Will My Plants Survive the Winter?

Will My Plants Survive the Winter?

Understanding Hardiness Zones

 

This time of year can cause trepidation in novice and non-gardeners. Will that beautiful flowering potted plant make it through the winter? Will that cute ornamental tree that I planted in the back flowerbed see next spring?

Well, there’s a resource that farmers, landscapers and green thumbs know of which outlines what plants will survive in different regions. The Hardiness Zone Map (below) is a colour-coded and alphanumerically-labelled infographic that represents growing zones and their respective average temperatures.

hardiness zones ontario stratford perth county ministry of natural resources

Originally created in the 1960s by Agriculture Canada, today’s hardiness zone maps are updated in Canada by the Ministry of Natural Resources (MNR). And while the current map will serve you well when choosing and protecting your plants, it is subject to change and does have a few limitations.

Not surprisingly, climate change has a direct impact on hardiness zones. The maps below demonstrate a shift from the early 1960s (first map) to about 2010 (second map). This was one of the subtlest shifts in Canada. Western provinces saw a more marked change. Out there, the shift was a two-zone transition, and warmer zones were introduced that hadn’t before been seen in Canada.

 

southwestern ontario plant hardiness zone map 1961-1990
southwestern ontario plant hardiness zone map 1989-2010

Each numbered zone represents 10 degrees of difference in average annual temperature. Zones are further split into A and B, representing the lower and higher five degrees of the zone, respectively. Stratford, Ontario (see location indicator on map) used to be just inside Zone 5A, but is now in Zone 6A.

mandevilla dipladenia tropical flower hardiness zone 9 overwinter in southwestern ontario

Mandevilla (Dipladenia)

So, what does that mean for the Mandevilla (for example) that you bought in the spring and have been enjoying all summer long? A Mandevilla is a tropical plant and is only winter-hardy down to Zone 9. That’s an average annual temperature of roughly 30 degrees warmer than we experience here in Southwestern Ontario. So, if you want it to survive the winter, it has to be brought indoors.

Of course, the alternative is to treat a plant like this as an annual and just let it die off in the fall. However, many plants that aren’t winter-hardy in our zone will come back year after year if you properly acclimate them and have the space to overwinter them indoors. For the most part, they go dormant in the winter – a kind of hibernation – so require minimal attention.

If you’d prefer not to fuss with overwintering, and just want plants that can handle our winters, just do a little bit of reading when you’re selecting plants at the garden centre. Most perennials come with information tags that outline ideal drainage, sun exposure, and approximate dimensions of a fully-grown specimen. In addition, there will most likely be an indication of minimum hardiness zone.

perennial flowers plants garden purple flowers green leaves hardiness zone stratford ontario

Perennial garden with winter-hardy plants

There’s such a wide range of native and non-native plants, shrubs, and trees to choose from, you’re sure to find some that suit your own personal landscaping style.

If you’re looking for ideas and inspiration, check out some of our previous blog posts, like, Choosing native Ontario Plants for Your Garden, Fall Colour – Extending the Enjoyment of Your Gardens, and Drought-Tolerant Landscaping.

And of course, if you’d just prefer to leave your landscaping to the experts, we’re happy to help. Simply contact us to get the ball rolling!

 

Increase Your Home’s Value with Landscaping

Increase Your Home’s Value with Landscaping

With the current circumstances – stay-at-home orders and a crazy local housing market – many homeowners are opting to invest in their homes. Money that would otherwise be spent on travel, entertainment, consumer goods, etc. is directed instead to home improvement.

Done right, this can potentially increase a home’s value. However, the value of your home isn’t just about what you can get for it when you sell, but also the enjoyment you get out of it while you live there. So, let’s discuss a few ways to enhance both your quality of life and the monetary value of your home.

Curb Appeal

improve curb appeal to increase the value of your homeIf you search online for ways to increase a home’s value, one method that almost invariably tops the list is to increase your home’s curb appeal. After all, the front of your home provides the first impression for potential buyers, whether they’re passing by or viewing your home online.

