Container gardening takes off for Bsq.

July 2, 2010

LORRAINE HUNTER

SPECIAL TO THE STAR

Talk about a domino effect.

Participating in Canada Blooms last

year has led to worldwide exposure for

two Toronto landscape designers.

Alex Bartlett and Robert Boltman of

Bsq. Landscape Design Studio will be

taking part in the Singapore Garden

Festival later this month — one of the

greatest honours in the gardening

world.

Following the show, their display will

be permanently installed at the children’s Botany Garden at the Singapore Botanical Garden.

And as a result, they have also been invited to take part in the 2010

Gardening World Cup in Nagasaki, Japan next October. The theme

of that event — to take place in the gardens of a reproduction of the

Dutch royal residence — is peace. It aims to illustrate how

gardening and green space can heal and promote both inner peace

and peace between nations. Their challenge will be how to “interpret

peace to a child,” explains Bartlett.

It all began with their display at Canada Blooms last year — a

portable office in a shipping container incorporating a number of

green technologies including a solar power generator, a green roof

and rooftop deck, and recycled materials. Known for a sustainable

“green approach” in their designs, Boltman and Bartlett won the

Canada Blooms Environmental Award for the 2009 display.

“Officials from the Singapore show were impressed with our Canada

Blooms installation because there was no waste,” says Bartlett,

admitting that he and Boltman were surprised by the offer. “We

didn’t think what we did was truly that unique. Other people have

This Rosedale garage has a green roof designed by b sq. Landscape Design Studio.

This Rosedale garage has a green roof designed by b sq. Landscape Design Studio.

done installations in container crates.”

But the duo’s creation is special. After it’s appearance at Canada

Blooms, the winterized installation was moved to a “brown site,” an

unused parking lot at St. Clair Ave. W. and Spadina Ave., and is

now the company’s support office for projects in that area, “and

could be moved across town again for just $150,” says Bartlett.

For the Singapore Garden Festival, the partners will be “trying to 

create a design that speaks to Singapore’s history as well as to

what’s going to happen in the future when we will need to be using

less energy,” he says.

The biennial festival attracted more than 200,000 visitors to its inaugural show in December 2006 and more

than 300,000 in July 2008, of which 30 per cent were from overseas.

The Bsq. partners will be among some 30 international garden and floral designers at the show including

participants from Britain, Australia, the United States, South Africa and Japan.

Bsq. specializes in ecologically sound design practices for both private and public clients. Boltman and Bartlett

share a desire to “improve, transform and enhance city gardens, urban spaces, rooftops, building facades and

other open spaces.”

“The majority of our clients are permanent residences,” says Bartlett, “A lot of people are asking us to do more

sustainable things, from planting trees in the right area to installing permeable driveways.” (To encourage as

much rainwater to infiltrate back into the ground as possible.)

The firm does both design and construction. Bartlett, 35, and Boltman, 36, met at Ryerson University where

they both studied Landscape Design and went their own ways gaining experience for several years before

deciding to join forces and open their own firm.

Would they exhibit at Canada Blooms again? You bet. “It’s a good show,” says Bartlett. “We like it because it’s

a not-for-profit show which changes the entire focus. And, it has great support staff.”