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Laking Gardens:
Irises, Peonies, and Poppies

The Royal Botanical Gardens' Laking Gardens are a great place to visit in the warmer months, from late spring flowers, like irises and peonies, to poppies in August.

The Gardens used to be the Spring Gardens, and the road running alongside them is still Spring Gardens Road, but today they are focused on summer perennials and the spring flowers are found in the Royal Botanical Garden's (RBG) Rock Garden nearby.

Nevertheless, late spring and early summer are still a good time to visit the gardens because the irises begin around then. Make these gardens a stop as well, when you're visiting the spring flowers.

Laking Gardens, white iris

The brightest, most colourful collections in the Gardens are the Iris and Peony Collections so it pays to go when those flowers are in bloom -- late May to end of June and late July to end of August.

To add to the enjoyment, the Gardens also hosts classical music and art events on Tuesdays in June and July. 

The iris bed is in the shape of a fleur-de-lys, something you can only really appreciate from the lookout.

Laking Gardens, yellow and purple iris

Here's a vividly colorful iris, blooming in late May.

The Gardens were market gardens before the RBG took them over and they were nicely laid out in three levels, or terraces, for easy cultivation. Today, one the upper level, the Gardens have a cottage, with pioneers' 'Heritage Garden', and also a lookout that gives a view across all three levels.

Note: the lowest level, which is down nearer water, has turtles nesting in June so mind where you step

Laking Gardens, peony

A beautiful early peony flowering alongside the irises.

Irises have been grown by the RBG here since the late 1940's with a focus bearded irises and, in particular, North American species. The intent being, of course, to breed stock for the local climate and preserving the original stocks for future programs. Today, Laking Gardens has hundreds of different varieties, something for everyone.

Laking Gardens, poppies

Herbaceous borders, very much the English kind of garden, are found on the middle level of the Gardens. Here you'll find all the old favourites as well as some new ones. Poppies, for example, can come in many more colours than the red we're used to seeing. These orange poppies would make a beautiful addition to your home garden, which is part of the RBG mandate. They develop and/or introduce new plants and check them out for hardiness here before they go on sale to the public. 

Laking Garden, blue iris

And here, to finish for now, is another beautiful iris.

The Barbara Laking Memorial Heritage Garden focuses on plants commonly grown in Ontario gardens between 1880 and 1920 and is divided into two parts, 'necessity' and 'luxury', what I would call 'veggies and herbs' and 'flowers' basically. Like the other RBG gardens, this one is also a seed bank for the future.

It's interesting to note that many of the plants were brought here from Ontario's ghost towns. Towns that flourished in the pioneer period of farming, logging and mining but have since fallen into disuse. Considering how short Ontario's modern existence is, it's quite a surprise to find that so many towns have disappeared.

Another interesting attraction (interesting rather than ornamental:-) is the Ornamental Grasses area. We think of grass as lawns or the often seen ornamental Elephant Grass, or meadows for animals to graze on, but there are, apparently, about 9,000 species of grass, including some of our staples like wheat, barley and rice. 

Return to Royal Botanical Gardens or visit our page Arboretum. 

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