Improving curb appeal doesn’t have to be complicated. The most important thing to do is keep things tidy by weeding, edging, and mulching your flowerbeds, pruning your trees and shrubs when appropriate, and aerating, fertilizing, and dethatching your lawn.

Minimal Maintenance

Low maintenance perennials with mulch and stone walkwayIf you’re looking to upgrade your home’s exterior – front, sides, or back – consider updates that will enhance livability, functionality, and practicality. Not only will this maximize your enjoyment, but when it comes time to sell, potential buyers will be able to see themselves relaxing in, rather than working on, the yard and gardens.

One way to add low-maintenance beauty to your landscape, is to include native varieties among the trees, shrubs and plants you choose. Native Ontario plant species are well-acclimated to our conditions, so require very little extra care over that which Mother Nature provides. Native species also attract native birds and smaller pollinators, which is an added bonus.

Hardscaping

Hardscaping stone patio and surrounding flowerbeds improve outdoor living area and add valueWalkways, patios, and retaining walls are gratifying additions to a home’s exterior. In keeping with the theme of minimal maintenance, though – a focus of almost every one of our customers – we recommend being mindful of the materials you use.

Wood decking has historically been inexpensive but does have a limited life span and also can require quite a bit of maintenance to keep it looking good and hazard-free. Poured smooth, brushed, or stamped concrete can make a great patio or walkway, but durability can be an issue and maintenance is required in the form of cleaning and sealing.

For optimal durability and ease of maintenance, precast or natural stone pavers are ideal. The range of colours, textures, and styles is virtually limitless and a stone patio or walkway can be straight/square or round/curvy, so you can be sure to find the right look to complement your home’s exterior.

And if you like the look of stone, smaller-sized decorative stone like river rock, lava rock, quartz, peastone, granite, and dolomite can be used in lieu of mulch in flowerbeds, in between large pavers in walkways and patios, and in and around water features.

Visual Impact

Visual impact adds value to your home lush gardens around poolPlants, trees, and shrubs can be used to camouflage imperfections, add privacy, and enhance the existing beauty around your home’s exterior and yard. For example, an exposed foundation can make a home appear old and unkempt. But, planting a balanced selection of plants and shrubs appropriate for the location’s sun exposure can add depth and colour, providing a welcome distraction from your foundation’s drab, grey expanse.

Exposure to winds or neighbouring properties can make backyard living less enjoyable than it should be. Planting a row of trees, shrubs, or ornamental grass can add shelter and/or privacy. Consider mixing shrubs or grasses with fence panels for increased visual interest.

Serenity

Water feature bubbling rock serene serenity peaceful atmosphereAdd unique atmosphere to your outdoor living areas, walkways, and/or front entrance with lighting and water. Ponds, streams, waterfalls, fountains, and bubbling rocks add an audio-visual element that has a universally relaxing effect. And including lighting along walkways, trees, water features, pools, and patios enhances outdoor safety and enjoyment after the sun goes down.

There are a multitude of ways to improve your landscaping for added quality of life and value. Starting with a plan can help you get focused and establish a budget. If you’re planning some upgrades this year, but don’t want to go it alone, we’re here to help. Drop us a note to let us know what your goals are and we’ll help you get there.

Evergreens for Year-Round Beauty and Function

Evergreens for Year-Round Beauty and Function

In Southwestern Ontario’s warmer months, nature abounds with colour, vibrancy, and life. But come late fall, many plant, shrub, and tree species go dormant, sleeping off the current year and preparing for the next.

The exception of course is the evergreen, as showy (if not more so) under a blanket of snow as it is in the warm sunshine. And this category includes more than just the conical, needled variety we cut down and haul inside to decorate every Christmas.

