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Improve drainage in your lawn and garden

Improve drainage in your lawn and garden

At one time or another, many homeowners will encounter issues with poor draining soil. This can lead to flooding of patios, gardens, and low-lying or high-traffic grassy areas.

Stratford and area, in particular, has predominantly clay-based soils, making drainage problematic from the outset.

But not to fear, there are various solutions – some simple, some more complex – to your drainage woes.

Improving drainage in garden flowerbed rototiller sandy soil

Improve Drainage

Gardens

Mix in compost or sand. These materials have larger particles than clay, so incorporating them into the soil will create space for drainage. Just ensure that you mix the added materials in well – ideally by rototilling – to prevent layers from forming.

Lawns

If water pools in one or more areas of your lawn, the best strategy is to add drain tile. It’s a bit laborious (and potentially something you’ll want to outsource), but will be effective in eliminating standing water from your yard.

Improving drainage in lawn with drain tile dig trench

Use a 4” perforated drain tile, either (with or without a sock) and lay it in an 8 to 10-inch deep and 12-inch wide trench in the ground. Backfill around tile with a sandy loam soil that will help facilitate drainage of excess water into the tile.

If possible, extend the tile to an area where the water can run off your property. If that’s not possible, create a 3’ x3’ x3’ pit filled with ¾ clear stone where the tile can drain into and the water can disperse into the lower soil levels.

The top 4 to 6 inches of the trench should be filled with good quality top soil to ensure some water is retained to nourish grass, preventing the lawn from drying out during dry periods.

Patios

Patio areas, especially older ones or those that were poorly constructed, may fall prey to standing water. This can make the patio unusable until the surface either drains by itself or is cleared with a broom or squeegee.

Improving drainage on patio standing water elevate patio

Standing water on stone surfaces can also lead to mossy growth, which is both slippery and unsightly. Prolonged pooling water can also negatively affect your home’s foundation and may even seep inside your basement.

The best solution to an ill-draining patio is to remove all stones and increase the level of the patio’s foundation by adding several inches of well-draining aggregate. In addition, it’s important to ensure that the patio has a slight slope away from the house, so that the water can drain freely and without risk of harming adjacent structures.

High-Traffic Areas

Some grassy areas serve as throughways (from the front to the back yard, for example). Many homeowners, especially owners of newer homes find that their side property lines shared with neighbours become tough to navigate due to standing water in wet conditions.

Improving drainage in high-traffic areas pea stone gravel pavers low maintenance walkway

With houses being built closer together these days, new home owners may also find that plants and grass grow unpredictably or inconsistently due to lack of sufficient sunlight. When you add that to the fact that side yards are generally not used or seen by many, it’s not surprising that many look to a low-maintenance option to address all of these issues at once.

The most common solution is the installation of perforated drain tile, keeping with the original slope/grade of the property (typically back-to-front). Once the drain tile is installed and the trench backfilled, the area is finished with a combination of river rock and slabs to achieve a result that is navigable, well-draining, nice-looking, and low-maintenance.

Work with Wet Conditions

Of course, instead of fighting standing water, and assuming the issue isn’t too pervasive, there is a way you can work with the situation.

Choose moisture-loving plants and trees

Add moisture tolerant perennials to wet areas cardinal flower lobelium cardinalisJust as some plants and trees flourish with more or less light than others, they all have varying tolerances of moisture. Choosing varieties that can tolerate slower-draining conditions will relieve you of what could otherwise be a ongoing battle. Ideally, you’ll still want to add some well-draining material to the soil to avoid plants having perpetually wet “feet”.

Some of these solutions are easier to implement on your own than others. If or when you reach the end of your capabilities and want the job done quickly and properly, give us a call. We regularly included drainage improvement measures in our landscaping projects and would be happy to help.

