Common Ground Landscape Design


Hello there.

This is meThis is a lengthy bio! I know what you are thinking! This is a lengthy bio, and I admit that it is, but stick it out and read what you can. In the Internet world it seems like our eyes just glance over the words seeking out the candy, for that one word that stands out with the promise of taking us someplace new. Well, after my first foray into the world of surfdom, I am trying something new. Full sentences. That wasn't one, but they will be from now on.

On January 1st 2007, I surfed the Internet for the first time! I know in this day and age that sounds a bit insane for a first world, upwardly mobile landscape designer. I had checked emails, but due to my remoteness, I didn't qualify for high speed, so, I just put the idea on hold. (knowing that it was inevitable!) Before 6 weeks ago I didn't even know how to interpret the different symbols that lead you in other directions. Difficult things! like the triangle that activates the drop down list. Oh, the embarrassment that I can feel rising in my cheeks when I think about it now, but 6 weeks later.

Believe me, during the next few months you will see these lengthy descriptions dissolve into "buy this! and Do that!" as my season comes into full swing. I really am a landscape gardener, and I am out there gardening 8-10 hours a day. Which is why I am bringing to you some great segments on yoga for the gardener.It is entirely possible I would sound like alabaster hitting the floor every time I moved if I didn't.

So, this the who page. Who am I? you may be asking your self, and what is my background?

Besides spending every waking moment (between episodes of Little House on the Prairie) in the forest behind my house. I was a child of wonder. (My three older brothers would say that I was a child of wondering off) I climbed trees, and I lay on my back in the sunshine and listen to the bees. I am completely in awe with the natural world. It is where I feel most alive and human and other worldly all at the same time.

When I was 16, I attended Central Technical School where I studied art and design. I loved it, and sadly after 2 years I had to leave. I wanted to go to university, and at this time technical schools were designed to help form your technical skills and didn't gear you towards university.

When I was 17 I went to work on a Kibbutz in Israel called Kfar Menachem, where a lovely old leathery man in a golf cart put a kind of succulent in my hand and told me to plant it. I can remember looking down at the sand and thinking "There is no way this plant is going to survive!" It was then that I began to look around. There were plants everywhere Agave and Cactus and Echeverias. I had no idea why I hadn't noticed them before. Something happened in that moment. I saw that all of the plants around me, were planted by someone, it wasn't an accident or a volunteer, and even if I didn't appreciate the aesthetic, this was someone's effort. Every tree, shrub and perennial. It was as if a blindfold had been taken off and I noticed how plants were used as food, shade, and as hedges. It changed how I read a menu, I could now imagine the what the plant looked like of the spices in the food. This was when the fun began and I started to take mental notes of everything. "If I plant this Purple Coneflower in sand, will it grow differently than if I plant it in clay? (YES!) Wait a that a hedge of Marigold? It's 5 ' tall!

When I was 24 I left York University and went to Africa and the Middle East for one year. After surviving a stunning case of Cerebral Malaria. I had to change my plans. My original dream of working on a remote tree planting farm in Western Province, Kenya with CPAR, was sadly no longer an option. I wasn't ready to leave Africa, but I also knew that I didn't feel comfortable being further than 1 hour away from a major hospital.

By chance, when I was in Harare, Zimbabwe I met a fellow Canadian who was about to take a course in Permaculture at the Fambidzania Permaculture Training Center. After my initial visit, I knew had something to learn here, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. It effectively changed the course of my entire life. Pretty amazing!

The most significant aspect of what I learned, was the ability to think in terms of extremes. Zimbabwe is a tough place to garden. Imagine braking ground with a pick axe! and designing EVERYTHING to catch even the minutest amounts of rain.

I learned my essentials here, grafting, how to root a Lychee tree, seed care, chicken tractors, planting in different zones, how to determine the real slope of the land, the importance of mulching, cob house building, capturing and cooking with Methane, how to sautee pumpkin leaves (mmmmm delicious!), I even learned how to travel with my garden! It is so hard to believe that was 12 years ago. 

9 years ago after recognizing the signs of garden insanity, like getting up at the crack of dawn, hours before my "real" job to get into the dirt, and feeling that strange sense of loss in my hands when there wasn't a shovel in it. I finally made the switch, and made landscape gardening my full time possession.

I hope this gives you some idea of who I am, and what I have been up to in this lifetime. I love to cook and take long walks on the beach, play Scrabble and cuddle up on the couch holding hands :)

Kidding aside, one of my favorite things to do, is tune into CBC radio 1 on Mondays from 12-1 and pretend I am Ed Lawrence. (we do have the same last name after all, although, we are not related). I love to test my self and see how smart I am by answering the callers questions. I often end up quite pleased with my self, but he is the master.

I have traveled all over the world learning how plants grow in the world's forests, and rain forests, savannas and prairies, and if I knew that one day that I was going to have a website, garden journal and podcast, I would have taken much better pictures!




Beth Lawrence