Despite our cold, snowy winters, a wide variety of plants, shrubs, and trees thrive year-round thanks to their ability to store water and nutrients that sustain them through to spring. Here’s a small sampling of examples:

false cypress golden evergreen foliage

Golden foliage of False Cypress

Emerald green foliage of boxwood evergreen shrub

Emerald green foliage of the Boxwood

Beautiful blue needles of the Blue Spruce evergreen tree

Beautiful needles of the Blue Spruce

Deep Purple-Green foliage of holly evergreen bush

Deep purple-green foliage of Holly

Evergreens are not only beautiful, but functional as well. The following are a few benefits of adding evergreens to your landscape.

Low-Maintenance

As mentioned above, species in this category excel at storing water and nutrients. This means that they need little in the form of maintenance, other than getting the root system established after planting and helping them through drought.

A Natural Windbreak

Tall, full evergreens planted in a row perpendicular to prevailing winds provide relief from the wind year-round. They also act as a natural snow fence, sheltering roads, driveways, and exposed walkways from extreme snow drifts and accumulation.

Added Privacy

Because of their year-round fullness, evergreens are often used in groups or in conjunction with hardscape to provide privacy from passing traffic and neighbouring properties. Cedars are probably the most common variety to use for this purpose due to their inherent fullness, height and growth rate.

Enhanced Air Quality

All trees do a great job of filtering the air in the warmer months, replacing carbon dioxide with oxygen. But for obvious reasons, evergreens provide air filtration throughout the year.

Eco-System Support

Evergreens provide everlasting protection and habitat for small wildlife like birds and squirrels. Setting up a feeder or two, close to an evergreen is the ideal way to enjoy these creatures and help them thrive.

Aesthetic Variety

Evergreens come in a wide range of colours, shapes, and sizes and will suit any area and any landscape. Some sprawl horizontally, making excellent ground cover. Others can grow up to 80 feet tall.

Some keep a relatively natural globe shape, while others have the quintessential conical habit. Some, like boxwoods and cedars, can be pruned into virtually any shape you like.

Varieties like the Yew and Holly bear bright red berries, providing a brilliant contrast to their deep green foliage. Speaking of foliage, colours range from gold to emerald green to blue to almost black.

While it’s nice to have beautiful plants, shrubs, and trees to enjoy in the warmer months when we’re spending more time outdoors, evergreens provide year-round appeal that cannot be overstated. If you’d like to update your landscape with these and other softscape selections, but need help with selection and planting, give us a call. We’re happy to help.

Motherlode Juniper provides colour, ground cover, and added visual interest
evergreen trees white spruce, weeping hemlock, globe blue spruce winter landscape a touch of dutch landscaping
Emerald Cedars add privacy and visual interest
Precast and Natural Stone Retaining Walls

Precast and Natural Stone Retaining Walls

Retaining walls can enhance both the appearance and function of your lawn and garden.

Some DIYers may opt for wood when building a retaining wall. After all, timber and ties are easier to cut and install, and less expensive than stone options. Unfortunately, the benefits of a wood retaining wall are short-term.

precast wall stone retaining wallsEven though it may look nice at the beginning, a wood retaining wall will begin to weather after a season or two, detracting from its appearance and effectiveness. The structure will need to be treated regularly. And even with treatment, the material may need to be replaced in as little as five years. Plus, the chemicals from pressure-treated lumber leach into the soil, which is not good in general, but especially for vegetable and herb gardens.

So, while retaining walls can be made from various materials, we recommend precast or natural stone for superior looks and durability.

Why Retaining Walls

There are a few key functional and aesthetic reasons that home and business owners opt to incorporate retaining walls into their landscape design.

If soil erosion – either away from or toward a house – is an issue, a retaining wall will help diminish run-off while discouraging water from pooling around and possibly damaging your home.

precast wall stone retaining wallsIf the slope of the lot in question renders the yard otherwise tough to landscape, one or a tiered series of retaining wall(s) can help create stepped gardens that are much more amenable to hosting plants, shrubs, and trees. Or a retaining wall can convert a sloping lawn into one single level for enhanced enjoyment of your greenspace.

If there is a big difference between the level of the lot and a building’s entrance level, tiered gardens housed in retaining walls eliminate the stark contrast and drastically improve curb appeal.