Plant Combinations

Plant Combinations

When it comes to selecting plants, shrubs and trees for your gardens, there are myriad options you can choose to add visual interest, minimize maintenance, and attract birds, bees, and other pollinators. But the real magic happens when you select plant combinations that complement one another, elevating the overall effect.

plant combinations for shade perennial shady garden hosta fernWhen you drive by a home and find yourself admiring their beautiful landscaping, it’s typically not due to an individual element in their garden, but rather the combination of plants, shrubs, and trees that work nicely together.

Regardless of whether you’re planning a formal or informal style, you can find specimens that will help you achieve the look you’re aiming for. A few things to consider:

Height

Create depth and balance by grouping elements of various heights. Taller plants/trees can be placed at the back (or middle for an island flowerbed) while shorter selections can be added at the front or around the edge.

Shape

Consider the various shapes of foliage, flowers, and overall plants. While consistent shapes throughout a design can be effective, they tend to lend a more formal appearance, so choose shapes accordingly. Also, look for options that tend to naturally hold the desired shapes to minimize the additional task of pruning.

Quantity

Design theory dictates that odd numbers are more visually appealing, so group plants, shrubs, and trees accordingly.

planting combinations shrubs tall short height sizeSeasonality

Some perennials look great in spring, summer, and fall (and even winter). Others have features that really shine for only a limited amount of time during one season, and then are rather unremarkable the rest of the year. For example, Forsythia is full of brilliant yellow blooms in the spring while the Burning Bush foliage is a brilliant red in the fall. Group elements to ensure that at least one plant or tree is always offering some visual interest.

Colour

Play around by planting different shades of the same colour. Go monochromatic by planting elements whose colours are all the same, but size and shape varies. Or select plants, shrubs, and trees whose colours are different from one another but complementary.

Hardiness

If you’re planting combinations that you want to come back year after year, ensure they’re all appropriate for your hardiness zone. Stratford and area’s hardiness zone is generally a 6. If in doubt, ask the nursery where you buy your plants.

Plant Combinations for Sun and Shade

plant combinations prairie echinacea purple coneflower rudbeckia black eyed susanSun

Coneflowers, Ornamental Grasses , Black-Eyed Susan, and Gayfeather (Liatrus) creates a low-maintenance prairie look that is colourful and showy from early summer to late fall.

Shade

Combining Hostas with Ferns and Japanese Forest Grass creates visual interest with a range of leaf sizes, textures, and colours. And Hostas provide the added bonus of white or pale purple blooms in the summer.

These are just two of many types of plant combinations you could try in your gardens. If you’re interested in adding or enhancing visual interest in your gardens but don’t want to do it yourself, contact us to discuss your landscaping goals.

Groundcover for Sun and Shade

Groundcover for Sun and Shade

groundcover to grow in sun and shade landscaping around pondGroundcover for sun and shade are plants that tend to grow low to the ground and spread. These ranging plants do double duty in your flowerbeds. With their showy foliage and/or flowers, they add visual interest. But just as importantly, if not more so, they act much like mulch, helping to suppress weeds, reduce soil erosion, and retain moisture.

What’s more, groundcovers are generally low-maintenance, so you get all the benefits mentioned above, without back-breaking work. Just ensure that you plant groundcover plants according to their light exposure requirements.

groundcover creeping phlox plant in full sunA few of the reasons you might consider planting a groundcover:

  • To cover ground where it’s extremely hot and sunny. Drought conditions can leave grass and/or plants parched. Some of the varieties listed below can better tolerate these conditions, and will look nice doing it.
  • To keep weeds down. Weeds are simply unwanted plants in your lawn and garden. If you find weeds particularly troublesome in an area of your flowerbed or lawn, consider planting groundcover appropriate for that area to keep weeds in check.
  • groundcover creeping juniper plant in full sunTo cover steeply graded areas of grass. If your yard has any sloping areas that are hard to maintain, consider replacing the grass with a ground cover to eliminate the hassle.
  • To cover shady spots where grass is sparse. Too much shade can also lead to patchy grass growth. Plant a shade-loving groundcover instead for lush, even coverage.
  • To reliably cover areas with high foot traffic. If your grass is worn in areas where there is consistent foot traffic, a robust groundcover with a creeping habit should provide better coverage.

