Back in the early 70s the now late Laura Hicken had obligingly agreed to share the story of her massive collection of salt and pepper shakers with The Graphic.

Her collection was so vast it spilled from one room to the next and to the next in her, and her husband Bert’s two storey home on the east corner of the Peters Road intersection.

The conversation drifted away from the subject at hand, as it often does during an interview. In this instance it turned to lupins.

Mrs Hicken was a proud and willing member of her local Women’s Institute group, although back then membership may have leaned more to expectancy than choice.

At the time, a henchman in Alex Campbell’s Liberal government decided some colour was needed along roadsides and ditches all across PEI.

As in a vast number of volunteer undertakings within the community the Women’s Institutes were called upon.

An agreement was struck. The province would provide the seeds and Institute members would scatter them about within their respective jurisdictions.

But Mrs Hicken, being a no-nonsense individual, would go above and beyond in her determination to exceed a job well done.

She decided to harvest seed from already established lupins so the beautiful colours of spring on the roadside could be shared by many more people.

Mrs Hicken would dry the seeds and set out the next spring to locations not included in the original plantings.

Today, close to five decades later purple, pink, red and yellow lupins are the subject of oohs and ahhhs from passersby Island wide. Photographers, both professional and amateur, capture the wildflower’s magnificence from the ground and the air.

Lupins, as with dandelions, are Mother Nature’s assurance that she can be as kind as she is despicable in the frigid depths of an Island winter.

But without the help of all those Women’s Institute members, just like Mrs Hicken, the palette of colours on our roadside canvasses would have a profound deficiency.

Mrs Hicken passed away on July 27, 2004 at age 97.

While her nifty collection of salt and pepper shakers which impressed so many over the years is now but a memory her roadside legacy lives on - province wide.

Heather Moore

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