Of course, retaining walls can be used strictly to enhance the appearance and enjoyment of an outdoor area. They can help frame an elevated sitting area or add privacy to a sunken or grade-level patio.

A Few Considerations When Building a Retaining Wall

Permits

Depending on the size and location of your retaining wall, you may need to submit a plan to and get a permit from your municipal building department.

paver interlocking brick retaining wallsFoundation

Retaining walls need a solid foundation or base of compacted gravel that is added to a trench which is dug down to the clay level.

Construction

Retaining walls should be constructed with the appropriate stone, and using the right techniques to avoid premature deterioration or total collapse of the structure.

Backfill

The lower portion of the retaining wall’s contained area should be backfilled with drainage stone wrapped in filter cloth to prevent contamination between the soil and drainage stone. We recommend installing a drain tile so that excess water can easily drain from behind the wall.

The reason for this is two-fold. When soil gets wet, it expands and doesn’t drain well. Gravel and sand tend not to expand, minimizing the amount of lateral pressure that will be applied to a retaining wall. Gravel and sand also promote drainage, which will mitigate the risk of standing water. This is especially important if the area in question sits along a building’s foundation.

If you’re interested in adding one or more retaining walls to your landscape design, but the prospect of a DIY project seems a bit too much to handle, please contact us. We’re happy to work with you to create and install a design that makes your yard more attractive, more functional, and more enjoyable.

natural stone armour stone retaining walls
paver interlocking brick retaining walls
natural stone armour stone retaining walls
What’s Your Landscape Design Style?

What’s Your Landscape Design Style?

Landscaping is a fantastic way to upgrade your home’s exterior. Done right, it improves curb appeal and enhances your enjoyment and the functionality of your outdoor environment.

And, like the clothing and home décor you choose, landscaping also provides an excellent opportunity to express your personal style. You may have inherited an already established landscape design when you moved into your home. Or you may have previously defaulted to a style that you thought suited your home’s exterior style.

While matching the style of your home may be a factor you want to consider, the design can be updated to better reflect your personal style as well.

If you haven’t given much thought to your landscaping style, we’ll outline the major styles, their differences, and their defining elements. When we get right down to it, there are really only two principal styles – traditional and contemporary (or “modern”) – with many substyles that can play a role in the overall design.

Traditional landscaping with native plants

An example of a traditional garden design overflowing with a mixture of native plants and flowers

Traditional Landscape Design

The traditional landscaping style tends to be associated with soft or curved lines, more rustic, textural materials in muted, mottled tones, and a balanced mixture of softscaping, hardscaping, and water elements that create a relaxed, laid back atmosphere. More often than not, traditional landscape design tends to be associated with the “informal” style. Because of its more free-flowing lines, a traditionally designed landscape can be more desirable for those wanting a lower maintenance outdoor living area.

Contemporary Landscape Design

On the other end of the spectrum, modern landscape design employs straight lines, clean edges, and sharp angles. Contemporary landscapes offer steep contrast in colour, with lots of symmetry in the shape and size of its elements. Hardscaping materials tend to be flat with a matte or polished finish. These attributes lend to what is generally considered a more “formal” style and also tend to demand more work to maintain the shapes and symmetrical appearance.

modern landscape design clean lines right angles monochromatic hardscaping retaining wall

Elements of modern landscape design – clean lines, right angles, and monochromatic colour scheme

Generally speaking, while most landscape designs may primarily be classified as traditional or modern, they really fall somewhere in between. Besides your personal style, here are many good reasons for a hybrid design, including:

  • Soil conditions and light exposure
  • How you use your yard
  • Your proclivity for garden maintenance
  • Your home’s exterior style

Substyles and Themes

If you don’t want your yard to be purely traditional or one hundred percent contemporary, below are a few substyles/themes you can work into your design.

Native

Plants and trees are indigenous to Ontario/Canada. These not only attract birds, bees, butterflies, and other native wildlife, but also tend to require less maintenance because they’re well-adapted to our climate.

