BOOKMARK: Scott LaFleur

Who: Scott LaFleur joined the staff of Claremont’s Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden as its director of horticulture in March. Coming to Claremont from the east coast, he previously worked at the New England Wild Flower Society, the oldest plant conservation organization in the US.

“It’s always been a dream of mine to work here at Rancho Santa Ana. I’ve always been in love with California and with Rancho, and now I can experience it, immerse myself in it. It’s like a dream come true,” Mr. LaFleur said.

Recently settling in Claremont, he lives with his wife, Kara LaFleur, and his daughter, Lillianna Odelie LaFleur, a first-grader at Condit Elementary School. Lilly, named after a flower and Mr. LaFleur’s adored grandmother, was enchanted by the edible spring bounty in the yard that eventually became theirs.

“Lilly grabbed an orange, and I told her that if we lived here she could pick them anytime and have fresh squeezed orange juice every morning. It blew her mind,” he said.

Currently reading: Mr. LaFleur’s reading selections often relate to his profession, and he is currently in the midst of 2 such books: From Art to Landscape: Unleashing Creativity in Garden Design by W. Gary Smith, and California Native Plants for the Garden by Carol Bornstein, David Fross and Bart O’Brien.

“In meeting and working with Gary a few times, he really helped me develop a better way of looking at design, how to bring it all out and unleash, really cultivate, your creativity,” said Mr. LaFleur, noting that one of the projects he and Mr. Smith worked on together is highlighted in the book.

An expert in the native plants of New England, Mr. LaFleur is now striving to “reinvent” himself as a designer, he explained, and become just as savvy with California natives. The book on California plants that he’s reading is serving as a foundation for shifting from east coast to west coast flora.

“It’s a whole new ballgame,” he said.

Recently read: In a relatively rare non-plant moment, Mr. LaFleur enjoyed Sara Gruen’s novel, Water for Elephants, which he loved.

“You have this view of the circus in such a happy-childhood-memory sort of way, and this book really reveals the dark underbelly side of that. It was absolutely engaging on that level,” he said. “At the same time, it was really a wonderful love story. Those things together made it a great read.”

On the docket: Three page-turners await Mr. LaFleur’s attention, all mystery novels penned by his father-in-law, K.D. Mason, a sailor and retired seafood restaurant owner. The 3 books—Harbor Ice, Changing Tides and Dangerous Shoals—comprise the Jack Beale mystery series and are based on the seacoast town of Rye, New Hampshire, a region quite familiar to Mr. LaFleur.

“These are absolutely in my queue of books to read. Especially now, on the other side of the country, I need to feel that hometown feel,” he said, noting that some of characters are loosely based on his wife, daughter and himself.

Favorite author: Mr. LaFleur named comedic, philosophical and often wildly irreverent novelist Tom Robbins as his favorite author.

“I love how he brings every day objects to life and creates stories around them,” he said. “He write stories that make you think differently about things.”

Tom Robbins is best known for his book Even Cowgirls Get the Blues, and wrote numerous others including Another Roadside Attraction, Jitterbug Perfume, Skinny Legs and All and Still Life with Woodpecker.

Most memorable childhood book: Without a millisecond of hesitation, Mr. LaFleur named Robert’s McCloskey’s Make Way for Ducklings, which won the coveted Caldecott Medal in 1941. The sweet story is set in Boston and the infamous Massachusetts public park, Boston Common, which provides a beautiful, safe haven for Mr. and Mrs. Mallard and their ducklings. Mr. LaFleur has fond childhood memories of looking for ducks at Boston Common while visiting the sprawling park with his family.

“I knew the areas the author was talking about. The book made it all come to life for me. I’ll always remember it,” he said.

Favorite book nook: “We’re a library family,” Mr. LaFleur said. Not one to reread books, owning a collection of them is unimportant to him—a philosophy and practice poignantly validated after his family’s recent cross-country move, when the cost of shipping their possessions was based on weight.

Favorite place to read: The enthusiastic horticulturalist in him means that Mr. LaFleur prefers to—downright has to—read indoors. 

“When I’m outside, I absolutely cannot focus on the book. I’m always wanting to weed something, or I see something that needs pruning,” he said. “I love the outdoors so much, so in order to really read, I have to be somewhere inside, tucked in a little corner.”

Further revealing how enthralled he is with the outdoors and the miracles of plant life, Mr. LaFleur shared the following.

“I’m in wonder of how intelligent, in a sense, plants are, and how they adapt to situations and how vital they are to our being alive. Without the plants, we’re nothing,” he said. “On the flipside, I love to be able to make things happen. I love the artistic outlet of designing a garden and watching it change.”

—Brenda Bolinger


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