Born and raised in Ontario, Angela James developed a passion for gardening and landscape design from her mother at an early age. Pursuing this passion, James earned a certificate of Landscape Design & Horticulture from the University of Guelph. Fifteen years later, she has carved a great niche for herself in the Edmonton landscaping scene with her firm Garden Designs by Angela.
James is refreshingly positive, and it’s this positivity that has been critical to her success over the years, especially when designing within Edmonton’s harsh climate. “There is more daylight here than any other major Canadian city,” James says. “I see [the climate] as a positive instead of a negative. Although it can limit plant selection that is available and I firmly believe in plant responsibility, I do my best to not focus on what is not available.”
James applies this positivity not only to her career, but also to her personal life. She lost her daughter to an accidental opioid poisoning in November 2016, and in response, she is now a member of Moms Stop the Harm (MSTH), and co-facilitates a grief support group for Edmontonians who have lost a loved one. James firmly believes it is her responsibility to educate, raise awareness, and support others struggling with similar tragedies.
This compassion and altruism translates into her landscaping practice. Ecological Landscaping is crucial to her company, which is why she is a firm believer in permeable pavers, which “allow water to flow into the ground and be absorbed instead of going into storm sewers,” she says. “There are many beautiful options to choose from, [they] are eco-friendlier, and are all manufactured in Canada.”
James also personally designs custom features for clients, including gates, house numbers, fences, hot tub surroundings, docks, privacy screens, etc. “I wanted something that wasn’t available. Not on a shelf. So, I design exactly what the client wants and work with a custom manufacturer to have it made,” she explains.
It’s no surprise that her thoughts on the current and future landscaping scene in Edmonton are profoundly optimistic. “The trends I am seeing right now are outdoor living spaces that push the seasonal boundaries. Structures with glass roofs and gas heaters, outdoor kitchens and fire features are extending seasons and bringing people outside, even in our Edmonton winters,” she says. “All of the fire feature options in my designs are manufactured in Canada because it is very important to me to support Canadian businesses.”
Natural yards are also big this season. According to James, the City of Edmonton’s new Natural Yards Program “will provide homeowners with all of the resources they need to create a natural yard. The material will be live on the [city’s] website mid-May, and can be found under Natural Private Property,” she says. There’s no doubt that James has found her calling in landscape design and it will be exciting to see where her unique combination of passion, talent, and positivity take her next.