Laking Garden

1260 Spring Gardens Road, Burlington, L7T 1J8

Set on a fertile terraced plain, formerly a market garden, Laking Garden is home to RBG’s herbaceous perennial collections. The belvedere at the end of the path offers a panoramic view over the entire garden. This garden, overlooked by a small cottage, offers the visitor an insight into the depth and breadth of perennial plants.

Please Note: The upper parking lot at Laking Garden (off Plains Road W.) will be CLOSED for cleaning Thursday July 12 until 3 p.m. Visitors are asked to use the lower parking lot to access Laking Garden at this time, accessible via Spring Gardens Road.

Hours: 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. (10 a.m. to 8 p.m. starting May 19)

Parking: Parking is available seasonally in the upper parking lot (off Plains Road W., West of RBG Centre) or Lower Parking Lot (along Spring Gardens Road).

Tours: Drop-in tours of Laking Garden are available seasonally. Click here for a schedule of all tours and activiies happening at RBG. To inquire about personal group tours, visit rbg.ca/grouptours.


Collections and Areas of Interest

iris collection

Iris Collection

Peak Interest: June and July

The iris collection was RBG’s first herbaceous collection of importance with the plants being planted in 1947 with the main emphasis focusing on tall bearded iris. The name Iris derives from Greek meaning rainbow, referring to the wide variety of flower colors found among the many species and cultivars. Our collection includes award-winning bearded iris and hundreds of others including miniature bearded, dwarf bearded, intermediate bearded, border bearded, tall bearded, Siberian, spuria and wild species iris.

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light pink peonies

Peony Collection

Peak interest: June

RBG’s Peony collection displays herbaceous and Itoh peonies displayed on the lower terrace of the Laking Garden and tree peonies located in the beds adjacent to and opposite the Laking Garden entrance Kiosk. The tree and Itoh peonies form a modest subset of the collection with main emphasis being given to herbaceous peonies which feature, single, Japanese, anemone, semi-double, bomb and double flower types. The collection has been laid out not only to display flower diversity but also to represent the colour diversity of cultivated peonies. The peony collection has been in existence at the Laking Garden since the mid 1940’s and is one of RBG’s signature collections. The collection given its age and history displays a high diversity of cultivars and hybridizer introductions from the nineteenth, twentieth and twenty first centuries As a result, the collection interprets breeding trends over the years and is one of the most diverse and unique peony collections in North America.

blue cottage surrounded by gardens

Barbara Laking Memorial Heritage Garden

Peak interest: April to October

Rejuvenated in 2009, the Heritage Garden includes many cultivars and species commonly grown in an Ontario garden between 1880 and 1920.

The garden features ‘plants of necessity’ area with heritage vegetables; herbs and fruits. It illustrates the importance of plants for food and medicine for newly settled Europeans’ survival. As such, this area of the garden relates to human well-being, sustainability and resilience in the face of tough living conditions.

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The ‘garden of luxury’ represents a societal transition from gardens of subsistence and self-reliance to those of luxury, leisure time and ornamental beauty. Such garden history provides an interesting insight into period living, societal values, economics, trade and even politics. Included here is heritage plant material acquired from ghost towns of southern Ontario and collected by RBG's taxonomist, Dr. Jim Pringle.

In essence, The Barbara Laking Memorial Heritage Garden is a seed and gene bank conserving those plants that have practical and beneficial traits within their gene pool. Many of our older or heritage cultivated plants, are the seed or pollen parents of modern varieties and so retain desirable characteristics such as pest and disease resistance, hardiness to a variety of climates, provide food for pollinators, the ability to remove pollution or provide us with pharmaceuticals. It is essential to conserve these desirable traits for future plant breeding and our food security. The more we conserve within the gene pool now, the more plant diversity we can ensure for future human prosperity.

The Heritage Garden is dedicated to Barbara Tarver Laking (1915-1986). Raised in England, she brought her life-long dedication to horticulture to Royal Botanical Gardens, originating our decorative arts program and co-founding the RBG Auxiliary. With her husband, former RBG director, Dr. Leslie Laking, Barbara grew and made available uncommon plants that are now favourites in many Canadian gardens.

tall ornamental grasses

Ornamental Grasses and Monocots

Peak interest: July to December

Used imaginatively, ornamental grasses can add dramatic form, texture, unusual colour, and winter interest to a garden. Grasses are suitable plants for inclusion in environmentally friendly low input gardens as they require very little water, fertilizer, maintenance or use of machinery driven by fossil fuels. As a result, planting grasses can help reduce your carbon footprint.