groundcover for sun stonecrop sedumGroundcovers to plant in the sun

  • Creeping Thyme
  • Stonecrop Sedum
  • Creeping Juniper
  • Ice plant
  • Catmint
  • Creeping Phlox
  • Black-Eyed Susan

groundcover for shade sweet woodruff fernGroundcovers to plant in the shade

  • Lamium
  • Bugleweed
  • Sweet Woodruff
  • European Ginger
  • Carex/Sedge
  • Japanese Spurge
  • Periwinkle

groundcover for shade periwinkle vincaNote that some groundcovers, due to an aggressive spreading or creeping habit, can be invasive, so it’s important to take a bit of time to choose the right plants based on your goals and available space.

If you would like to incorporate groundcovers into a new or existing landscape design but aren’t up for doing it yourself, we can help you make the right choices for your needs and goals. Contact us any time.

Drought-Tolerant Perennials

Drought-Tolerant Perennials

When we’re consulting new customers about their goals for new landscaping, “low-maintenance” is typically high on their list of outcomes. One of the key traits that makes a garden low-maintenance is the ability to thrive in dry conditions. And there are plenty of drought-tolerant perennials that fit the bill.

Drier summers like the one we’re experiencing this year can put a lot of stress on plants, trees, and shrubs. This is especially true for plants that are not yet established (newly-planted) and for non-native species and varieties.

But don’t worry, you don’t have to resign yourself to rock gardens with drought-tolerant succulents. There are many beautiful perennials that can weather and even thrive in dry conditions.

Below is a selection of our favourite drought-tolerant plants and flowers suitable for Southwestern Ontario’s hardiness zone (5/6).

Drought Tolerant Perennials for Sunny Locations

drought-tolerant perennials purple coneflowersConeflowers

Also known as Echinacea, Coneflowers provide pops of (most commonly) vibrant purple with a thistle-like centre that attracts pollinators.

Perennial Grasses

Available in a wide variety of sizes and colours, ornamental grasses add a lot of texture and visual interest to a garden. Be sure to select varieties that are hardy in your zones, as some grasses will not survive our winters and so are better suited to annual planters.

drought-tolerant perennials russian sageRussian Sage

This lavender-hued beauty thrives in dry soil and offers a wispy appearance with silvery foliage that is as striking as its flowers.

Daylilies

The ubiquitous Daylily, with all of its available sizes and colours, makes a great, low-maintenance addition to gardens and fence lines.

Sedum

Also referred to as Stonecrop, sedum is a succulent whose light pink, purple, or reddish flower clusters that bloom in late summer and last into the fall. Autumn Joy is a common variety and looks great alongside ethereal grasses.

drought-tolerant perennials liatris blazing starGayfeather

Liatris spicata, commonly known as Gayfeather or Blazing Star, is a spreading, upright perennial with vibrant green foliage and spikes of purple, pink, and/or white flowers.

Yarrow

Super easy to grow, Yarrow has fern-like foliage with clusters of small, white or pale-coloured blooms. Plants can be easily split to avoid it taking over your garden.

Drought Tolerant Plants and Flowers for Shady Locations

drought-tolerant perennials sedge carexCarex/Sedge

Some varieties of Sedge do well in shady locations. The prominent, grass-like foliage is brightly-coloured and/or variegated, making it an excellent companion for flowering perennials.

Barrenwort

Also known as Longspur or Bishop’s Hat, Barrenwort produces gorgeous, orchid-like flowers on long stems and thrives in low-light areas.

drought-tolerant perennials lamiumLamium

Part of the mint family, Lamium spreads nicely to provide an interesting ground cover with mottled or variegated leaves and small, orchid-like flowers.

