Tips for maintaining your new and existing landscape through the fall and winter

We thought we would create a friendly little handout to give to our clients once we had completed a project to help them troubleshot the initial aspects of landscape maintenance especially the little things that can make a big difference in the fall and winter.

We thought it turned out pretty well so we are happy to make it available to all who may want it.

Tips for maintaining your new garden especially over those tough fall and winter months as well as best practices for protecting your stone masonry.

Some great stop motion video of a project under construction last year.

Thanks very much to Blair S. of Barrie Avenue for providing these awesome stop motion videos from his backyard transformation.

b sq. Design transformed his backyard into multi-room, multi-use space with the addition of an Arbor, new fencing, new decking, a new bike shed and lots of new garden areas and a small lawn area.

Mid-town Toronto backyard transformation. Landscape design and build completed by B.SQ. Design Studio ( Project was led by Alex Bartlett.

b sq. Design Studio invited back to Japan in 2014

b sq. Design Studio has accepted the invitation to return to Nagasaki Japan in September 2014 to compete once again in the Gardening World Cup. The first ever Gardening World Cup competition took place in October 2010 in Nagasaki, which lies in the south east of the Japanese island of Kyushu. Nagasaki is the home of Japan’s leading garden designer Kazuyuki Ishihara who is also Chelsea show garden gold medalist. Kazuyuki conceived the competition’s theme of gardening for world peace, bringing together countries from across the globe. 

b sq. Design was honoured to participate in the inaugural Gardening World Cup in 2010 where their effort for a show garden won a Gold medal for Canada.

Construction in Japan begins Spetember 22nd and final Judging will be on October 4th. 2014!

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b sq. Design Studio Inc. Wins Silver at the Singapore Garden Festival 2012


Where: Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre,

Gardens are the hot ticket this month in Singapore.

Fresh off the opening of the $1-billion Gardens by the Bay last week, the biennial Singapore Garden Festival takes root today for nine days downtown.

One of the mostly hotly contested show garden contests in the world, it has 15 entries including one featuring an igloo.

Designers from around the globe including Singapore – who have to be

specially invited to take part – are given a $100,000 budget to create a temporary

garden structure. Each show garden is in a plot just 10m by 10m and entered in either of two categories – fantasy or landscape. Judges award either gold, silver or bronze to each garden, though only two will snare the top prize of the Best of Show garden.

There are also awards for a Floral Windows To The World section and Balcony Gardens, created by top garden and floral designers from 19 countries. In total, there are more than 280,000 plants and over 70,000 stalks of cut flowers displayed on levels 4 and 6 of the Suntec Singapore International Convention and Exhibition Centre.

While the festival, which is in its fourth edition and on till next Sunday, bursts into bloom so soon after Gardens by the Bay, organisers are not worried about garden fatigue.

Director of the Singapore Botanic Gardens Nigel Taylor says: “Both the Gardens by the Bay and the Singapore Garden Festival are unique attractions that complement each other and provide different experiences for visitors.”

To entice people to check out both attractions, a price deal has been put together.

Dr Taylor says: “We anticipate more visitors who wish to visit both attractions. So, to cater to them, we have been offering visitors who hold tickets to either the Flower Dome or the Cloud Forest conservatories at the Gardens by the Bay or the festival a 20 per cent discount at the other attraction.”

The feast of fun at the garden fest, which costs $9 million to put on, includes fringe events spread over two floors of the convention centre, such as a marketplace where visitors can shop for gardening tools and services.

Crowd favourites from past editions that are back include the Singapore Orchid Show, while the Garden Fiesta offers educational, recreational and entertainment activities for everyone.

New additions include a Floral Table Series segment where visitors can pick up tips on how to make a table floral arrangement. Home owners seeking inspiration for their balconies can check out the first Balcony Gardens competition to see how local designers maximise small spaces. 

Over at the show gardens, the duo behind the igloo in a garden are Canadians Robert Boltman and Alex Bartlett of bsq. Landscape Design Studio. They are excited to be back after winning a silver for their fantasy garden in 2010.

Their new garden, called Northern Light, was inspired by the rugged landscape of the Canadian north. Mr Boltman says: “It is daunting to compete with such established names but it’s great that the standard of the show is quite high and the organisers are really focused on the quality of design.”


Northern Light by: Alex Bartlett and Robert Boltman (Canada, above and below)

Won: Silver in the Fantasy Garden category

I f you are looking to chill out, head straight for the only igloo in the room. And if you are lost, look for a n  I n u i t/ inukshuk, or stone marker, just like those the native Inuit people of Canada make.

Canadian designers Bartlett and Boltman pay homage to that community with their display. Peer through the clear perspex glass of the igloo to glimpse eight pieces of original Inuit artwork.

