Landscape Architecture / Our Profession

Landscape Architecture is the profession that designs outdoor spaces for the public and private sector. It applies artistic and scientific principles to the planning, design and management of both built and natural environments. The Ontario Association of Landscape Architects (OALA) is the regulatory body that licences individuals in the province based on their university education and internship experience.

This profession touches on a variety of different disciplines that work with land forms and structure, waterbodies, cultural and historical landscapes as well as art and architecture. Landscape Architects evaluate the natural environment and create man-made environments to solve problems and  accommodate people.  They look at the big picture and the long term consequences,working at regional or local scale.  Following through with Project Management ensures that the vision is executed.

Landscape Architecture places the natural environment first and landscape architects collaborate with other professionals to design cost effective, sustainable and beautiful landscapes. For more information on the work and research of landscape architects see the following link: 



Canada 150! – What is Your Sesquicentennial Project?

150 years of this beautiful country is worth celebrating!  What better way than to plant a tree – A maple tree of course. A true, blue, native Canadian maple naturally. Actually they don’t come in blue – but remember the fall with all those glorious colours?  It’s not too late to plan a tree planting project; you will be ready when the ground is! Here are some ideas and resources.

Sugar maple
Recently planted Sugar Maple

How about a single landmark specimen tree? Your nearby nursery  will have them in various sizes. The larger the tree the more expensive but one roughly 150cm tall (that’s 5 feet) will be less than $150.00. Tall enough to see and avoid when you are cutting the grass. Have your planting day on April 22, Earth Day and celebrate. Planted in the right spot and with appropriate care, it could grow and thrive for the next 150 years. Check out to discover native maple varieties, fascinating facts and suppliers.

tree seedlings
Bare root tree seedlings can look like this but they grow surprisingly quickly.

Or how about planting 150 trees? If you have room, tree seedlings are your best bet. They may be available from your Conservation Authority if you order right now. The bareroot seedlings will be approximately 15-30cm. There are minimum quantity order requirements and  pick-up or expected delivery times for April. Fergus Forest Center and associated nursery ( is near Kemptville. They only grow native species of trees and shrubs that are found in eastern Ontario, so the chances of success are better. They also offer gift seedlings if you are having an event.

If you really are not into planting trees – how about collecting seeds? Of course you will have to wait until the tree produces them in the fall – but it’s easy to collect 150 seeds! For fascinating reading and detailed instructions on how to collect, prepare and grow all kinds of trees, Look into “Growing Trees from Seed” by Henry Kock. / Firefly Books.

In the meantime 12 beautiful pictures of maple trees, or your favorite tree – will make a wonderful calendar. Canada’s Sesquicentennial – plan something now and if you need some help call Vorster Eliason Landscape Architects, we have 150 ideas!  





Landscape Maintenance Cost -Saving

Please accept as fact that all landscapes need maintenance. The best we can hope for is a naturalized landscape that requires less maintenance. Landscape maintenance is an on-going expense but a carefully planned planting can approximate  a natural one with less expense. Considering that a poorly maintained landscape reflects badly on your house value or on your business’ first impression – the opposite is equally true.

Three ways to reduce landscape maintenance costs

  1.  Mow Less Historically, a green lawn was seen as a status symbol, or a frame for architecture,  in 2016  landscapes need to do more than look o.k.  Convert some lawn to a bioswale or rain garden or leave some un-mown. Big drifts of ornamental grasses are beautiful year round. You can control surface water, direct it to your garden and  watch it thrive with less input  of  fuel, time and dollars .
    Ornamental grasses come in a wide variety of shape and color
  2. Prune less – if the right plant is in the right place, much less needs to be done. Use the natural shape of the plant to your advantage. There are plant shapes for every situation and most plants don’t like to be pruned into geometric shapes.  Here is a website with illustrations of good pruning practices for best appearance and least work.
  3. Use native plants – they are more resilient to changes in local conditions because they have adapted to where they live.   Native plants provide a sense of place and provide useful habitat and food for wildlife. Best of all they are long lived and grow without fertilizers or pesticides.

So invest in some natural capital and reduce your maintenance costs by doing less!

Wondering what to plant? Contact Vorster-Eliason Landscape Architects we know what works.

Native Flowers for all seasons & cost-saving landscape maintenance










Planning for Green Infrastructure

Many municipalities are facing the problems of deteriorating ‘grey’ infrastructure – piping systems do have a lifespan.  In the worst case scenario, the effects of erratic and severe storms cause flooding incidents, property damage or water polluting sewer overflows. Budget constraints mean constantly having to do more with fewer resources.  And the words green infrastructure & sustainability keeps coming up – what are sustainable initiatives?

Eco Village Ithica
Traditional Sub-division Streetscape
EcoVillage Ithaca NY
Eco Village Streetscape

How Green Infrastructure Works

The green infrastructure framework uses vegetation as it’s principal component, suiting the right plant to the right place. Because the roots, soil and leaf litter hold water like a sponge, we can use this factor to help solve flash flooding by directing the flow of water and slowing down runoff before it gets to the catch basin or creek. Because the process mimics the natural one, it is self-sustaining.

