March 15, 2010
Sustainable horticulture was the theme at Living Plants, Liveable Communities, recently held at the Royal Botanical Garden. One of the best-attended sessions during the four-day event was a discussion panel convened by Landscape Ontario.

The panel of members, moderated by Belinda Gallagher, included Denis Flanagan, LO’s director of public relations, Haig Seferian of Seferian Design Group, Sean James, owner of Fern Ridge Landscaping, and Rob Naraj, wholesale business manager at Sheridan Nurseries. Nearly 100 people were in attendance.

Denis Flanagan listed the many areas that Landscape Ontario is involved with to improve the environment. “We are the original green industry,” he said. “All sector groups within our association are involved with improving sustainable horticulture. He named a few, such as irrigation reducing water use, lighting using LED lights, greening the highways, a tree atlas for Ontario, roof top gardens, lawn care practices, LO’s environmental scorecard, and much more.

Haig Seferian told the audience about his involvement with green roofs, permeable paving and sustainable design. He sees many of his colleagues working to bring many improvements in environmental design. “From green roofs to stormwater collection, there are many new innovations that are serious solutions to improving the environment,” said Seferian.

Rob Naraj outlined an impressive list of initiatives to create green sustainability at Sheridan Nurseries. “Sheridan embarked a number of years ago into the process to create more sustainable practices.” One area that received attention was the use of plastic in its wholesale operation. “We were using plastic like it was going out of style,” said Naraj. Now pots are recycled in a number of methods, such as putting the plants for planting in the fields, and accepting material from the public. “We do a lot of experimenting to learn new methods on how to re-use plastic,” says Naraj.

The Sheridan representative gave an example of business concerns when it comes to the environment. He used the cost of coir, compared to plastic. “Coir costs $1.50 per pot, compared to 50 cents for plastic. Is the consumer willing to pay the difference? Because if not, then coir is cost-prohibitive.”

Sean James, a member of LO’s environmental stewardship committee, said he sees a growing momentum among the landscape industry to be more sensitive toward the environment. “We sometimes have to fight city hall to change over to more eco-sensitive ideas,” said James. He noted that companies must make themselves more sustainable before selling the concept to the public.

At the end of the event, Denis Flanagan said members of the panel had thought they would be under attack from the audience, but instead the reaction to the panel’s presentation was very positive. “I think many people in the audience were genuinely surprised at how much our industry is doing to be real stewards of the environment,” he said.