was born into the florist business; he was the grandnephew of the founder of the Dale Estate and his uncle, Henry Dale, was the man who built the groundwork of the present business at the turn of the century. He worked in the family business as a boy and eventually worked his way up to the post of superintendent of productions. He only had one break from the family business in his career while he worked at Terrill’s Ltd. in Calgary, before returning to The Dale Estates Ltd., which had become a public company.
Dale served in Roses Inc. for many years, holding the directorship in the fifties. For many years, he served on the board of the flower show committee for the Royal Agricultural Winter Fair in Toronto and had been in charge of the big rose displays. He worked with Allied Florists during the fifties when he served as the association’s Ontario secretary and as a national officer for several years.
Ernest S. Simmons
Ernie Simmons was born in Toronto a year after his parents established the flower shop, Simmons & Sons Florist, in 1894. He was the first Canadian to be president of FTD and served in this capacity from 1936 to 1938. He was vice-president in 1935 and served as director from 1932 to 1935. He was the recipient of the Mercury Award in tribute for outstanding service to the florist industry and the public. The Canadian industry owes a great deal to the diplomacy, courtesy, and leadership ability of Simmons. During his many years of office in FTD, he promoted Canada and gave his country a place of prestige in the world organization. He was a past president of the Allied Florists and Growers of Canada (now Flowers Canada). The first Canadian to be honoured as a 50-year member of FTD, “Mr. Florist” as he was affectionately named, died on April 1st, 1967.
Arthur Ernest Harris grew up in the flower business in Barrie, Ontario. His father started a market garden operation at the turn of the century. This business expanded into a growing operation of seven greenhouses. In 1918, his mother started a retail flower shop.
Harris served as a director of the United Flowers organization and was an FTD member. He was president and general manager of the United Flowers-by-Wire Service. He had held the position since the purchase of the company from John Besemer in March 1966. He was president of the United Florists of Canada and was one of those florists instrumental in the amalgamation of the United and Allied association to form Flowers Canada. He was the first president of the new organization. He died at 46 on May 25th, 1968.
Leo J. McKenna
Leo J. McKenna entered the family business with the opening of the Guy Street store in 1901. As president of McKenna Limited, he carried on the business founded by his grandfather, Patrick McKenna. He was president of the Society of American Florists, president of the Montreal Florists and Gardeners’ Association, Director of the Allied Florists and Gardeners of Canada, director of Interflora, and the overseas branch of the florists Telegraph Delivery Association.
For over a quarter of a century, Rene Hobbins played an important role in the florist industry. She began her career as a florist at a greenhouse with Walter Ramsay Florists, but her flair for design, ambition, and love of flowers earned her the position eventually as manager of the downtown store during the war years. Following the war, she decided to open her own shop, and from a third floor premises, her personal attention, ingenuity, careful buying and good business sense, helped Hobbins double her retail space in 1958. In 1967, she purchased Kerrison Flowers and operated under the name Rene (Kerrison) Flowers Ltd.
She was director-at-large for three consecutive, two-year terms for Flowers Canada. She was Chairman and District Representative for the Alberta Region of FTD and Chairman of the Florists of Edmonton Association. She twice received the Walter Ramsay Trophy given in recognition for outstanding contributions to the industry and her efforts on the industry’s behalf also won her esteem along with the National T.D.S. trophy for outstanding achievement. She also wrote for Canadian Florist Magazine. She died on December 21st, 1980.
A schoolteacher by the name of Walter Ramsay was blessed with a green thumb, and eventually followed his passion and began to work with flowers full-time. In 1905, he opened his flower shop named ‘Walter Ramsay Florist.’ During World War One, he had to enlarge his shop to service his growing clientele.
The first member of Allied Florists and Growers in Alberta, Ramsay was Provincial Chairman for the association from 1945-1946. He was also the provincial FTD chairman and District representative twice.
Victor Lloyd Scott
One of Canada’s most progressive and enterprising florists, Victor Scott chose the floral business in Winnipeg, Manitoba as his career. His shop ‘The Orchid Florists’ supplied flowers for two queens, numerous celebrities, and countless banquet tables at special events. He was a member of the National Florists Advisory Council that co-operated with the government and the florists of Canada in regard to regulations and restrictions that were made necessary by the war effort. He was chairman of the FTD committee in charge of publishing the Mercury Flash – a publication that helped the morale of the members.
Widely known throughout North America, Nellie Whitley was the first woman to be nominated for the office of director at large for the FTDA. She also ran her successful flower shop ‘Nellie Whitley’s Flowers’ in Hamilton, Ont.
William A. Beatty
One of the organizers of the Allied Florists and Growers of Canada, William Beatty devoted an entire lifetime to the floral industry. Dean of the Canadian flower industry, he began working for the Dale Estate Limited in 1902 as a greenhouse worker. Working his way up the corporate ladder, he became president of the company in 1956.
Lou La Venia
A mechanical engineer by trade and a retired carrier pilot in the U.S. Navy, Lou La Venia became involved in the floral industry by association. His wife, Francine, a florist in Quebec, suggested that La Venia, who has an associate degree in law, help the struggling floral industry in Quebec. He was actively involved with the conception of the Association de la Fleuristerie Quebecoise (AFQ) in Quebec, which was organized to fight the government to fight the Sunday closing law. An activist for the floral industry, La Venia continues to strive to improve the floral industry in Quebec.
Bob Newton AIFD, CAFA, AAF
One of the most respected leaders of the Canadian floriculture industry, Bob Newton began his career as a stock and delivery boy at Elford’s Florist in the Toronto area. He soon found that he had a flair for floral design and he continued his education by working at Cira Flowers, and Percy Waters Florist. Eventually he and his wife, Anna, owned and operated three major flower shops in Toronto.
Newton became vice president of United Flowers-By-Wire (UFC) and in 1979 became partners with Teleflora chairman Emeritus and AFS founder Herman Meinders forming AFS Canada. In 2000, AFS joined Teleflora, and Newton became president of Teleflora Canada.
During his 50-year plus career in the industry, Newton has been a guest designer throughout Canada and the United States. He continues to work tirelessly for organizations like Flowers Canada, CAFA, AIFD, and the American Academy of Floriculture. His honours include Flowers Canada National’s “President’s Award,” the CAFA “President’s Award,” and the World Flower Council’s “Floral Nobel Prize.”