It is currently estimated that there are 9,000 species of grass and they make up about 20 per cent of the Earth’s vegetation. Grasses are some of the world’s most economically important plants, providing us with cereals such as Wheat, Rice and Barley to eat, as well as cattle fodder. Grasses, which are found on all continents, are widely used for creating structures and providing thatch for buildings.

flowering hostas

Hosta Walk

Peak interest: May to October

Illustrating the diversity of the genus, this collection displays species Hosta, classic cultivars and new introductions. Believe it or not in the 1970’s there were but a few hundred species and cultivars but with their increasing popularity today there are over 7000! Due to this surge in popularity Hostas are a foundation plant in many perennial gardens and especially useful as a ground cover. While primarily grown for their leaves, many have beautiful and fragrant blossoms. In the past ten years some hybridizers have actually made flower production and performance the primary focus of their attention. Hostas show great diversity in their leaf size and shape with green, blue-green, white and gold often represented as foliage colour. Hostas are shade-loving perennials demonstrating that it’s easier than you think to garden in the shade.

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Hostas provide a good example of how the science of botany is an ever-evolving discipline. Hostas were once classified within the Liliaceace or lily family. With the advent of genetics as a science, many plants are being reclassified into new families as new genetic information clarifies evolutionary relationships within the plant kingdom. Today, Hostas are in the Asparagaceae family.

This collection was developed with the help of the Ontario Hosta Society.

brightly coloured garden with European perennial species

Perennial Borders

Peak interest: April to October

Perennials are becoming a more sustainable choice for home gardeners who find the yearly planting of annuals onerous and costly. Laking Garden displays a wide range of hardy herbaceous perennials where the visitor can observe their vast diversity of form, texture, colour and season of bloom.

The middle terrace perennial collection is divided into three areas: traditional English style borders, free form (island) beds highlighting the very latest in new perennial introductions, and European style beds designed with ecology and low maintenance in mind. The plants in these beds are chosen for their ease of care, strong structure and longevity creating sustainable perennial beds.

grouping of purple clematis blooms

Clematis Collection

Peak interest: June to August

Clematis is a highly collectable genera of herbaceous perennials and climbing vines. There are more than 4000 species, cultivars and hybrids in existence. Flowers large and small, sprays of star-like flowers, hanging trumpet shaped flowers and a bountiful array of colour combinations; Clematis come in a stunning variety of forms that are sure to peak your interest. Even the fluffy and feathery seed heads are magnificent well into autumn.

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There is a long history of collecting Clematis at RBG, going back to 1986 with the opening of the Ann Harvey Clematis Garden in Hendrie Park. This Clematis Collection was re-imagined and included during the renovation of the Laking Garden which re-opened in 2014. The iron ‘tree structures’ were designed by the award winning Virginia Burt Designs (www.vburtdesigns.com) and fabricated by Dan Klick, both from Burlington, ON. These iron tree structures provide support as trellis’ for the twining vines to climb.

This Clematis Collection was created to feature a sampling of the diversity of Clematis with a variety of flower types and colours. It features historical cultivars developed as far back as 1623 (‘Polish Spirit’), the late nineteenth century (‘Candida’ – 1862 & ‘Duchess of Albany’ – 1890) and throughout the twentieth century (‘Blue Belle’ – 1923, ‘Margaret Hunt’ – 1969, ‘Mrs. Harvey’ – 1999) and the twenty-first century with newer hybrids added regularly. The Clematis Collections also features cultivars which were hybridized throughout the world, notably in Poland, France, Japan and United Kingdom and features some prominent hybridizers in the world of Clematis (Raymond Evison – www.raymondevisonclematis.com). There are approximately 30 taxa (different types) of Clematis displayed on the Lower Terrace of Laking Garden in close proximity to the Gazebo.


old colour photograph of peony collection and gazebo

History of Laking Garden

The second-oldest garden at RBG, this site was once an orchard (some of the apple trees and cherries still remain) and market garden, with a small cottage on site. It opened in 1947 with perennials and bulbs displayed in large island beds, an innovation of the 1960's; at this time it was known as the Spring Garden.

In 1948, the original Iris collection was formed and planted into the Spring Garden. Part of the original Iris collection was donated by W.J. Moffat, founder of the Canadian Iris Society. This was the first featured plant collection at RBG.

In 1981 the garden was re-named after Dr. Leslie Laking, RBG’s longest serving Director and Director Emeritus, upon his retirement. The Barbara Laking Heritage Garden commemorates his wife, who founded our Auxiliary.