People and Gardens

Dr. Leslie Laking, former director of Royal Botanical Gardens (RBG)(Hamilton and Burlington, Ontario, Canada) and former president of the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta, passed away in Burlington, Ontario, on April 16, 2011, in his 95th year. He was among the first staff hired by RBG in 1946 and was appointed to the post of director in 1954, which he held until his retirement in 1981 at age 65. Dr. Laking led RBG through a period of remarkable development and growth. Under his guidance the early collections, gardens, facilities, and programs developed into a respected, senior member of the global community of botanical gardens. In 1978 Dr. Laking was given the Award of Merit from the American Association of Botanical Gardens and Arboreta. The following year he was appointed to the Order of Canada, the highest honor awarded in Canadian civilian society. In 1982 he received the George Lawson Medal from the Canadian Botanical Association. For more information on Royal Botanical Gardens, click here.


On Sunday, May 22, 2011, Cornell Plantations held a Grand Opening for the new Brian C. Nevin Welcome Center, and the event was attended by over 1,100 individuals. The Nevin Welcome Center has already garnered two awards of excellence from Canadian Architecture magazine and the Ontario Association of Architects for the Toronto-based architectural firm Baird, Sampson, Neuert. It is an environmentally progressive structure with both evaporated solar collectors and a green roof as well as sustainably grown Ipe wood louvers to block solar radiation in the heat of the summer. The building is also functional, with a soaring two-story lobby, a gift shop, and café along with a 100-seat classroom and 10-seat conference room. For more information on Cornell Plantations, click here.


The James J. Smith Bonsai Garden at Heathcote Botanical Gardens opened Saturday, May 21, 2011. Bonsai Master Jim Smith donated 100 of his finest bonsai to Heathcote in 2009. The trees have remained in Master Smith’s possession during construction of the new display garden. Construction commenced in July 2010 and is partially funded by a St. Lucie County Tourist Development Council grant. Former Heathcote Board Trustee Sam Comer of Hayslip Landscape, donated the original landscape design. Architect Peter Moor donated design services for the pavilion, gates and pump houses. Comer, Moor, and Heathcote Director Amy Dahan, coordinated closely with Master Smith to realize his vision of a garden where visitors could stroll and discover a bonsai at every turn. For more information on Heathcote Botanical Gardens, click here.


Mike Bush is the newly named executive director of the San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden. Bush’s most recent assignment was at Gardens by the Bay in Singapore, where he was responsible for construction and pre-opening operations of a $400 million horticulture conservatory that will open in phases beginning in November 2011. He has held executive level positions at Santa Barbara’s Ganna Walska Lotusland, the Bermuda Department of Agriculture - Botanical Gardens, the Daniel Stowe Botanical Garden in Belmont, North Carolina and Myriad (Botanical) Gardens in Oklahoma City. Bush graduated from the University of South Florida with a degree in botany. He learned his love of growing things from his grandmother, whose WWII Victory Garden inspired the then-high school sophomore to give vegetable gardening a try. It was an effort that more than succeeded, leading to nearly 38 years’ tenure in the botanical garden community. For more information on San Luis Obispo Botanical Garden, click here.


After more than 10 years of planning and preparation, the Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden in Kernersville, North Carolina, celebrated its grand opening with a weekend of festivities on April 8 to 10, 2011. Paul J. Ciener was a successful and well-loved businessman whose passion for horticulture led him to visit great gardens around the world and start the Piedmont Carolina Nursery. Paul made clear his aspirations to combine his loves of horticulture and community through the establishment of a public garden in the Triad, a north-central region of the state, and helped his sons form the Paul J. Ciener Gardens Foundation. The garden already has a number of exciting events on the calendar and is sure to become a jewel in the Triad region. For more information on Paul J. Ciener Botanical Garden, click here.