A gardener’s legacy blooms in Leaside

The Doris White Children's Garden. Photo by Kathi Davies.
The Doris White Children's Garden. Photo by Kathi Davies.

There’s a charming perennial border stretching along the northern fence of the St. Cuthbert’s vegetable patch. I saw it last fall when I was doing the Harvest Report there.

It’s small, compared to the other garden beds, yet jam-packed with irises, phlox and lilies, and graced with a plaque that reads simply: “The Doris White Children’s Garden – 1918-2010.”

I wondered – who was Doris White, and why is this called a Children’s Garden?

To find out more, I reached out to Nancy Wahlroth, who knows everything about this garden. She’s been gardening at St. Cuthbert’s since 2007, and became garden chair in 2011. It was Nancy who brought this lovely garden to my attention last fall.      

Who was Doris White?   

This long-time member of the parish of St. Cuthbert’s Church was well-known for her love of flowers and her beautiful garden on Davisville Ave. Doris died on November 3, 2010 at 93 years of age.

A year after her death, the rector received permission to harvest some of the flowers from her garden for transplant at St. Cuthbert’s. Since it was late in the season, the goodies were planted wherever there was space in St. Cuthbert’s existing gardens until they could be planted in a single garden plot in the spring.

The Doris White Children's Garden. Photo by Kathi Davies.
The Doris White Children’s Garden. Photo by Kathi Davies.

But why a Children’s Garden?

Doris White had no children of her own, but she was known for her love of children as well as her green thumb. Part of her generous bequest to St. Cuthbert’s was designated for sending two children from the inner city to summer camp every year.

“A fitting legacy,” Nancy said, and “for this reason, it became obvious that children should plant the garden, and that it be called The Doris White Children’s Garden.”  

In early spring 2012, a new bed was dug and several bags of fresh soil were added to ensure the best possible growing conditions. Nancy knows because not only was she there, she organized the event!  

“On a beautiful sunny Sunday morning after church, the ‘ChurchKids’ (Sunday School children) gathered and planted the flowers at random in the new flower bed. Parishioners gathered too, singing ‘inch by inch, row by row, gonna make the garden grow!”

And grow the garden did!

Thanks to the children who planted and to the parishioners who are a part of the St. Cuthbert’s garden team, the plants continue to grow, bloom and flourish. With loving hands, these plants are weeded, watered and carefully divided when necessary. The team even added some peonies and sedums to add to the joyful mix.

There is so much about this little garden that I find inspiring, and I hope you do too!  

As Audrey Hepburn said: “To plant a garden is to believe in tomorrow.”

Happy spring!

About Debora Kuchme 67 Articles
After a 30-year career as a fashion designer, Debora worked at Horticultural Design for over a decade. Now with her concerns about climate change, she hopes to help local gardeners find positive solutions for a greener and healthier neighbourhood. As a board member of the Bayview Leaside BIA, she created the Bayview Pixies, a volunteer group introducing sustainable gardening practice to Bayview.