Bleeding Heart

Emerging in the spring, first with foliage followed by blooms, the Bleeding Heart earns its name from the heart-shaped flowers that grow along long, horizontal stems.

drought-tolerant perennials foam flowerFoamflower

Blooming in the spring, the Foamflower’s bright and sometimes variegated cut-leaf foliage yields to tall sprays of delicate flowers.

Bigroot Geranium

Unlike its upright annual cousin, the perennial Bigroot Geranium remains low and spreads to create a beautiful flowering groundcover that keeps weeds at bay.

So, there are myriad options for gardens in dry conditions. However, if you need assistance with choosing the right combinations for your gardens, contact us.

Shrubs and Perennials for Shade Gardens

Shrubs and Perennials for Shade Gardens

When springtime rolls around, homeowners start getting flowerbeds and gardens ready for the growing season. This usually means moving plants and shrubs and adding more to the mix. There are so many options for the sunny spots in your yard, but what about those more challenging, shady spots? Fear not. There are plenty of beautiful, hardy, low-maintenance shrubs and perennials for shade gardens.

The following are some of our favourite plants and shrubs for shady gardens and flowerbeds. Not only are these options beautiful, but many are native to Ontario, or at least well-adapted to our climate, so require very little maintenance, once established.

Shade-Loving Shrubs

shady gardens shade-loving yew taxus canadensis evergreen nativeBoxwood
Densely leaved evergreen shrub that can be easily shaped to suit virtually any location or style.

Yew
Low-growing evergreen with soft, needle-like foliage that bears red berry-like seeds.

Serviceberry
Small tree that adapts well to various environments, bears fruit and attracts wildlife.

shrubs and perennials for shade gardens honeysuckle non-invasive flowers that attract hummingbirdsNon-Invasive Honeysuckle
Tolerates both sun and shade, blooms from spring to late summer, and is a favourite of hummingbirds and bumblebees.

Arrowwood Viburnum
Flowering shrub that bears purplish-blue berries and whose foliage turns brilliant colours in the fall.

Oakleaf Hydrangea
Round deciduous shrub produces large clusters of long-lasting white flowers that gradually turn purplish-pink.

shrubs and perennials for shade gardens japanese rose perennial shrub bushJapanese Rose
A deciduous flowering shrub with brilliant yellow flowers that prefers fully or partially shady locations.

Perennials for Shade Gardens

 

Ferns
A wide variety of fern species in various sizes that thrive in Ontario’s climate in part- to full-shade.

shady gardens shade-loving solomon's sealSolomon Seal
Elongated leaves grow on arching stems of white, tubular flowers in the spring, yielding dark, almost black berries.

Lungwort
Low-growing plant with speckled leaves and small, bell-shaped flowers in shades of purple and pink.

Hosta
Available in various shades of flat and variegated green, they produce large blooms on large stalks and can be easily split and transplanted.

shrubs and perennials for shade gardens hellebore helleborus native perennialHellebore
Early blooming, low-growing, mounding perennial with large, star-shaped flowers in shades of white, yellow, pink, and purple.

Brunnera
Large, heart-shaped leaves with tiny, forget-me-not type flowers that bloom in early- to mid-spring.

Hardy Geranium
Sprawling, low-growing green foliage with five-petaled flowers in shades of white, bluem pink, and purple.

shrubs and perennials for shade gardens perennial astilbeAstilbe
Low, mounding plant that produces fuzzy flower plumes in shades of white, red, purple, and pink on tall stalks.

Japanese Forest Grass  
Dense, mounding ornamental grass with bright- and medium-green coloured variegated leaves that grow in waterfall-like arrangement.

With all of these options, shaded lots have no excuse to be dull. For continued visual interest throughout the year, be sure to combine plants of different heights, shapes, colours, and blooming periods.

And as always, if you need assistance with establishing and or maintaining your shade garden(s), contact us.

