PHOTOS: Picture yourself in a boat on a river … in this case, the Sturgeon. Below: The statue of Lois Hole in front of St. Albert’s spacy city hall and Holes’ Greenhouses.

ST. ALBERT, Alberta

Picture yourself in a boat on a river
With tangerine trees and marmalade skies … 
Somebody calls you, you answer quite slowly
A girl with kaleidoscope eyes …
Cellophane flowers of yellow and green,
Towering over your head …

(That’s enough! — Ed.)

When St. Albert, the prosperous bedroom suburb northwest of Edmonton, rebranded itself “The Botanic Arts City” seven years ago and started using the slogan “Cultivate Life,” the project was soon controversial.

I forget what St. Albert’s brand was before that. “Alberta’s smuggest city,” perhaps. Or maybe, “The place with the big garden store just north of Edmonton.”

Whatever. The local anti-tax crowd – which is certainly vocal, if never quite plentiful enough to elect more than a couple of cranky city councillors – just hated it. Mainly, as I recall, they were up in arms about the $70,000 US the city paid to a Seattle-based branding consultancy to come up with the scheme.

And, you had to ask, as beloved as Lois Hole was and is around St. Albert, if it made sense to make the prominent local business founded by the family of the late author, gardener, library patron and Alberta lieutenant governor the foundation of the city’s image. Especially since, you know, companies go broke, or move away.

You’ve got to admit now, though, with the benefit of 20/20 hindsight, the Botanic Arts sloganeering seems like a stroke of genius.

You know, what with Hole’s Greenhouses proprietor Jim Hole and his business associates, who have had their financial challenges lo these past seven years, setting up a joint project with a company called Atlas Growers to raise bales recreational and medical marijuana.

Talk about your botanic arts! I mean, seriously … this is, like, totally cosmic!

Mr. Hole told the local newspaper he’s even open to using the vast new Hole’s greenhouse on the city’s southwest side as a venue for pot production – subject, of course, to municipal and provincial rules that haven’t been written yet. He said he’d also consider offering marijuana-growing classes to horticulturally minded St. Albertans on the premises.

But even if our town doesn’t become a haven of herb, the St. Albert Gazette reported, as the joint venture’s Director of Cultivation, Mr. Hole will be providing growing, retailing and marketing advice to his partners in pot at Atlas, who are building their own massive growing facility half an hour west of the city.

Now that we’re into cultivating not just life, but a whole alternate reality, it seems to me that St. Albert’s branding may be in need for at least a tweak to account for the fact the whole city’s about to go to pot, along with the rest of the province, the country, and apparently a good number of the retired police officers and justice officials, by the sound of it.

Our green buses are still fine, of course, but this needs something more than just, say, “St. Albert, Home of the Happy Hookah” or “Canada’s Cannabis Capital.”

Of course, Lois in the Sky With Diamonds should become our official theme song … perfect for humming as we drift down the River Sturgeon on a warm summer’s eve – the danger of drowning minimized regardless of our state of alertness since the Sturgeon is only about a foot deep in the centre – and complete with implied suggestions for future psychedelic enterprises in our wonderful marketized world of recreational chemistry.

We might even be able to please the usually unpleasable St. Albert Citizens Coalition – AKA the St. Albert Taxpayers Association (SATA) and Team Angry St. Albert (TASA) – by offering big savings on branding consulting fees.

That should work as long as we don’t try to talk Big Cannabis into building us a nice new branch for the public library branch with profits from the sales of Sturgeon Gold. Letters to the editor would be bound to accuse the donors of smoke and mirrors.

Readers’ suggestions to advance this effort are encouraged. If you can overcome your lethargy, you know where to find the comments section. As for the brownies, they’re in the fridge beside the gummy bears.

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  1. Lol … that song is widely thought to be really about the hallucinogenic drug LSD, as the song title can be turned into that same acronym. The song is also one of those with widely misheard lyrics, such as “the girl with colitis goes by …”. It was also the song playing on the radio when American paleoanthropologist Donald Johanson and his team first assembled the fossil hominid Australopithecus afarensis, which he then famously named Lucy, after the song.

  2. I’ll get back to you with some suggestions, maybe next week or the week after not sure. It will happen at some point, is it okay if I refer to you as dude?

    Seriously this stuff is a lot stronger than the stuff most of us did inhale in High School. Now where did I put those Doritos.

  3. “up in arms about the $70,000 US the city paid to a Seattle-based branding”

    In Crowsnest Pass (Pop. 6000, not prosperous) they spent $400,000 on branding consultants and signs. The signs are much smaller and less impressive than they looked in the consultants drawings. You may (not) have noticed them if you drove through.

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