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Principles are the Start of Everything

mayan temple of strength

Design Ecosystems, Not Gardens

Plants can make us feel almost every emotion under the sun, but the one I strive to create in garden designs is a sense of awe. Which is more of an absence of emotion and more an awareness brought to the moment. I find the best way to go about creating a sense of awe in a garden comes with designing not a garden but the framework for an ecosystem. We cannot create an ecosystem since that involves 100’s of species of insects, pollinators, mammals but we can create an inviting design for them to inhabit. Once the design and installation is finished is when the ecosystem starts to form, these is something special about sitting down and watching nature work as its meant to, a mosquito gets eaten by a dragonfly, which is then eaten by a bird, which is then eaten by a larger bird and the world keeps moving while you still haven’t finished your morning cut of coffee. It makes you feel small in this universe that you are just a small piece of the machine. I find this feeling so liberating and in a well-formed ecosystem you should be able to witness something like this on a daily basis.


  • Look at the ecosystem as a whole.

  • Work with how plants work together.

  • Native insects and pollinators are always consisted of when making design decisions. Intentionally creating a hospitable environment

  • Ponds/wetlands

No Invasives

Certain invasive species have become the favourite species to both homeowners as well as garden designers. Some of these plants include Norway Maples, Japanese Barberries, lily of the valley, English ivy, daylilies and many others. These plants can put a tremendous strain on the local ecosystem where these plants are able to choke out native species and in essence create monocultures of plants that in most cases don’t provide anything to the local ecosystem. The reason we promote the growth of native plants is that a plant is not just a plant it can be an entire ecosystem when chosen correctly. Each plant can have 100’s-1000’s of native bacteria and fungal species that it associates with in the soil along with countless insects that either use the plant itself as food, the ones that eat the plant-eating insects, along with many pollinator species that have evolved together for countless generations to become dependant on each other for survival. If that isn’t enough to convince you that invasives are bad, the next time you’re at a mall or grocery store notice how many plants are the invasive ones listed above. You don’t want your garden to look the same as your Walmart parking lot do you?

  • Simple, if on this list or that we don’t put it in designs or do work where it is a major feature

  • Common ones, barberry, day lily, lily of the valley

  • Look like a grocery store parking lot anyways

Native Focused, Non- Native Pops

We believe that all designs should start with filling space with the correctly chosen native plants for that space helping to ensure that a majority of the design is comprised of native plant species. Native plants are beneficial to the local ecosystem in countless ways, including providing food and shelter for native plants and mammals, feeding the soil with nutrients but I want to focus on the idea that we do not nor do I think we will ever fully understand the benefit native plants provide to the local ecosystem. With the extra spaces left behind once deciding on the native species that are going to be planted we start thinking about non-native non-invasive plants that can help provide a pop to the landscape that might be able to be achieved with native plants. I do not like making broad statements because each design and each client is unique and we strive for showing that individuality through our garden designs, and in some cases that might include a well chosen lilac, rose, or peony. Potentially all 3 depending on how large the design is and what you’re looking for.

  • Natives should be 80+% of plants and space covered.

  • Non natives compromise 90+% of plants allowing us to only pick the best

  • Native plants promote an ecosystem

Big, Bold, and Colourful

Striving to create that sense of awe or to bring awareness to the garden I like to use a few design techniques when choosing plants. I LOVE large plants, being a taller individual myself standing beside a beautiful ironweed or joe pye weed that has grown 5-10’ in the season starting from the ground in the spring brings me such joy especially when they are loaded with butterflies and bees in fall. Plants don’t always need to be the most stunning plant in the world sometimes a bold plant with an interesting leaf shape or growth can be more intriguing than the flowering plant beside it. Being a colourblind individual sometimes the nuances between colours can be minute and, in some instances, seem dull, this has prompted me to fall in love with plants that have a colourful pop to them like native sunflowers.

  • Something special about plants growing from the ground to 6’ tall + in a season

  • Summer is short have lots of colours.

  • Plants should stand out, even if its only for 1 day a year they should have a personality to them

Welcome and Design for Death

Being an Ottawa-centered designer snow covers our landscape sometimes for 5 months or more of the year, not taking this into account when creating a design is asinine from my point of view. I want you to entertain the idea of you looking out into your back year mid-February when you’re sick and tired of the snow and you’re still able to see the black flowering stocks of half of the plants in your backyard popping up above the snow reminding you of how beautiful your garden once was and that it’s a short amount of time before it starts back up again, this is very different to looking out into the snow. Once winter is over these spent flowering stocks get colonized by many bee and insect species looking to overwinter for future years, we harvest them and cut them down into smaller more manageable pieces and create bee hotels to give back to the homeowner to help create a more full and well-functioning ecosystem.

  • Winter is long.

  • The black of old stems in February/march makes you remember summer.

  • When we appreciate death, we appreciate life more.

  • The stems of overwintered plants are taken off in spring instead of fall allowing for insects to overwinter in stems.

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