The landscape features that do this are called rain gardens, bio-swales or bioretention units. Roof gardens also perform this function.  Underground piping connections may be the final destination as the water filters through the subgrade, but it has the following advantages.


8 Advantages of Green Infrastructure

  1. Water is released slowly preventing pipe overflow
  2. The water is cleaner than surface water by natural filtration
  3. Using green infrastructure may delay expensive replacement of sewer systems
  4. Once established, these features can last 20 years if maintained
  5. Groundwater recharge
  6. Aesthetic enhancement
  7. Erosion control
  8. Less costly to install than grey infrastructure

Assessing the site microclimate and soils, financial, construction and maintenance requirements is all part of the work of Vorster Eliason Landscape Architects. Sustainability is the goal. Using green infrastructure and natural processes constructively is the process. Landscape Architecture is the profession that helps put all the pieces together. Call today for a free in person presentation of how Green Infrastructure Strategies can work for your community and get some sustainability going!

Rain Gardens: Slow Water for Sustainability

Several problems in the landscape have to do with water. Using rain gardens, part of green infrastructure,  in our urban environment helps diminish problems of too much water on site and flooding.

  1. Fact: surface runoff in the urban environment picks up pollutants from pavements,  races through expensive infrastructure and ends up polluting our water bodies.
  2. Fact: surface runoff in nature, slowed by plants, soaks slowly into the soil and leaf debris, meanders between rocks and gradually makes its way in a filtered, cleaner condition to the water table.

It’s easy to see that the natural system is cost effective, more sustainable  and better for the overall environment.

A Rain Garden is a depression in the landscape, combined with plant material it captures stormwater runoff and slows it down. The depression can be as little as 50 -80cm and once planted looks just like a garden bed.

Rain Garden Diagram

An interesting book that proposes many solutions is Rain Gardens.

Bio-swales: On a larger scale, your nearby ditch (or engineered bio-swale) can do the same thing. The size varies with the amount of water entering the system.

Curb cut directs water to planted area
Curb cut directs water to planted area

Three Components to Ensure Success

  1. Generally, the soil mixture has a high sand content to increase porosity.  Crushed stone is used below or as an exit channel.
  2. Often there is a sub-surface drain which may or may not be connected to the sewer system.
  3. Plants are usually drought-tolerant varieties – but those that can withstand flooding are included too – depending on volume of water capture and the release time.

Either way as the result of a rain garden or bio-swale,  water is cleaner and installation is less expensive.  Large systems may require engineering but don’t ask an engineer for a plant list! Contact Vorster-Eliason Landscape Architects for a free list of drought tolerant plants.  They are the professionals who can do the best job of ‘right plant-right place’.


Low Impact Development Saves Municipal Dollars

A river in spring
Photo by Grey Merriam, March  2011

Greater awareness of our environment has turned the spotlight on landscape development. Water conservation and ecological storm water management may be the buzz-words of late but they are nonetheless worthwhile. Through close observation and by following natural processes, the result has produced initial cost benefits and long term operating value for projects. One of the recent proven strategies is L.I.D. (Low Impact Development) which includes rain gardens, permeable paving and an important focus on using vegetation. These procedures are effective in mitigating the negative effects of stormwater runoff and by providing communities with these benefits

6 Potential Benefits of Low Impact Development:

  1. Reduced flooding
  2.  Increased groundwater recharge
  3. Improved water quality
  4.  Improved site aesthetics
  5. Increased open space
  6. Potentially increased property values

Site analysis is a key first step from both an engineering and aesthetic standpoint. Happily, effective L.I.D. design is completely site specific and highly variable and can provide economic benefits to:

  1. Homeowners
  2. Local governments
  3. Developers

(Lower developmental costs can be created, for example, by reducing the need for new site infrastructure which in turn reduces infrastructure maintenance costs.)

Through research and case studies, the long term value of clean air, clean water and healthy fish and otters  can be measured, but it’s not easy to equate in in monetary terms. However, by protecting natural ecosystems with L.I.D. techniques, communities are further provided with a Quality of Life benefit.

Contact Vorster-Eliason Landscape Architects for an assessment of potential L.I.D. strategies for your community.

Photo by Anne Moses, 2014

Good things happen over lunch! How Vorster Eliason was launched

Bardi and Daina launched Vorster EliasonWe’ve launched! Vorster Eliason came about through a conversation over food, Bardi and Daina discovered our mutual love of plants and our excitement about design. Design can solve so many problems! Also, we have a strong belief that good planting design can make or break a project. It happens to be something we do well, through life-long interest and practical observation of plants. We may have traveled parallel courses in our respective practices of landscape architecture but our diverse project experience complements each other, and wouldn’t it be nice to work together, and bounce ideas off each other and figure out our part in making Sustainable Kingston happen?

Lets do it!

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