May 15, 2017
Monica van Maris
Monica van Maris
By Denis Flanagan CLD
LO Manager of Membership and Public Relations

My family home in Southern England was close to a site named Munstead Wood — a famous garden designed by the legendary landscape designer Gertrude Jekyll. In fact, Gertrude lived in the manor house and spent many years creating a wonderful cottage style garden for which she became well known. I was fortunate to grow up in an area where there were many examples of her craft. I did not realize it at the time, but through osmosis, I was influenced by these gardens later in life when I decided to study horticulture and become a landscape designer. To this day, that particular style of garden remains my favourite.

Lorrie Dunington, another famous designer, was the first woman to graduate as a Landscape Architect in England. Shortly after, Dunington moved to Canada and married Arthur Grubb and together they designed many outstanding landscapes in the Toronto area. They also started Sheridan Nurseries to ensure they had a supply of quality plant material for their projects.

When I graduated from school and decided to move to Canada, I started my career here at the original Sheridan Nursery in Oakville where I was fortunate to learn about the legacy left  by the Dunington-Grubbs. I got to tour several of the sites they designed which helped me enormously when I moved on to work for Weall and Cullen. With a solid knowledge of hardy plant material and a true sense of Canadian design, the Dunington-Grubb projects had a large influence on me when Weall and Cullen owner Len Cullen handed me my first large size commercial design project which promptly had an alley of lime trees included in the layout. I eventually became a manager at Weall and Cullen and also helped to develop the staff training program. During that time, I was fortunate to work with Claudia Baun, who at the time, was the horticultural coordinator for the memorable Cullen Gardens site. As we taught together, I learned a great deal from Claudia about the planning and implementation of large scale bulb and annual displays. Claudia went on to join her husband Brian, to operate a highly successful landscape company; B.K. Baun Landscape.

As I continued to manage the landscape division at Weall and Cullen, I began to get involved in Landscape Ontario and became aware of Parklane Nurseries. Not only did founders Casey and Monica van Maris build an innovative, first-class landscape business, they were both instrumental in developing Landscape Ontario into the world-class association it is today.

Monica became the first woman president of Landscape Ontario in 1987 and has spent countless volunteer hours over many decades, helping to develop the association. Through her tireless efforts, she has had a positive influence and inspired and mentored many, many people.

In March, the LO provincial board unanimously passed a motion to partner with the Toronto Botanical Garden (TBG) to create a new award, called the Monica van Maris Award, and honour Monica van Maris as the first recipient.

Harry Jongerden, executive director of the Toronto Botanical Garden, was delighted with the decision.

In future years, a joint committee of LO and TBG members will accept nominations for women who have made outstanding contributions to the green profession.

The award is part of the TBG’s annual Woman to Woman celebration which will be held on May 20 at the TBG. I encourage as many LO members as possible to take a few hours out of their busy spring schedule to help us celebrate another milestone in the green profession.

For details and tickets, visit
Denis Flanagan can be reached at or at 905-875-1805, ext. 2303.