About Me: Tony Spencer

In one form or another, I may have always been a gardener. Certainly, I’ve been growing (and occasionally killing) things since year dot.

I’m a writer by profession and a planting designer by passion. I grew up with a promiscuous muse making music, poetry, and art in equal measure – playing and composing on guitar and writing performance poetry.

In my bohemian years, I scraped by with seasonal stints working as a landscaper for a guerilla company called ACME Environmentals in Toronto, and later with Parks Canada in Banff, Alberta.

Tony in cafe

Over 15 years ago, I fell in love with gardens all over again – through the visionary work of Dutch planting designer, Piet Oudolf. As someone not adverse to solitude,  I retreated to my former cottage with stacks of books to teach myself how to create a garden inspired by his philosophy and style of planting design.

Since then, I’ve managed to also visit some of the more legendary naturalistic gardens of the world in the U.S., England and Europe, where I’ve been fortunate to get to know and study with the master himself, Piet Oudolf and his longtime colleague, British garden writer, Noel Kingsbury at Hummelo.

I’ve since met a number of their friends and peers including leading German innovators, Cassian Schmidt and his wife Bettina Jaugstetter at Hermannshof, Swedish designer Peter Korn, prairie plantsman and grower Roy Diblik of Northwind Farm in Wisconsin, and planting designer Adam Woodruff.

I’m also deeply involved with a remarkable global group of designers and gardeners who converge in my Facebook group Dutch Dreams. We’re all a part of what is loosely called the New Perennial Movement currently taking the zeitgeist by storm – feel free to join us by subscribing to my blog or via Facebook. 

I was super delighted to win the 2015 Garden Writers Association (GWA) Gold Award for ‘Best Overall Electronic Media’ followed by the 2017 GWA  Silver Award for Best Blog. I appreciate the recognition but I’m not in this for the awards. 

Now in 2018, I’m busy creating a new garden experience up at our freshly-renovated historic cabin in the post-glacial rolling hills of Mono, Ontario – part of the Niagara escarpment: a Unesco World Biosphere Reserve. I also selectively take on professional planting design projects for people keen to create something deep and different in their own private garden worlds.

Looking for a different kind of speaker with stellar visuals for your hort group or botanical garden? I’ll be speaking again this year at the 2018 Canada Blooms, major horts around Ontario, as well as teaching Planting Design at the Toronto Botanical Garden with special workshops on a regular basis. Please message me here at the blog for my avails and rates.

I hope you enjoy The New Perennialist. I encourage you to go back into the archives to more deeply explore this most sensational form of new garden expression – attuned to the greater rhythms of life.


One thought on “About Me: Tony Spencer

  1. Hi Tony
    My name is Michael McCoy. I’m a writer, blogger and garden designer from Australia
    Great to stumble on your website. Love the content I’ve read so far – there’s so little out there that really teases out the anatomy of planting in the New Perennial Style. For so many practitioners it’s intuitive, and they’re better at doing it than explaining what they’re doing.

    Like you, I’m somewhat obsessed with this style of planting. And curiously, it was in your area that I first made contact with it. Pre the days of Piet Oudolf’s fame, I was following Oehme and Van Sweden, and in 2001 I stumbled on The Music Garden. It can’t have been long planted. It was the closest thing I’d seen (in the flesh) to planting in this prairie-inspired style. Then, in 2006 I returned, and was giddy with joy at seeing my very first PO planting, at the Toronto Bot Gardens. Since then I’ve seen a lot of his work, including the incomparable High Line, in several different seasons.

    But I write with some urgency. I’m bringing a tour group to Canada – leaving Sunday morning. The itinerary is provided to me by the tour company that I occasionally lead for. They’re a great, high integrity company, but their Canadian itinerary has always been weak on any private content. I’m wondering if there’s anything in the Toronto, Niagara Falls, Niagara-on-the-Lake, Montreal or Quebec City areas that you love, and that you think we really shouldn’t miss – either public or easily-accessed private gardens?

    Would really appreciate any thoughts you might have on this. Will also fully understand if there’s nothing you can recommend. I’m imagining what I’d say to a similar request my way…. I know I’d be hard-pressed to come up with anything!

    Anyway, keep up the good work – on the keyboard, the shutter and the spade!


    Michael McCoy

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