Tony Spencer - Bringing the High Line Home

On November 25, 2013, Tony Spencer will speak at our meeting. This meeing begins at 7pm instead of the usual 7:30pm so we can have time for a short AGM before the speaker begins. To find out more about our meetings click here.
After a trip to the Netherlands for a design and planting workshop with Piet Oudolf and Dr. Noel Kingsbury, Tony Spencer returned home with some of the latest thinking about how to make ‘new perennial’ planting design thrive in his family’s cottage garden in the Kawarthas.

This column has referred to a few of its past subjects as “renaissance men”. Perhaps it’s the verve with which individuals take to gardening despite completely unrelated careers. Perhaps it’s the marriage of many different interests, particularly in the creative sphere, that finds expression through gardening. Perhaps it’s the way in which gardening transforms their lives, opening them up to new and unexpected experiences and friendships. For this month’s speaker, Tony Spencer, it seems to be a combination of all of the above.
Being a freelance writer for advertising and design by trade provided Tony with a number of opportunities for his recent plunge into gardening design, thought, ethics, and aesthetics. While he has known and worked in gardens from the time he was a child—from his mother’s English style rose garden to doing the grunt work for an “environmental guerrilla gardening” company called Acme as a teenager, to his post university days in Banff where he worked at the Cascade Garden—it was his writing career that predominated.
Working with the “ebb and flow” of projects that came along, he came back to gardening through “travelling and reading, reading, reading, stacks of books”. Among them the one that stood out was Piet Oudolf and Noel Kingsbury’s Designing With Plants. So moved was he by this man’s vision for designing gardens, not just aesthetics but a plant ethic, a philosophy which Tony has been trying to introduce into his family’s cottage garden, that he has been to visit the eminent Mr. Oudolf not once, but twice. And the camaraderie that has ensued was evident when Tony received an e-mail from his new Dutch friend Piet while I interviewed him.
This month, Tony will share some of what he has learned, from the master himself and from his own experience working in a northern garden, bringing out its poetry and sensibility, discovering plants and their changes through the seasons, making it sing with structure, form, and texture—a talk not to be missed.
Maria Nunes
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