/Who to Hire/Landscape Professional

The Green Vision of Landscape Architect Victoria Taylor

A designer who finds possibilities in the most unlikely places

By Lorraine Johnson
Photography by Naomi Finlay

As one might expect, landscape architect Victoria Taylor’s portfolio includes upscale backyard renovations, complete with outdoor kitchens and stone surrounds. But in a city with a glut of high-rises and few green spaces in-between, she’s especially creative at connecting her clients with the ecology at hand.

At a recent Canada Blooms show, Taylor challenged the idea of what a garden could be by introducing “Concrete Bloom Bursts,” a 48-metre-long pile of reclaimed rubble and winding Rebar elegantly arranged and planted with tenacious staghorn sumac, switchgrass and birch saplings. Construction debris took on new life as the building blocks of garden making, along with the same plants Taylor sees while cycling around the Portlands or hiking the Leslie Spit’s vacant shoreline. It is vegetation’s urban resilience – as increasingly seen inside office buildings with living walls such as the one pictured here – that informs her work.

After earning master’s degrees in environmental studies at York University and landscape architecture at U of T, Taylor worked at DTAH, Plant and GH3 – three modernist firms dedicated to sustainability. Her own residential and community- focused landscape design practice is based on celebrating nature and having it flourish, despite the city dweller’s lack of time for garden chores.

Taylor is particularly passionate about food patches. She teamed up with the chef at Parts and Labour, for example, to build a fortified mini-farm atop the Parkdale restaurant so that kitchen staff can climb up in the summer to harvest a daily bounty. Heirloom tomatoes, green beans and lettuces cover a trellis and overflow from containers designed to conserve moisture.

For another sky-high garden, at a West End YMCA, she transformed an unplantable rooftop into a “flying garden” by suspending four arching structures of stainless steel mesh and weaving Virginia Creeper vines into it. Its foliage, which turns purple in the fall, shades the building and enchants the children at the facility’s daycare all year long. To introduce toddlers to different smells and textures of plants, she constructed a “scented bench” – a five-metre-long cedar seat with thyme and oregano planted below. Like all of Taylor’s designs, the heady, herbaceous resting spot encourages us to look around, look up and seize the growing opportunities all around us.

Taylor’s curated exhibit, Grow Op, happens April 23-26 at the Gladstone Hotel.

Originally published in our Summer 2013 issue as Victoria’s Gardens.