JARS v46n4 - George Fraser Honored in Scotland

George Fraser Honored in Scotland
Bill Dale
Sidney, British Columbia, Canada

Scottish born and trained horticulturist, George Fraser, has finally been honored in his native land. On May 23, 1992, a bronze plaque was unveiled at Christie's nursery in Fochabers, Morayshire, commemorating the fact that it was at that nursery where he had begun his gardening career. In the 1871 census he is shown as a member of the Christie nursery as a servant. Later that year he began his apprenticeship at the Gordon Castle under the noted gardener, John Webster.

In 1883 he emigrated to Canada, and in 1894 he moved to Ucluelet on the remote West Coast of Vancouver Island where he built and operated a nursery until his death in 1944 at age 90. Details of his career were described in the Summer 1990 issue of the Journal.

At the ARS Annual Convention in Oakland, Calif., in 1991 he was posthumously honored with the Pioneer Award. It was this honor which sparked an interest in his achievements. Until then he had been relatively unknown in Scotland. This has now been corrected, thanks to the Canadian Scottish Heritage Foundation, the National Trust of Scotland and Christie's of Fochabers.

Officials at presentation of Fraser
Official party at presentation of plaque, May 23, 1992.
Back row: Two pipers; George Christie; Peter Bennett, a
director of the Canadian Scottish Heritage Foundation; Lester
Borley, a National Trust of Scotland director; two pipers.
Front row: Mrs. Mabel Christie; Mrs. Jean Bennett;
Lady Gordon-Lennox, owner of Gordon Castle.
Photo by Northern Scott Newspaper

Mr. Peter Bennett of Victoria, B.C., a director of the Canadian Scottish Heritage Foundation, travelled to Scotland to unveil the plaque to the skirl of four kilted pipers. Approximately 75 people attended the ceremony, many of them members of the Moray and Nairnshire branch of the National Trust of Scotland. Mr. and Mrs. George Christie were hosts for the celebration and other members of the official party were Mrs. Bennett, Lady Gordon-Lennox of Gordon Castle, and National Trust of Scotland director, Mr. Lester Borley.

Wording of the plaque is as follows:

"George Fraser 1854-1944: One of the world's leading early rhododendron hybridizers, George Fraser, was born in 1854 near Lossiemouth. In 1871, he started work at Christie's nursery, and then apprenticed at Gordon Castle before serving at several well-known Scottish estates. In 1883, he emigrated to Canada and in 1894 settled at Ucluelet on Vancouver Island's West Coast. In his Ucluelet nursery he specialized in rhododendrons and developed many fine hybrids. In 1919, he sent budded plants of what became his most famous hybrid to the Royal Botanical Gardens, Kew, and the Arnold Arboretum in Boston, which both named it Rhododendron 'Fraseri'. He died in 1944 and was posthumously awarded the rarely given American Rhododendron Society's Pioneer Achievement Award. Canadian Scottish Heritage Foundation 1992."

The plaque is located near the large floral clock at the entrance to Christie's nursery. Arrangements are being made by Kenneth Cox to have a plant of 'Fraseri' sent from the Cox's Glendoick nursery to be planted beside the plaque.

R. 'Fraseri'
Drawing by Merilee Mannen

Ucluelet is half a world away from Fochabers, and it is almost half a century since George Fraser's death, but it is very fitting that this bronze memorial plaque should now be in a place of honor of the nursery where Fraser first began his career some 120 years ago.

Bill Dale is author of "George Fraser", an article about Fraser and his work, in the Summer 1990 issue of the Journal.