Common Ground Landscape Design

Welcome to Grow See This

This section is explaining the Who, What, When, Where, Why & How of us


Hello there.

This is meThis is a lengthy bio! I know what you are thinking! This is a lengthy bio, and I admit that it is, but stick it out and read what you can. In the Internet world it seems like our eyes just glance over the words seeking out the candy, for that one word that stands out with the promise of taking us someplace new. Well, after my first foray into the world of surfdom, I am trying something new. Full sentences. That wasn't one, but they will be from now on.

On January 1st 2007, I surfed the Internet for the first time! I know in this day and age that sounds a bit insane for a first world, upwardly mobile landscape designer. I had checked emails, but due to my remoteness, I didn't qualify for high speed, so, I just put the idea on hold. (knowing that it was inevitable!) Before 6 weeks ago I didn't even know how to interpret the different symbols that lead you in other directions. Difficult things! like the triangle that activates the drop down list. Oh, the embarrassment that I can feel rising in my cheeks when I think about it now, but 6 weeks later.

Believe me, during the next few months you will see these lengthy descriptions dissolve into "buy this! and Do that!" as my season comes into full swing. I really am a landscape gardener, and I am out there gardening 8-10 hours a day. Which is why I am bringing to you some great segments on yoga for the gardener.It is entirely possible I would sound like alabaster hitting the floor every time I moved if I didn't.

So, this the who page. Who am I? you may be asking your self, and what is my background?

Besides spending every waking moment (between episodes of Little House on the Prairie) in the forest behind my house. I was a child of wonder. (My three older brothers would say that I was a child of wondering off) I climbed trees, and I lay on my back in the sunshine and listen to the bees. I am completely in awe with the natural world. It is where I feel most alive and human and other worldly all at the same time.

When I was 16, I attended Central Technical School where I studied art and design. I loved it, and sadly after 2 years I had to leave. I wanted to go to university, and at this time technical schools were designed to help form your technical skills and didn't gear you towards university.

When I was 17 I went to work on a Kibbutz in Israel called Kfar Menachem, where a lovely old leathery man in a golf cart put a kind of succulent in my hand and told me to plant it. I can remember looking down at the sand and thinking "There is no way this plant is going to survive!" It was then that I began to look around. There were plants everywhere Agave and Cactus and Echeverias. I had no idea why I hadn't noticed them before. Something happened in that moment. I saw that all of the plants around me, were planted by someone, it wasn't an accident or a volunteer, and even if I didn't appreciate the aesthetic, this was someone's effort. Every tree, shrub and perennial. It was as if a blindfold had been taken off and I noticed how plants were used as food, shade, and as hedges. It changed how I read a menu, I could now imagine the what the plant looked like of the spices in the food. This was when the fun began and I started to take mental notes of everything. "If I plant this Purple Coneflower in sand, will it grow differently than if I plant it in clay? (YES!) Wait a that a hedge of Marigold? It's 5 ' tall!

When I was 24 I left York University and went to Africa and the Middle East for one year. After surviving a stunning case of Cerebral Malaria. I had to change my plans. My original dream of working on a remote tree planting farm in Western Province, Kenya with CPAR, was sadly no longer an option. I wasn't ready to leave Africa, but I also knew that I didn't feel comfortable being further than 1 hour away from a major hospital.

By chance, when I was in Harare, Zimbabwe I met a fellow Canadian who was about to take a course in Permaculture at the Fambidzania Permaculture Training Center. After my initial visit, I knew had something to learn here, and it was one of the best decisions I ever made. It effectively changed the course of my entire life. Pretty amazing!

The most significant aspect of what I learned, was the ability to think in terms of extremes. Zimbabwe is a tough place to garden. Imagine braking ground with a pick axe! and designing EVERYTHING to catch even the minutest amounts of rain.

I learned my essentials here, grafting, how to root a Lychee tree, seed care, chicken tractors, planting in different zones, how to determine the real slope of the land, the importance of mulching, cob house building, capturing and cooking with Methane, how to sautee pumpkin leaves (mmmmm delicious!), I even learned how to travel with my garden! It is so hard to believe that was 12 years ago. 

9 years ago after recognizing the signs of garden insanity, like getting up at the crack of dawn, hours before my "real" job to get into the dirt, and feeling that strange sense of loss in my hands when there wasn't a shovel in it. I finally made the switch, and made landscape gardening my full time possession.

I hope this gives you some idea of who I am, and what I have been up to in this lifetime. I love to cook and take long walks on the beach, play Scrabble and cuddle up on the couch holding hands :)

Kidding aside, one of my favorite things to do, is tune into CBC radio 1 on Mondays from 12-1 and pretend I am Ed Lawrence. (we do have the same last name after all, although, we are not related). I love to test my self and see how smart I am by answering the callers questions. I often end up quite pleased with my self, but he is the master.

I have traveled all over the world learning how plants grow in the world's forests, and rain forests, savannas and prairies, and if I knew that one day that I was going to have a website, garden journal and podcast, I would have taken much better pictures!




Beth Lawrence



What is this site?

Last Spring while driving around the city, I was in a fairly constant state of adoration for every blossom that was in bloom, and every bud that was so swollen they were about to burst open and announce themselves. I could practically identify their individual voices as I drove around under Toronto's huge Maples trees. I was traveling north on Poplar Plains rd. when I first saw her. It was love at first sight. There she was in all of her glory, the most amazing, arching, billowing in the gentle breeze Magnolia thatA huge Magnolia tree in full bloom I had ever seen. I had to pullover, which is not very easy to do on a narrow one way street. Her Flowers were goblet shaped and light pink. It is a common variety of Saucer Magnolia in the city of Toronto, and my guess is M. x soulangaena (M.denudata x M. liliiflora) (My spell checker is going red line happy right now!).

