I took some landscape design courses at Ryerson and Humber while I was working as a gardener, and then got my master's in landscape architecture in 2008 at the University of Toronto.
I have always loved plants. I worked at the Evergreen centre in the communications and media and marketing department before enrolling at U of T. I helped raise money to bring nature into the city, and I realized that although I liked my job, I wanted to be the designer of those spaces.
In my design practice, I explore form, shapes, space and different materials, so I really like to take studio art classes to get away from the computer and explore the hand-eye connection through drawing and working with my hands. As a professional, I get less and less of that, because I spend so much time drawing on the computer.
In 2013, I took a lot of drawing and painting studio courses through the Art Gallery of Ontario and started to explore OCAD University's industrial design program. The studio courses let me explore things I do in my professional practice, but on a smaller scale, using my hands.
When you're working on the computer, everything has to be so perfect. Every millimetre has to be accounted for. In an OCAD U sculpture class, you can be messy. There's no client, and you can be freer in your thinking about form and experimentation. Sometimes turning off your brain helps - it creates an energy that then comes into my design practice.
Now I spend a lot of time on different types of sites in the city and outside it: rooftops, private gardens, condo properties, public spaces and parks. I meet with clients, work through the design process, get a design finalized and start to work with contractors, materials and construction.
My best experiences on the job are seeing tradespeople work. You've envisioned something on paper, and when you get the people involved who do the actual work in the garden, it is so amazing. From the paper to the reality of the constructed design - I really like that process.
The worst experience is when you go through that process and come back three years later and no one's taken care of the garden. The hardest thing is to educate clients that the site needs attention constantly, like a child. You can't leave a garden alone. That's the beautiful thing about nature: it's constantly changing.
Apart from creative vision and attention to construction, a good landscape architect has a deep love for and curiosity about plants and the diverse beauty and dynamic processes of the natural world. That's the bottom line, the critical foundation for the design of our spaces.