Tuesday, June 17, 2014

Re-opening of the Laking Garden at the Royal Botanical Gardens

One of my favourite gardens at the Royal Botanical Gardens has been the Laking Garden.  It was always a great resource.  If you gardened in this part of Ontario and needed a hint or two for colour at a certain time of year, you'd be certain to find something delightful at the perennial garden you could use at home.  The hosta walk was lovely and calming - in spite of the fact that some folks were using it as their 'harvest-your-own' hosta farm.  There is a sweet old-fashioned garden with perennials used from the period when this area was settled by Europeans that was always worth a look. And probably the most notable section, was a brilliant collection of peonies and iris - collections larger than even the Lilac collection for which the RBG is renown.

Staff hard at work getting the annuals in outside the Laking Garden

The original iris collection was displayed in rectangular beds by decade.  It was great fun to troll through and see what was popular - ruffles, pastels, scent, large flowers or bicolours.  The sad thing is that over the years, this garden had really fallen into disrepair.  Several years ago, in order to make it look like anything, the iris were corralled into a Fleur-de-Lis pattern hedged with a dark Wegeila (something like Wine and Roses).  This is what it looked like in 2012:

Not bad says you, but scroll down.....

Not so good either.  And apparently the pattern was really tough to maintain.

So, here it is - back to its historical planting by decade:


And here are some new iris from the past decade (looks like it's all ruffles, new colours and notable names for the first decade of 2000):

Iris 'Florentine Silk' 2004:

I.  'Insaniac'

I. 'Wonders Never Cease'

I. 'Broad Minded'

I. 'Haunted Heart' 2009

I. 'Pursuit of Happiness' 2007

So while the plantings are still pretty new, we are in for a fabulous display in the coming years.  I for one am so pleased that they decided to revitalize the garden returning it to its former glory.    

The main perennial garden is pretty much the same - here it was in 2012:

and in 2014:

Seems that I enjoy photographing the same plants... Baptisia 2012:


And one more shot before I leave (and the rain begins):

It is a very exciting time at the RBG.  This is just one of the major improvements planned for the gardens.  I can hardly wait to see what the complete re-vamp of the Rock Gardens will look like in 2015....it's not often you get to spend $20MM on a garden!


Jennifer said...

I have to say that the portion of the Laking Garden dedicated to perennials is my favourite part of the RBG. I also love the Rockery and can't imagine it could be better even with a fresh injection of cash. The part of the garden Laking Garden where the iris and the peonies have been displayed has always been disappointing for me on a design level. Surely there is a more exciting contemporary way to display irises and peonies? Lined up rows no matter how the planting materials are organized seems so traditional and dull. The irises are beautiful though as your wonderful pictures so aptly demonstrate.

Paul Jung said...

Great update about this section of the RBG. The last time (well, only time) I visited I remembered the beds seemed weedy and neglected and the staff (summer students?) particularly apathetic. Hopefully, things have changed, maybe?

Barbarapc said...

I've always thought of iris and peonies as mixed border plants Jennifer. So any sort of display devoted to them always seems to takes on a 'botanical collection' look. Especially when the collections are so enormous. That being said, who knew you could make Auriculas look like little jewels like they did at Chelsea (so much fun just throwing that out there). Always good to think of things in a different way....
When it is in its full glory in a couple of years it will be glowing with colour - and for those who want to learn the historical progression of the flowers, they'll be able to do that easily.
Hi Paul, certainly more people around and seemed to be a little more enthusiastic. However, with the early departure after only 2 years of Carlo Baliestieri (back to the States to be VP for The Garden Conservancy) who knows what will happen now.

Nathan P said...

Things have changed a great deal! I'm one of the summer students in the 2014 picture. I'm standing in the back, but I'm there! The RBG has recently made a decision to hire more Horticulture students, people who care about the work. Like me, a student of Niagara College's Horticultural Technician program. Before, it was a minimal number of Hort students, most who only knew it as "a job" But for students like me, It was a fantastic opportunity to work and learn.I'm