As I sat there, full up with love for this tree, I thought to my self “WHAT CAN I DO TO LET EVERYONE IN THE WORLD SEE HOW BEAUTIFUL THIS TREE IS?” Well, I guess we got the answer.

What I really want to do, but I need your help to do it, is create a Toronto gardening community, that includes the world. To allow inspiration to lead you off of your couch, and onto the lawn of the beautiful or unusual, Clematis, or tree fort, Japanese Maple, pergola, stone work, composition, ingenuity, ideas, colours, textures and sense of humour.

The folks on my crew are all walking around the city with their own cameras keeping an eye out for gardens and plants that make an impression. I would love to see some of your photographs, and pretty soon my PDA will have a way for you to do that!


For me, the obvious answer to this page is NOW! I want to write it ALLLL now! But, I have to pace myself, and do other things like eat and see my friends. If you have seen my flyer , you'll know that I do sometimes have to sleep!

By declaration.....this is the official non schedule for the season.

January, February, March and some of April will be “My choice” what ever I wish to write about that turns me on. By April, the sun is shining, little plants are starting to pop up and gardens will need to be cleaned up.

At this time I am going to be writing about, photographing and podcasting everything that I see around me that I think would be of interest to you, and thus begins my tour of urban garden spotting!

Every week, I will be featuring a plant or garden that is worthy of mention by blog and photophile. Every two weeks will be a podcast that will vary in length from 2 minutes to about 10. The season unusually wraps up around Nov 15th, however with the onset of global warming patterns, I may be able to keep working, like this past season, right up until New Years Day.

If you think that you have a garden that 1. needs work or 2. is amazing, then all you gotta do is get a hold of me.


Mainly Toronto, including....People's front gardens, gardening trade shows, horticultural exhibitions, garden centers of every variety, organizations attempting to save the world, botanical gardens and occasional trips to the dump.

What I have always wanted is a business card that read "Toronto, Paris, New York, Bermuda"; listing all of the fabulous and glamorous places where I had built gardens. My actual CV looks a little different "Toronto, Mississauga, Britt, Paisley, Bracebridge, Port Hope, Shanty Bay, Sebringville,Gainesville Florida, Darwin Australia, Kibbutz Kfar Menachem and Causeway Zimbabwe": I feel the fabulous, but a little short on the glamorous :)


Could "where?" be your garden? Then see "How?"



Why  Am I Doing This? 

As I was surfing the web for the first time these past few weeks. I had the same thought over and over again in my head.  All of these web sites feel a little like lost voices in the void hoping to land in your lap (top), to inspire, refresh and ponder the profound and the profoundly strange. What is this urge to tell our stories to effectively no one and everyone?  I realized then, that besides this slow burn in my belly to do this, I really I want to learn as much about the topic as you do. And so, through sharing my experience, I re-learn what it was that I wanted to learn in the first place and why, and to deepen my understanding of the  subject.

I haven't yet seen Recreating Eden , or smelled all 892 roses in the Pickering Nurseries catalogue, and I certainly don't have all of the answers (and wouldn't it be lovely if I did). It's just that I am really out there every day seeing, doing and observing, and why not share it with you gentle reader? For it is you that I think about when I make a garden. To bring serenity and  joy to your day when you stop and smell the roses I have chosen and planted for one of my customers, in your neighbourhood.

Oh that was cheesy! cheesy but heart felt. I am glad I wrote it.

Enjoy my site and future podcasts.


Beth Lawrence
Owner-Common Ground Landscape Design
and creator of


How and where feel like similar questions to me, mainly because of how mobile I am. I love it when my customers ask me “where are you located?” and I point to my truck and the cell phone in my hand. Right now I have a desk top computer and I will soon need a laptop. I could never figure out what to do about needing to print something. Is there such a thing as a portable printer? hhmmmm.

 Starting with the technical aspects of “how” here is a list of what we are using for our base of operations.

  • Website

    • Drupal content management system

  • Video

    • Panasonic AG-DVC30

  • Stills photography

    • Konica Minolta DiMage X50

    • Canon S2-1S

    • 35mm single use cameras-many!

  • Editing

    • Sony Vegas PlatinumV7

    • Apple Quicktime 7

    • Picassa

  • Photo storage

    • Flickr

  • Trucks

    • Ford F-150

    • Mazda B3000

  • Attitude

    • Serious amounts of enthusiasm, and a burning drive to share information.

For questions of a digital nature, you can contact my outrageously talented PDA Gary at It was recently said about Gary from a friend in jest, that on the Google page it should read "Google search" "I am feeling lucky" "Go ask Gary"!

For the week of Wednesday March 7/07 This site will be under constuction or more acurately stated, creation. In a few days the standard headers that display this site, will transform into the web site I have been dreaming about. Elegant, edgy and simple all in one. I feel I must tell you about my web guy and graphic artist Steve Huntriss . From the moment I met him I knew it would be a good fit. His Australian good-natured-laid-back-ness belies his keen sense of esthetics. Thanks for all of your hard work and the easy way we collaborated, I can't wait for the "reveal". 

 If at any time, you have an idea that would improve this site, Please, don't hesitate to mention it.