To create a fantasy feel for their garden, they hung colourful, lighted baubles to resemble the Northern Lights in the Canadian wilderness. With windswept-looking pine trees and white orchids to resemble snow, you almost feel that you are away from the hot, sticky weather here.


B sq. Design Studio Inc. makes the Front Cover of the Singapore Strait times Life Section.

B sq. Design Studio Inc. makes the Front Cover of the Singapore Strait times Life Section.

Full Page Spread.JPG

Canadian design firm wins gold medal at the 2010 Gardening World Cup in Nagasaki

Nagasaki, Japan

October 13th, 2010

b sq. Design Studio, a Toronto based Landscape

Design and Build firm, won a gold medal at the inaugural, 2010 Gardening World Cup held

in Nagasaki Japan. Created to celebrate world peace through garden design and landscape art, on the 65th anniversary of the atomic bombing of Nagasaki during the Second World War, b sq. Design was one of ten internationally recognized teams invited to compete in the competition, beating out designers from the U.K., Australia, the U.S., France and New Zealand.

The only Canadian firm to be invited to compete in the competition, b sq. Design Studio completed construction on the project over three weeks in September and October in collaboration with a local Japanese contractor. The team was awarded the gold medal for the winning project on October 11th, at the beginning of the Gardening World Cup Flower and Garden Show.  

The winning garden design by b sq. Design Studio was created to reflect upon the history of conflict throughout the world and the garden design culminated in a space designed to

represent a feeling openness and togetherness for our future. Canadian school children

from Kindergarten and Grades 4 and 5 from Our Lady of Lourdes public school in Toronto contributed messages of peace and goodwill to the Japanese people which were featured prominently within the design.

 “It was a very daunting prospect to design a garden with a message of peace for this particular garden show, said Alex Bartlett from b sq Design Studio. “Given the recent history of Nagasaki we wanted our message to be very meaningful and heartfelt”.

The completed garden was over 1500 sq. ft. in size and included 12 mature trees over 25

feet in height. It took 10 people over three weeks of work to construct this garden. “Our Japanese contractor and his workers were excellent craftsmen with a

wonderful attention to detail,” said Bartlett. “We provided many detailed drawings and 3‐D models of the design prior to construction and this effort on our part paid off as the Japanese crew replicated every aspect of the design perfectly.”

He added that “even though it was difficult at times to communicate with our workers we all did become good friends and the highlight of our experience was watching our contractor celebrate winning the gold medal with his father who had travelled 1500 km just to attend the awards ceremony”.

This was the 2nd international design show for b sq Design Studio this year. Earlier in July of 

this year b sq Design Studio constructed another garden over 1000 sq. ft. in size for the Singapore Garden Festival 2010 and won a Silver Medal for its efforts there. Once again in Singapore, they were the only Canadian design firm invited to participate among a field of

International, award winning garden designers.

 “Even though it is mentally and physically exhausting to travel around the

world to participate in the design shows it is still an honour to do so and we will most likely

be very happy to do it again in the years to come,” said Robert Boltman of b sq Design Studio.

From which schools? You could point out there

Can you get a quote fromyour contractor to put here instead? A third party member of the industry weighingin?

Landscape firm turns to 'cargotecture' for eco-friendly office space

July 2, 2010



Alex Bartlett takes a break on the roof of his office, a converted shipping   container.

Alex Bartlett takes a break on the roof of his office, a converted shipping container.

You might say Bsq Landscape Design’s

conversion of a 10-by-20-foot shipping

container into an eco-friendly mid-town

office is the ultimate example of

workplace recycling.

The corrugated steel container, near

the corner of Spadina and St. Claire

Ave., has been retro-fitted with cool birch veneer interior walls, two built-in work stations, a large five-footsquare

window, polished mahogany plywood flooring and a green roof with a patio, giving it the feel of a hip

conversion space.

The project has won environmental kudos for the Toronto-based landscape design firm by minimizing the use

of new materials such as lumber and siding. The container itself would have ultimately been shipped back to

Asia, melted down and recycled, an energy-intensive process with high greenhouse gas emissions.

“I think people are really drawn to the idea of reusing these

containers because they see four walls, a floor, and a roof ready to

go,” said Alex Bartlett, co-owner of Bsq Landscape Design. “It

seems like a crime that they’re so underutilized.”

Bartlett and his partner, Robert Bolton, started their shipping

container project last year with two goals in mind: they needed a

reusable display booth for landscape design shows, plus they

wanted an off-the-grid satellite office in central Toronto. After

making a few phone calls, they found Contor Terminals Inc., a metal

fabricating company in Mississauga that had experience modifying

shipping containers.

According to Bartlett, the container itself cost around $3,000 while

the entire project came in under $20,000, a relative bargain for a

self-contained office, especially one won a silver award at the 2009

Interior Design Show.

