November 3, 2023
David Milne pays his passion for plants forward
David Milne
Interview by Julia Harmsworth

Plants have always fascinated David Milne, owner of Quercus Gardens and member of Landscape Ontario’s Provincial Board of Directors since 2022. For someone who enjoys the outdoors, design and visual art, landscape architecture and horticulture always seemed like a natural fit.

Established in 2000, Quercus Gardens is a small landscaping company in Toronto, Ont., that creates and supports green spaces in an ecologically sensitive manner — something Milne believes is critically important.

Milne is passionate about taking the wisdom he gained from over 40 years in the profession and paying it back. He is heavily involved in the Toronto Chapter, sitting on several community boards and volunteering on various projects. 

How did you first get involved in landscaping and horticulture?

I’ve always had a real passion for plants; plants fascinate me almost to the point of obsession. Even as a kid when I got my allowance, I would often spend it on a houseplant. My mom was a really passionate vegetable gardener, so that nurtured my appreciation for gardening and love of the outdoors.

How did you get involved with the LO Provincial Board of Directors?

Jonas Spring — who was then the president — brought me in and asked me if I wanted to be on the Toronto Chapter Board, and I said, ‘Absolutely, I want to do it.’ I was at a point in my life when I wanted to give back to the trade.

Being on the Toronto Chapter Board got me more involved with LO in general, and then I wanted to join the Provincial Board to give back. I have my thoughts on where the industry needs to go, and if I didn’t join the Board, those thoughts would just go down the river.

What’s your favourite volunteer project you’ve worked on?

Absolutely, the Plant Symposium Garden installation in London, Ont. back in February. That was a great feeling; we had a great line-up of speakers, everybody seemed to really enjoy it, and when I spoke to speakers afterwards, they all really enjoyed it too, so that meant a lot to me.

What are your biggest goals or dreams for LO, and landscaping and horticulture?

I want the general public to have a higher opinion of what we do. What we do is something pretty special. We create great outdoor spaces that are good for people’s health and well being — that’s been proven. There are so many pluses to what we do, and I don’t think everybody gets how important it is.

I want to see every person who works in the industry be able to make a living wage. I think that’s critical. We all need a few benefits; there are times when we get sick, and it would be nice to be compensated for that.

I would really like to find a way to do what we do in a more sustainable method. I struggle at times with the fact that to get the materials we need to do a patio or a deck or a fence, we have to take that from a natural landscape to make a man made one — which is a negative impact on the environment. I don’t know what the answer is, but I hope we can find a way to get there.

When you’re not volunteering or working, what do you like to do?

I do like to garden. My wife thinks it’s crazy that I spend all week creating garden spaces, and then on the weekend I like to putz around in my own garden.

Aside from my family who I love and adore, my other passion is fish. All my life, I’ve been really fascinated with fish. There’s been times when I’ve had up to 30 aquariums at once. Now I’ve scaled it down, but the diversity intrigues me — I think that’s why I plant so much.

Do you have any parting advice for people thinking about volunteering and getting involved?

The more you give, the more you get. I can’t believe the connections I’ve made with people since volunteering, or the amount of pleasure it’s given me. It’s definitely made me a busier guy but giving back feels so good. You get more than you give.