Isabella Preston

Isabella Preston, plant hybridist, horticulturist, writer, civil servant (b at Lancaster, Eng 4 Sept 1881; d at Georgetown, Ont 31 Jan 1965). Immigrating to Ontario in 1912, Preston entered the Ontario Agricultural College in 1913, but soon gave up formal studies to conduct practical work under the supervision of Prof J.W. Crow. Her practical education in plant hybridizing was supplemented, as she herself noted, by "reading all the books in the library" on horitculture and plant breeding. By 1916 she had not only become the first professional woman hybridist in Canada, but had vaulted into the front ranks of plant hybridizers when a judicious cross produced the acclaimed "George C. Creelman" lily.

She joined the Central Experimental Farm's (Ottawa) Horticultural Division under W.T. Macoun in 1920, at a time of great horticultural activity. From then until she retired in 1946, Preston was a specialist in ornamental horitculture and originated nearly 200 hybrids (roses, lilacs, Siberian iris, Rosybloom crabapples and lilies). Her lily hybrids alone guaranteed her horticultural fame, although awards and recognition came to nearly every breeding program she attempted. She wrote numerous wide-ranging horticultural articles as well as Garden Lilies (1929), the first book on lily cultivation in Canada. Her colleagues awarded her the accolade of "Dean of Canadian Hybridists."