 

Colourful Landscaping Ideas

Colourful Landscaping Ideas

While having a lush, green landscape can be beautiful, most homeowners want colourful landscaping ideas so they can enjoy at least a pop of colour to liven up their gardens.

And while many look to tropicals and/or annuals for added colour, there’s a wide range of hardy perennials in a full spectrum of hues that you can plant to achieve this in Southwestern Ontario.

Adding colour to your landscaping doesn’t just increase your enjoyment of your outdoor spaces, but it enhances curb appeal and also attracts a wide variety of birds, butterflies, bees, and other pollinators to your gardens.

Some birds are attracted to flowers and garden décor that are the same colour as their plumage, especially when the hunt for a mate is on. For example, orioles are attracted to orange and hummingbirds find reds, pinks, and purples appealing.

It’s interesting to note that white can signal danger to different species of birds, so landscaping that’s resplendent with white flowering plants, shrubs, and trees may see limited avian visitors.

That said, butterflies are attracted to white flowers in addition to plants and flowers in vibrant shades of red, purple, pink, orange, and yellow. They also prefer to feed in full sun.

During the transitional months of April and May, we start to see trees and shrubs fill out and spring-flowering plants and trees exhibit beautiful colour, many with fragrant blooms.

 

Colourful Landscaping Ideas for Spring

Trees and shrubs that will increase the colour quotient in spring include:

  • forsythia spring color landscaping colourful perennials plants flowers trees shrubsForsythia – brilliant yellow blooms
  • Weigela – trumpet-shaped white, pink, fuchsia, or red blooms
  • Dappled Willow – sprays of white and pale pink petals at stem tips
  • Flowering Dogwood
  • Deutzia – showy stems of white blooms and gorgeous fall foliage

 

Some of the plants and flowers that steal the scene in the spring include:

  • Catmint – clusters of purple-blue flowers, much like lavender
  • Hellebores – five-petal, open-faced flowers in a range of striking colours
  • Irises – tall stalks with large, orchid-like flowers in various colours
  • Pasque Flower – mounds of short purple-petaled flowers with large bright yellow centres
  • Spring Bulbs – tulips, hyacinths, daffodils, grape hyacinths

Colourful Landscaping Ideas for Summer

Shrubs and plants whose colour peaks in the summer include:

  • butterfly bush monarch summer color landscaping colourful perennials plants flowers trees shrubsSpirea
  • Butterfly Bush
  • Penstemon
  • Daylilies
  • Upright Phlox
  • Coneflower
  • Campanula
  • Cranesbill Geraniums
  • Hydrangeas

 

Colourful Landscaping Ideas for Fall

While fall is typically viewed as a transitional season, the gateway to winter, there are a wide variety of plants, shrubs, and trees that are at their colourful best in September and October:

  • Rose of sharon fall autumn color landscaping colourful perennials plants flowers trees shrubsBurning Bush
  • Sweet Spire
  • Tiger Eyed Sumac
  • Rose of Sharon
  • Fothergilla
  • Sedum
  • Asters
  • Black-Eyed Susan
  • False Sunflower

 

Colourful Landscaping Ideas for Winter

Even winter can’t bleach the colour out of every plant, shrub, and tree. The following provide beautiful contrast against an otherwise colourless landscape:

  • cotoneaster winter color landscaping colourful perennials plants flowers trees shrubsRed Twig Dogwood
  • Yellow Twig Dogwood
  • Euonymus
  • False Cypress
  • Winterberry
  • Holly
  • Cotoneaster
  • Juniper
  • Boxwood

Most importantly, if you want to keep colour in your gardens all year long with perennials, we recommend selecting a few of the above suggestions from each seasonal category. That way, as colour is fading from one season’s showy selections, the next season’s perennials will take centre stage.

We often consult with clients who are interested in low-maintenance options but still want visual interest and colour in their gardens. If you need assistance selecting the right plants, trees, and shrubs for your landscape, contact us.