Ecology + Design

APLD International Design Conference 2018 in Toronto: Recap From a First Time Attendee

The APLD International Design Conference (Sept 13th – 17th 2018) is a power-packed weekend to say the least.  Unlike most conferences I’ve attended, we weren’t locked in a lecture hall for four days.  Rather, APLD strikes the perfect balance of specialist speakers and boots-on-the-ground garden tours; seeing theory in action, which is always preferred!

Friday: Lectures, Demos & Networking

On Friday we heard from legend Darrel Morrison, FASLA and senior faculty at University of Wisconsin-Madison. Darrel spoke of teaching and drawing inspiration from naturally occurring Wisconsin plant communities, in both their species groupings and the innate beauty in their natural patterns: Rivers & Drifts, as he so called his presentation.  Below are some fascinating examples of his theory on paper.

We also saw a thematic compilation of landscape styles – traditional, rustic. & contemporary, from Susan Cohan and learned about Green Infrastructure case studies from Sabrena Schweyer. Jan Johnsen delved into the ‘most ancient materials’ –STONE and “stonescaping” – for a delightful preview of her newly released book The Spirit of Stone.  Finally, Toronto Botanical Garden’s own Paul Zammit delighted the room with an energizing container gardening demo.

Saturday: Public & Private Garden Tours

Kim Price

We visited three gardens designed and constructed by Kim Price Landscape Design  and were lucky enough to have her present for two of the tours to field our questions. Kim’s designs consistently used strong architectural elements with clean lines, and an emphasis on structural evergreens and foliage (to withstand Toronto’s half-year winter). I admired her modern blend of materials, especially to disguise unsightly features like A.C. units! The photo above is of a custom water feature of cor-ten steel and stainless steel egg planters; it created such a great focal point for that coveted indoor-outdoor continuum. See more photos of Kim’s work in the gallery below!


Jennifer Hayman

Jennifer addressed a challenging pie-slice lot shape by creating two patio areas on 45-degree angles, effectively elongating the space, increasing functionality and maintaining clean, modern geometry.  The front yard featured textured block plantings of Pervoskia, Taxus, and Pennisetum. See photos below.

Toronto Botanical Garden & Toronto Music Garden

It was a real treat to tour the Toronto public gardens, especially after learning that they have been maintained organically for over a decade! The Toronoto Music Garden, designed by Julie Moir Messervy to reflect Bach’s First Suite, features swirling paths inspired by fern frond for the early sections; ‘performance rocks’ in every gathering space; and spiraling crescendo and decrescendo staircases surrounded by grasses, perennials, and an outdoor grass amphitheater.

Sunday: Private Garden Tours & Sheridan Nursery Tour

We began the day with a tour of Old World Wonder which was a fabulous example of how to design on a tricky site.   Right against the property line is a massive 2.5 story church, which would have dominated previous site views.  In the finished landscape, the church is an afterthought, as is masked by a charming old-world style dual pool house, with green roofs and an antique mask waterfall. Designer Jim Mosher seamlessly melded the clients’ collection of found objects and worldly artifacts.

The next tour was an organic, naturalistic ten-acre beauty. Designer Randy Tumber cut around an existing pool to create a walk-out basement entry, and used the fill to create sweeping berms across the once-flat front yard. Other areas of the property were left un-mowed and allowed to re-vegetate as native meadows with mowed paths for optimal nature walks.

Finally, we ended the day touring one of Canada’s largest nurseries –Sheridan Nursery

Monday: Rooftop Garden Tour

Monday’s program featured several public and private roof gardens, each with their own inspiring mission and style. First was the Women’s Hospital garden which features raised beds of veggies that serve as an outdoor classroom for at-risk youth. Next was the Native Family Center whose beautiful rooftop was designed to highlight the four sacred plants: cedar, sage, tobacco and sweet grass.  A modern sweat lodge and birch planting accentuates important cultural practices. Finally, a park-like private rooftop for apartment residents proved just how successful of an amenity garden roof space can provide.

We left the conference feeling inspired and energized by our fellow designers and their commitment to elevating our public and private outdoor spaces in a sustainable way.  Learn more about APLD, and especially check out this year’s APLD Award Winners, on their website and in APLD’s The Designer magazine.


Kathryn Saphire

Landscape Development Associate


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