The Grand Challengers Podcast Episode #21

The paradox of nature – process and parts and its implications for green infrastructure

Guest: Danielle Dagenais

January 9th, 2024

Episode Teaser


“…You can find two radically different ways of seeing nature, either as processes or as a nature of parts…”

Danielle Dagenais, Professor in Landscape Architecture and urban planning at the University of Montreal and a specialist in garden design, ecology, plants, engineering and horticulture. Danielle studied a Bachelor in plant science in 1981 and a Masters in environmental engineering in 1986. After an impactful journey through Canada’s agricultural industry, she obtained her PhD in environmental design in 2006. Danielle’s incredible passion for plants and gardens has led her on a journey towards improving Canada’s use of green infrastructure to promote stormwater management and urban biodiversity.

On today’s show, I got the chance to sit down with Danielle and discuss the apparent paradox of nature, human’s relationship to it and its implication for the practice of green infrastructure. We cover plants, more plants and how you should design and use plants in your city given the urban, ecological and societal challenges associated with them. We also hear Danielle’s take on her key approaches to a successful and illustrious career. Detailed information is provided in the show notes over at Thank you for joining us today and please enjoy the show.


Danielle Dagenais is a professor at the School of Urban Planning and Landscape Architecture at the University of Montreal, Canada. She has a multi-disciplinary background in agronomy, environmental engineering and planning. She completed her Bachelor studies in 1981 and pursued a Masters in environmental engineering in 1986. In 2006, she returned to the University of Montreal to do a PhD. Her early career delved into garden and environmental design and after a journey through Canada’s agricultural industry and returning to the world of academia, she is now in the field of green infrastructure or phytotechnology for urban stormwater management and looking into various topics including the role and resilience of plants in urban environments in adapting cities to climate change as well as providing multiple human and biodiversity benefits (especially cultural ecosystem services). She collaborates with several research teams worldwide on the design and implementation of green infrastructure and has strong links with municipalities, provincial and federal ministries across Canada.

Danielle received the Henry-Teuscher Prize from the Montreal Botanical Gardens for her significant contribution in advancing horticulture in Quebec. She is active in teaching phytotechnology courses in Quebec and has been on the organizing committees of notable international conference on strategies and solutions for sustainable water management in cities. Her particular interests include biodiversity, human-plant relationships, the ecological discourse of landscape architecture and the concept of urban nature.

Resources Related to the Episode

  • Danielle’s early work on Gilles Clement and the Parc André Citroën
    • Dagenais, D., (2004) The garden of movement: ecological rhetoric in support of gardening practice, Studies in the History of Gardens & Designed Landscapes, 24:4, 313-340 [Link]
    • Dagenais, D., 2008. Designing with nature in landscape architecture. WIT Transactions on Ecology and the Environment114, pp.213-222. [Link]
    • More about **Parc André Citroën** in Paris
    • Danielle refers to Les Friches Urbain – a type of garden movement, if you know French, here’s an article about it
    • Paul-Michel Foucault [Link], French philosopher, writer, political activist and literary critic
  • Odum Type Ecology – described in a famous textbook by Eugene Odum [Wikipedia] titled “The Fundamentals of Ecology” [View on Amazon]
  • Danielle refers to Piet Oudolf who designed the New York Highline
  • More about the St. Lawrence River [Link] and the Botanical Gardens of Montreal [Link]
  • Terminology on Green Infrastructure, Blue-Green Infrastructure and Nature-based solutions:
    • Danielle was part of a seminal paper on terminology: Fletcher, T.D., Shuster, W., Hunt, W.F., Ashley, R., Butler, D., Arthur, S., Trowsdale, S., Barraud, S., Semadeni-Davies, A., Bertrand-Krajewski, J.L. Mikkelsen, P.S., Rivard, G., Uhl, M., Dagenais, D., and Viklander, M., 2015. SUDS, LID, BMPs, WSUD and more–The evolution and application of terminology surrounding urban drainage. Urban water journal12(7), pp.525-542. [Link]
    • The paper we refer to in the episode as a great follow-up to the initial terminology paper: Matsler, A.M., Meerow, S., Mell, I.C. and Pavao-Zuckerman, M.A., 2021. A ‘green’chameleon: Exploring the many disciplinary definitions, goals, and forms of “green infrastructure”. Landscape and Urban Planning214, p.104145. [Link]
  • Danielle’s close collaborators Jaques Brisson and Tim Fletcher
  • Experimental work on bioretention: Beral, H., Dagenais, D., Brisson, J. and Kõiv-Vainik, M., 2023. Plant species contribution to bioretention performance under a temperate climate. Science of The Total Environment858, p.160122. [Link]
  • The decision-tree/heuristics approach for siting green infrastructure: Dagenais, D., Thomas, I. and Paquette, S., 2017. Siting green stormwater infrastructure in a neighbourhood to maximise secondary benefits: Lessons learned from a pilot project. Landscape Research42(2), pp.195-210. [Link]
  • The paper we discussed on plants in bioretention systems: Dagenais, D., Brisson, J. and Fletcher, T.D., 2018. The role of plants in bioretention systems; does the science underpin current guidance?. Ecological Engineering120, pp.532-545. [Link]
  • Green Infrastructure and Snow: Gougeon, G., Bouattour, O., Formankova, E., St-Laurent, J., Doucet, S., Dorner, S., Lacroix, S., Kuller, M., Dagenais, D. and Bichai, F., 2022. Impact of bioretention cells in cities with a cold climate: modeling snow management based on a case study. Blue-Green Systems5(1), pp.1-17. [Open Access Link]
  • How does witches’ broom on trees look like? [Link]

Connect with Danielle Dagenais