Interview with Danée Labourne

Words by Michelle Heslop. Photos by Danielle Lindenlaub.

With a background in communications, and most recently project management in the tech industry, how did you transition to the landscape design field? I have a lifelong relationship with landscaping starting with caring for my family’s gardens as a child where I learned about soils and composts, horticulture, and even composition. Eventually, I combined my background in marketing and entrepreneurship with a Horticulture Tech and Design certificate from the Horticulture Centre of the Pacific and started a business in 2005. With a small, mainly female crew doing landscape maintenance and humble installs, we expanded into complete redesigns and renovations. I was ambitious and evolved quickly by leaning on my colleagues, suppliers, and mentors to create a community that I still rely on today.

I took a five-year hiatus from the landscape industry to recover from a severe skiing accident and shifted to a less physically demanding career. During my lengthy recovery, I leveled up my project management skills while working with a California-based web agency, and later, a local brand agency. When I was ready to return to landscaping, I had built a solid, agile process for running a diverse set of construction projects.

Tell us about the two branches of your company: Inventing Eden Landscapes and Eden Projects. How do they function together? Inventing Eden is where it all started. It functions as the holistic branch of my business where clients prioritize permacultural methods and the focus is on growing edible and medicinal plants, sustainable land use, and pollinator/habitat gardens. This brand also hosts therapeutic and restorative garden design and build projects, as well as therapeutic program facilitation. When I began taking on larger install projects, it was pretty apparent that there were two distinct streams to the business.

Eden Projects builds beautiful outdoor living spaces using timeless composition and plant-driven curation. Cultivating quality of life for all those who visit the space is our primary goal.

What is horticulture therapy and how do you incorporate it into your service offerings? Horticultural Therapy (HT) and Therapeutic Horticulture (TH) focus on the purposeful use of plants and plant-related activities to promote health and wellness. I’m currently working on my HT registration where I’m learning about the impacts of nature and horticulture; they are increasingly being incorporated into healthcare, early childhood education, and corporate team building. Reconnection with nature can have a profound restorative effect on an individual’s mental and physical health. A healing garden that incorporates different elements and engages any of the five major senses guides the visitor intentionally through their space, creates opportunities for pause and encourages mindfulness.

Is there a movement in the landscape industry toward environmentally sustainable design? As designers and construction specialists, we have an ecological responsibility to honour the land, which means preserving its native soils, plant life, and ecosystems. We also have a responsibility to create an appreciation for working within its confines with as little disruption as possible. That being said, I have been designing climate-resilient gardens using New Zealand and Californian materials with xeriscape plants and themes, keeping invasive species carefully controlled when at all possible.

What would you say are the foundational principles that guide your business? Uniting contractors, strongbacks, craftsmen, and the client to ensure our goals are in alignment and the scope of the project is clear is the key to my success. My task is to be the backbone of our landscape design and maintain the highest quality of our work. The most meaningful feedback I hear from clients and contractors speaks to my ability to listen and understand the vision, remain transparent and advocate for the goal with clear direction.

Can you tell us about some of your current projects? Eden Projects currently has a few exciting projects in the Lands End area. I’m also very excited about our next project in Metchosin where we’ll reclaim a steep-sloping property, incorporate a series of paths that meander through the topography to capture panoramic views, and include a fire pit area, sunken verandas, nature-play areas, and the restoration of a bog.

If you could design a landscape for a famous Canadian who would it be? Joni Mitchell, one of the most important and influential female songwriters and recording artists of the late 20th century. She is a loud and proud advocate of the human heart and our precious earth. She is the queen of composition. Each client is our muse for a time and I can’t imagine a better inspiration at this point in my life.

If you could get 30 seconds with a client looking to reinvent their property what would you suggest? Let’s extend the way you live inside your home to include your entire property; imagine the possibilities when you take down the walls. Tell me your dreams for the property no matter how big and regardless of budget, and I will tell you how we can achieve your goals within the given constraints.

What do you do when you’re not running your business? I’m a mom and stepmom, a minor hockey team manager, a 4-H leader, and a longstanding volunteer with Hero Work. All of these roles align with my values and contribute to my passion and objectivity. I’ve learned to operate with both transparency and humour and most of all, stay curious.