To Barbara Laking!

A trip to Manhattan and a new red sweater doesn't hurt either

The man I’m writing about now is Dr. Leslie Laking. A horticulturist responsible for establishing the Royal Botanical Gardens, in Burlington. The first interview I conducted was with an elderly archivist at the RBG, Maria Minaker, and the first words she spoke were about Dr. Laking’s wife, Barbara.

“One of the things that he did very well was to marry Barbara Laking, ” she said.

“She was a British horticulturist in her own right. And any influence or anything he had to do around here, he had a backup from her. And the two of them, if you want to do something yourself and you have someone to help back you up, well, there were two for the price of one.”

Barbara died a couple of decades ago. She has no afterlife on the internet. She certainly had no obituary in the Globe. Barbara raised two children on the grounds of the Gardens, in an old cabin called Hendrie House. When she and Dr. Laking moved into it, back in 1954, there was no plumbing and so what did she do? Bathe her babies with the gardening hose?

Enough said. I’m still very pleased to honour her husband who died in April at age 95. A man who lived for flowers. He was an old worldly gentleman, so the story goes, who wasn’t in for a belly laugh but he set Maria giggling once when he competed against her for table space at their annual plant sale.

She was holding up the grasses end of things when he kept nudging her pots aside, wanting more room for his blooms. “Be careful or my grasses might start breeding,” she warned him, holding firm to her space.

Nice to write about gardens while sitting in my garden watching buds ripen; watching my gleeful evil cat who is snowed-under no longer. I love my laptop. I love my little microcosm out back, be it ever so humble. And I love my job.

Oh what a little sunshine and a-turning-of-the-calendar toward May does to a winter weary girl!


About Nor

I'm a creative non-fiction writer, with a special interest in memoirs and obituaries--life stories, local histories with flesh & blood anecdotal details. I'm also beginning to create podcasts of people's stories and expanding their audiences. I'm a diarist, an editor, and a political activist. I live in Toronto, Ontario, Canada and spend days tapping keys or staining my fingers in ink.
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2 Responses to To Barbara Laking!

  1. Pat Dixon says:

    You said it! Out walking twice as often now….

    My first reaction to this beautiful piece was “Oh, those lucky children!” I love RBG!
    It also reminds me of the countless people I take for granted behind all the things I appreciate in this world. [Now that winter’s over! :-)]

  2. Thanks Nor! I hope you and everyone interested will join Dr. Laking’s family, friends and professional colleagues for a celebration of his life. We will be holding this at Royal Botanical Gardens Centre, 680 Plains Road West, Burlington, Ontario from 2-4 PM, Tuesday 17 May. All are welcome.

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