Category Archives: Books

Brian Minter: Landscape designer Teresa Moller bares her ‘soul’ in Vancouver

Edificio Terrazas del Condor in Santiago, a landscape design by Teresa Moller.

I would personally like to thank the University of B.C. SALA Garden Design Lecture committee — Ron Rule, Daniel Roehr and Jane Durante — for bringing some of the world’s leading landscape architects to Vancouver to share their concepts of design.

Last week, world renowned landscape designer Teresa Moller captured the attention of B.C.’s landscape architects and students of landscape architecture.  I was inspired by her presentation.

 The cover of Teresa Moller’s inspiring book Unveiling the Landscape.

Like a breath of fresh air, Moller shared her vision of design which embodies a deeper connection to nature than most of us ever imagined.  In any landscape design, the natural setting is critical to the essence of the finished project, but to Moller truly understanding its “soul” is the key to any great design.

Born and raised in Chile, as a young child Moller loved to explore the unique beauty of this long, narrow country, with the Andes Mountains to the east and the Pacific Ocean to the west. Chile’s terrain changes from deserts in the north to tropical rainforests in the south.

All this diversity left a deep impression on Moller.  Although beginning her career in the health care industry, she quickly discovered this path was not her passion.

Because of her love for nature and its many elements, Moller took landscape courses which led her to training at New York Botanical Garden.  Moving into the field of design, she worked with a landscape architectural firm, but realized early on that she had a more singular vision of design and the need to align it more closely with nature.

 Landscape designer Teresa Moller.

How did Moller make that often difficult transition of striking out on her own?

“I was just lucky.  People seemed to like my work and come to me,”  she said.

Moller offered a new approach that was quite distinctive. The cornerstone of her work is her understanding of and ability to capture the many intricacies of nature.

“Our world is nature, and humans are just a part of it.  We think we can control nature, but the reality is it is far more powerful than we can ever imagine.”

Moller approaches nature with great humility and attempts to understand the key elements of each site — the ground, the sky, the trees and its special characteristics.

Because nature is in a constant state of change, she tries to learn the history of the location and she tries to envision what the future might look like.  By embracing the light and the shadows, the exposure, the wind and so much more, she attempts to comprehend the site’s true “soul.”

“A lot of this is just plain common sense.  It’s about ‘being in the place’ and understanding what the place is about.  We all need to be more aware of what nature is telling us, and appreciate what it is giving to us.”

 Above and below: Moller’s brief for Punta pite  — a private residence about 150km north of Santiago on a headland that juts out into the sea — was to create a foot path along the coastline.

Moller’s genius is the ability to connect, with environmentally light footsteps, each site to human habitation.  She creates this intervention with poetry and balance.  Telling a story is part of the process of making a landscape both accessible and habitable.

Moller is not a big fan of “pretty” gardens that mix a lot of unnatural colour which does not fit the natural landscape.  Once she understands each site’s character, she then creates her designs using plants that add value to this “naturescape”.

She explains that when you carefully observe trees in a forest and come to appreciate the feelings they give you, then the plants and elements of your design must evoke those same feelings.

Moller’s designs all express a passionate feeling for nature and the stirring emotions of connectivity.  Although the process can be complex, the ultimate expression of any great artist is one of simplicity.


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Gardening book a must for anyone who gardens in the Pacific Northwest

This completely revised edition of Gardening with Native Plants is a comprehensive guide to gardening with the local flora from southern B.C. to northern California.

Gardening with Native Plants of the Pacific Northwest

(Revised and Updated Third Edition)

By Arthur R. Kruckeberg and Linda Chalker-Scott

Greystone Books, $40

The Pacific Northwest is teeming with a wide variety of native plants, and this completely revised edition of Gardening with Native Plants is a comprehensive guide to gardening with the local flora from southern British Columbia to northern California.

Renowned botanist, Art Kruckeberg (1920-2016) came to the Pacific Northwest from California in 1950 to teach botany at the University of Washington. He and his wife bought four acres north of Seattle and set to work growing a wide array of native and exotic plants. They would gather native plant seeds on late-summer collecting expeditions and Kruckeberg became interested in drawing attention to conserving endangered plants.

He also recognized people’s increasing desire to grow native plants so they could create gardens that were sustainable , beautiful to look at and provide shelter and food to butterflies, bees and birds.

Whether your garden is in deep shade, relentlessly sunny or cursed with poor soil, this book contains a wealth of information to address your specific conditions. Imagine a garden where hazel and huckleberry provide fresh spring green, lupin and camassia brighten summer days, and paper birches and serviceberry add glorious fall colour .

Co-author, Linda Chalker-Scott, has a doctorate in horticulture and was asked to help revise this edition. Chalker-Scott, a nature lover who gathered wild dogwood and pressed native flowers as a child, has updated the botanical nomenclature and added more colour photography.

This new edition no longer has information on how to collect or propagate native plants in order to help end this practice, so rare and threatened species continue to exist. Try to buy native plants from a reputable nursery that cultivates and propagates its plants sustainably.

With more than 900 garden-worthy native trees, shrubs, perennials, grasses and annuals and a extensive glossary of botanical, horticultural and gardening terms, this well-organized and well-written book is a must for anyone who gardens in the Pacific Northwest.