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Marjorie Stibbards Harris Batten, freelance writer, editor, and noted Canadian gardening authority, was born in Shaunavon, Saskatchewan, in 1937, the eldest of Bernard and Kay Stibbards ’s three children. Her father was a Baptist minister and the family moved frequently across Canada. She was tragically orphaned in her teens, losing her mother to cancer and her father soon after in an airplane crash. Harris graduated from McMaster University in 1959 with an Honours BA in English, and began graduate studies at University of Toronto, studying with Northrop Frye.
She married musician and TV producer Barry Harris with whom she had two children, Christopher and Jennifer. After separating from Harris, she met fellow writer Jack Batten, to whom she has been married since 1968. The couple still reside in the Toronto Annex home in which they raised her children and Batten’s son and daughter, Brad and Sarah.
In the early 1960s Harris worked for Toronto art dealer Dorothy Cameron which led to a position as modern-living editor and writer at Maclean’s magazine. Well into the1980s, Harris continued as a freelancer, writing on a wide range of topics for nearly every major Canadian magazine. In the early 1970s Harris was also a writer, producer, and commentator for CBC Radio on such shows as “Gerussi,” “This Country in the Morning,” and “Ideas”. In addition, she wrote and co-authored numerous general interest books in the 1970s and 1980s.
What Harris describes as her “epiphany” occurred in 1988 when she combined her writing talents and passion for gardening to create The Canadian Gardener. Published in 1990, it launched Harris into a new career, and was the first of nearly 20 gardening monographs she has written. Recognition for her expertise led to gardening columns in Chatelaine and The Globe & Mail, and to editorship roles with Toronto Life Gardens and Gardening Life. She continues to be much sought-after for speaking engagements, public appearances, and garden tours, and is a regular garden commentator on television and radio programs and online forums.
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