Barlett hopes it will open the door to more container projects for his

company, be it backyard bunkies, studio spaces, or cabanas. “The

office has gotten a lot of positive attention and, for us, it’s been a

great way to showcase our environmental side,” he said. 

The idea of reusing shipping containers for homes and commercial

spaces — a phenomenon called “cargotecture” — has been gaining

in popularity recently, due in part to a growing surplus of containers

in North America and Europe resulting from the trade imbalance

with Asia.

Over the past several years, shipping containers have been used for everything from student housing in

Holland, to live-work studios in London’s “Container City”, to a marketplace in the Ukraine that’s home to

16,000 vendors.

So what’s the appeal? They’re durable, stackable, and — depending on your perspective — attractive for their

rugged simplicity, proponents say. Plus, they’re built to withstand just about anything.

“They’d probably support a family of elephants,” said Keith Dewey, a Victoria-based designer who built his

own home using eight shipping containers.

Since finishing his home in 2007, Dewey’s firm,, has completed five other container-home projects

and garnered plenty of media coverage along the way. The concept seems to be gaining momentum — he has

four more projects lined up this year — but it wasn’t always so hip.

“When we first started, there was definitely a perception that the containers were just plain ugly,” Dewey said.

“I had some neighbours ask if they could see my design plans before they marched down to city hall.”

The end product was a stylish three-storey home that looks both modern and utterly original. Dewey — whose

house features bamboo cabinets, heated floors, and a staircase salvaged from a battleship docked in

Esquimalt Harbour — cites the green benefits as a key motivation behind the project.

“In our consumerist culture, the shipping container is a by-product of our needs. They’ve become a natural

resource,” he said, noting that all of the containers used for his home were at their end of their usable life.

While there are lots of benefits to reusing containers, Joel Egan, co-founder of Seattle-based HyBrid

Architecture and creator of the term “cargotecture”, says there are some drawbacks that should be


“They say that form follows function, but with a container the form is fixed and that can be a bit of a

challenge,” he said. “Some spaces don’t want to be seven feet clear on the inside, or 15 feet clear on the


Cost is another consideration. While the shipping container has been suggested as a panacea for the

affordable housing crisis, Egan — whose firm has built nearly a dozen container units since 2003 — cautions

that the end cost may not be a low as people might expect.

“That’s a common misperception,” Egan said. “They’re cheap until you cut into them. The cost of containers

can be triple to quadruple the cost of what they are just sitting on the dock.”

Still, he says, “they make sense for the right applications, particularly those in harsher environments, which

Canada has plenty of.”

Despite its growing popularity on the west coast, cargotecture is relatively unheard of in the Ontario market.

Dwight Doerksen, owner of Toronto-based Ecopods, hopes to change that, particularly for the cottage country

niche market.

Doerksen’s firm started building 160-square-foot prototype units two years ago, positioning them on rural

properties and inviting people to try them out. He’s since incorporated a 20-foot glass wall on one side, which

is hydraulically hinged.

“It really opens the space up and brings the outside in,” Doerksen said. 

He started his first large-scale project, a 720-square-foot recreational home near Haliburton, fabricated from

four shipping containers. The house will feature a green roof, soy-based insulation, and will be powered

entirely by solar panels.

Doerksen has had a lot of inquiries, he said, though largely from south of the border, and his single unit

Ecopod has been shown at several events around Toronto.

The project in Haliburton will cost around $100 per square foot for the pre-built structure. Doerksen expects

the cost for the final move-in dwelling — including foundation and septic system — will be under $150 per

square foot, which he hopes will put it well within the consumer market for recreational homes.

Container gardening takes off for Bsq.

July 2, 2010



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


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.”

b sq. invited to the Singapore Garden Festival

Date: July 7th to 15th 2012

Once again b sq. Design has been asked to represent Canada at the Singapore Garden Festival.

Robert and Alex will be travelling to Singapore in February and again in July to plan and construct their garden to be showcased among a number of efforts from the world's best garden designers from the U.S., France, Australia and the U.K. Stay tuned as we will soon unveil our latest fantasy garden for Asia's largest and best Flower and Garden show!


b sq. Design Studio at Canada Blooms

Date: March 16th to 25th 2012

b sq. Design Studio will be once again creating a feature garden at Canada Blooms.

b sq. Design will be creating a modern Modern Cabana retreat using a commonly available material… used shipping palllets!

Please come by and say hello!   See Pictures of Completed Installation Here



Canada Blooms is Canada's Largest Flower and Garden Festival is co-locating with the National Home Show, Toronto's Largest Home Show to create North America's Largest Home & Garden Event!

A special 15th Annual Celebration awaits guests who attend Canada Blooms 2012. We invite you to enjoy “CityCulture” as we present one of our largest celebrations in our history. Experience the first Breath of Spring at Canada Blooms: The Flower & Garden Festival, March 16-25, 2012 at the Direct Energy Centre, Exhibition Place, Toronto!