Tory received her Masters of Landscape Architecture from the University of Guelph. She has since worked in both Montreal and BC doing master planning, landscaping, and design before moving to Edmonton to work as a freelance designer. After feeling the need to get back into design-build, she jumped on board with Salisbury Landscaping and is going into her second season with our team.
What drew you to landscape design?
Initially, when I went back to school, it was just feeling the need to go back into a university program. My background is science — ecology — so, landscape architecture just seemed like it was a perfect blend of applying science and art.
I actually didn’t anticipate when I was doing my schooling that I was going to end up in residential design; that was just what life directed me to and what opportunity gave. But, I love it. It’s so immediate— the gratification of seeing your designs come to life. And it’s a more personal experience than a lot of other larger scale projects.
Often, you have the opportunity to actually go on site and go lay out the plants and be a little bit more involved in it. Residential design is actually very suiting to me, I just didn’t know it was going to be in the beginning!
Tell me about your first design project.
Well, very first… I guess I have dabbled in design aspects for years— even as a kid, you know, just drawing up plans for future houses. But, if we’re talking about residential design, then I can definitely speak to that specifically!
So, it would have been one when I first started with that previous company. It was in a mountain resort, and it was just a small design. We just had a small side yard to put plants in for this ski resort home. But, the access was insane! We had to drop all of this rock at the bottom of their driveway and install it by pushing wheelbarrows up this hill that was so steep I think my nose was almost on the ground! You’re just thinking, “If I let go…” (chuckles). But it was just what we had to do. It was a smaller job, but it took a lot of time and work and sweat.
Tell me about your favourite design project that you’ve done to date.
You know, honestly, there is some aspect of every design that I do that I absolutely love and take so much pleasure in. It’s those moments throughout the design that are happy— those creative, finally figuring it out, “aha!” moments.
But, one particular one was the smallest front yard and the lady came in with the request that she wanted a bird and bee haven for her yard with some privacy created. And she wanted to use micro-clover as her lawn instead. It was just a very ecologically-based, inspired design that was just stunning—the colours, everything! It was a tiny front yard and it was just filled with beautiful, little pockets.
What inspirations would you say influence your designs most?
Honestly, it really depends on the yard. I know a lot of designers will draw on certain designers and concepts, but every design client is so different! It’s really what that landscape calls for and what the client needs. I’m inspired by what speaks to me for that design and interpreting and trying to bring in what would work best for that client. It’s not so much other external forces, it’s very personal to each situation and what constraints that site has.
I would say it’s very intuitive, as well, which is hard to describe. Whenever I had to do big design presentations when I was doing my masters, my profs would say, “Okay, go through your whole process and your whole concept for it.” All that designer talk. But it’s more that I just feel it, it’s what feels right.
Which projects would you say you are most passionate about?
Anything with a challenge that’s a little bit atypical. Something that’s going to be challenging to play with. I just enjoy when there’s a problem and you have to solve all these puzzle pieces together. But, like I mentioned in my favourite project to-date, anything where I am creating something that is good for the environment and harnessing the force of pollinator plants is great, too!
If you were given full freedom, both financially and creatively, what would you most love to create in a design?
If I were to go on a large scale, it would be something quite grand, like a whole eco-village community from the very beginning—you know, siting where all the buildings would go and having influence over that. More of the big master planning picture.
Kind of more pressing and immediate, though, is if I could create a native plant landscape, like a prairie meadow for a client. Or if I could incorporate more masonry work into a landscape, like creating secret garden walls with big archways out of masonry. More old world, I guess.
From start to finish, can you just go through the basics of your design process?
First is to have that initial meeting. We always talk on the phone a bit first to get a bit of a background about the project but, really, you have to see it. So, it’s meeting on-site with the client and walking through their space, listening to them about how they want to use their yard ideally and any problems that they’re having. And listening to what their needs and wants are for the site. Then, taking pictures and confirming ideas, maybe bouncing some ideas off. Sometimes we really hash it out on-site quite well and have a more solid direction.
Other times, it’s going back to the office and visualizing and coming up with some ideas for that space. Then, we come together and meet after I’ve come up with a design concept and get feedback on it. And usually, it requires a review at least a little minor change or something because people have an easier time seeing something and then figuring out what is working for them and what isn’t. You need that base plan first, that visual with the 3D mockup, which helps to give you get a better spatial awareness.
What advice can you give to those considering their very first landscape design project?
Stay open. It’s really dangerous to really have an idea and not be flexible. That is why you’re talking to a designer. They can interpret those wants and needs into a functional way. Stay open to suggestions of possibly better ways and know how you use the space. There are a lot of really cool landscape trends you can do, but they don’t always make sense to put in your landscape if you’re not going to use it.
Look at your outdoor space, your deck or patio— what furniture do you use? Are you going to eat outside or have a lounge space? Maybe your family doesn’t eat formally at a table when you’re outside, maybe you prefer to have plates in your lap and sit on a couch? How much entertaining do you do? You’re creating the space that works better for how you live and these are all questions that we, as designers, can’t answer. We need to listen to you on all that so we can make our suggestions but, ultimately, it’s your yard and your space and it has to work for you.