Planning Plant Communities

Native and Edible Garden Design

Through the 2024 growing season I’ll be focusing on the native plant nursery side of A Cultivated Art. I’ll be continuing to offer design services in the off season, with site visits starting in the fall and planting plans being completed over the winter.

l'm continuing to specifically focus on native plant garden planning, working with you to help plan out the initial plantings for a space that you have decided to allocate to a native plant community.

Rather than continuing with the widespread practice of extracting soil from healthy ecosystems and transporting it to new gardens, I’ll be working with people who are willing to work with the existing soil along with and minimal/reclaimed inputs, such as mulches from arborist wood chips, salvaged cardboard, leaf bags etc. and, where appropriate, annual plantings for a transition year to prepare the planting area.  You can find a video on this approach to ecological garden making on this page

I won’t be designing any paving stone or other concrete over gravel spaces, but I can help with planning paths of travel and sightlines, as well as planning out vegetable garden placement, or the inclusion of other plants that offer food for humans, and practical elements like rain gardens, laundry lines and compost areas. 

Rather than centering the planning on aesthetics, I’m offering assistance in developing a plan for converting ecologically depleted spaces into places that include as much healthy, thriving life as possible, including yours. Not that the results can’t be beautiful, healthy, thriving systems tend to be beautiful. 

My design fees are changing in 2024
After being told by around half of my design clients last year that I’m not charging enough for my services, and not having raised prices in about ten years, I am putting them up this year and trialing a sliding scale for design services in an effort to balance the value of my time and experience with keeping native planting support as accessible as possible for people at varying levels of economic security. 

Example base prices:
1 hour consult with a follow-up report by email: $150+hst (this is fixed, not on the sliding scale) 
Minimum design fee for 2 meeting process (this covers most urban or suburban front yards and some urban backyards) $595+hst 
Three meeting process for a typical suburban lot with a detached home and extensive planting areas $1495+hst

The sliding scale works by me providing you with a design fee quote with the base price and you determining which category you fall into: 

100% of the base price ($595 minimum design fee, $1495 for a typical suburban lot): 
I can afford to travel most years for vacations and stay in rented accommodations (or at a cottage I own), or spend similar amounts on other social or cultural experiences and a dinner out at a restaurant isn’t something that I need to save up for. 

80% of the base price ($476 minimum design fee, $1196 for a typical suburban lot):
I can afford secure housing, a personal vehicle and all my basic needs without undue stress but things like travel with hotel stays or similar extras are not something that I can afford on a yearly basis, if at all.

60% of the base price ($357 minimum design fee, $879 for a typical suburban lot): 
I’m living near or below the living wage for Ottawa. Almost all of my income goes toward meeting basic needs like housing, food and transportation and sometimes I struggle to even cover those expenses. 

A note about large spaces with existing plant communities: 
In providing design services, I’m primarily focused on providing planting layouts for starter ecosystem gardens in heavily disturbed spaces, such as replacing urban and suburban gardens and lawns with native plants. Rural sites with a blend of existing native and non-native plant communities are quite a different undertaking. Caring for them is more often a matter of ongoing tending and adjusting, rather than extensive replanting, which doesn’t fit well onto a drawing or planting plan, or even a species list and a set of meeting notes. A helpful level of guidance for working with existing ecosystems is more of a book length undertaking than a meeting summary. 
When it comes to books on the topic of caring for spaces with existing plant communities, two that I can recommend are:  
We Are the Ark: Returning Our Gardens to Their True Nature Through Acts of Restorative Kindness by Mary Reynolds
Wild Plant Culture: A Guide to Restoring Edible and Medicinal Native Plant Communities by Jared Rosenbaum

I recommend reading both. They have a strong philosophical overlap but cover different information.

If, after reading through all of the above, you think that my services are a good fit for your needs, please send me an email through my contact page with the site address and a bit of information about your plans and we can go from there. 

If you would rather take a DIY approach to planning out your space, please check out Planning Complex Native Plant Communities on my Videos page for some tips on how to get started

About Sundaura Alford-Purvis

The areas of experience and expertise I bring to this new process: 
  • Working with urban and suburban spaces and small scale, highly disrupted rural sites; I’m not qualified to design a farm, even a regenerative one. 
  • Restoring soil health 
  • Maximizing the inclusion of native and edible plants 
  • Prioritizing repair before replacement 
  • Prioritizing investing in labour before materials 
  • Making the most of available resources; use less, use what you have, or use what is going to waste, before purchasing new materials. 
The rest of my resume: 
  • Lifelong relationship with all things green and growing 
  • Began working in the horticultural industry in 1998 
  • Took a short side trip into Architectural Technology, completing my diploma in 2002 
  • Returned to horticulture and began to specialize in landscape design in 2003 
  • Became a Certified Landscape Designer (CLD) in 2006 
  • Received several landscape industry Awards of Excellence for garden and landscape design over the following years
  • Launched A Cultivated Art Inc in the fall of 2012 
  • Served as an executive board member of the Ottawa chapter of Landscape Ontario from 2011 to 2017 
  • Completed the Gaia College Organic Master Gardener course and related certification in 2016 
  • Began working part time as the executive director for the Society for Organic Urban Land Care in 2017 
  • Began teaching in the Horticultural Industries program at Algonquin College in 2017, updating and revising the landscape design course material and working with roughly 50 students each year. 
  • Started offering native plant seedlings in the spring of 2021
  • Transitioned from the executive director role to a board member role at the Society for Organic Urban Land Care in 2022
  • Shifted to a full-time focus on the native plant nursery side of A Cultivated Art in 2024


If you have somewhere to work with plants and soil, you have the opportunity to help support the health of the entire ecosystem.


Providing guidance as you engage in the process of supporting land and plants  the intention of providing them with what they need to become a healthy system.

Native Plants

Visit the plant library to get to know some of the plants that are native to Ontario and could find a home in your garden


How is this different?
Aren’t all gardens good for the environment?