Xeriscape

This type of landscaping reduces or eliminates the need for supplemental watering through the use of above-ground or underground water collection and circulation techniques in conjunction with more drought-tolerant plant and tree varieties.

 

asian inspired traditional landscape design natural flagstone walkway native plants and shrubs pagoda

An example of Asian-inspired traditional landscape design with flagstone walkway

Asian-Inspired

Elements can include a pergola, gate, trickling water feature, ornamental grasses, koi pond, walkway or labyrinth, and soft lighting.

English Garden

Lush green lawns with one or more sitting areas among large, colourful gardens, overflowing with flowers, plants, and trees that attract a range of pollinators.

Natural/Organic

Plants and materials are sustainably sourced and managed. Can be easily combined with Native and/or Xeriscape themes.

Rustic

Incorporates wood and natural stone into decks, patios, walkways, fencing, sheltering structures, and retaining walls.

So, what’s your landscape style? Hopefully, this guide has provided some insights. If you’re having trouble deciding, we’re just a call or email away.

Flagstone Look on a Paver Budget

Flagstone Look on a Paver Budget

When it comes to patio and walkway construction, flagstone is one of the most sought-after materials. Known for its natural and elegantly rustic appearance, flagstone has been used to enhance outdoor living areas for decades.

Some homeowners are singularly focused and will accept nothing but flagstone. However, after consulting with a landscaper/hardscaper, others may realize that flagstone doesn’t fit their budget or suit their needs. So, they opt instead for a different product like stamped concrete, geometric pavers, or even wood.

The great news is that there are alternatives to flagstone that provide a similar look but have some distinct advantages. Two that we use are Permacon’s Rosebel Slabs and Mega Arbel Pavers. Below, we offer the top benefits of these products.

Flagstone vs Pavers alternatives cost advantages patio walkway COST

Any landscaping quote generally comprises three primary factors – product, labour, and skills/experience. It goes without saying that a skilled hardscaper is going to do the job right, providing a superior experience and end result.

Beyond that, your total budget will be the sum of product and labour costs. Because they are designed to fit together and have a very low height variance from one piece to the next, Flagstone and installation might cost 50% to 100% more than precast pavers

COLOUR OPTIONS

Because there are only so many natural stone colours, your options are somewhat limited. Flagstone colour and shade depends on where it was quarried. The most prevalent colours are a buff or sandstone (a light yellow-brown), red, and a grey-blue. On the other hand, precast pavers can be matched to just about anything. Most people like to match a colour on their home’s exterior, be it brick, wood, stucco, or siding.

Flagstone vs Pavers alternatives cost advantages patio walkway DURABILITY

Because it is a sedimentary rock (meaning it’s composed of layers), flagstone will begin to break down after a number of years. Exposure to the elements will increase the rate of deterioration. There is a water-based sealer that can be applied every 2-4 years that will decrease stone breakdown. Pavers on the other hand are low-maintenance and can easily be removed and replaced in case of damage.

APPEARANCE

Flagstone is going to be much less consistent in appearance, with variance in gap widths because the shape of each piece is unique. Of course, flagstone can be cut to fit together nicely, but this will add to the labour budget because of the increased amount of time required to complete the project. Precast products are designed to fit together, laid in a random-looking, but repeated pattern. So, the gaps between them will be much more consistent.

Flagstone vs Pavers alternatives cost advantages patio walkwayPRACTICALITY

Flagstone is uneven along the edges as well as on the top and bottom surfaces. This means that using it for a patio may result in wobbly chairs and tabletops. Likewise, if used for a walkway, the height variance may mean users need to tread carefully. A flagstone surface will also collect water (and in colder months snow and ice) in small depressions in the stone. This can lead to accelerated weathering of the stone, or even growth of algae where water isn’t frequently removed/dried.

It’s a great time to be planning a new patio or walkway for your outdoor area because there are so many great options for you to choose from. If you like the look of flagstone but aren’t sure if it’s right for you, take a look at the new pavers that offer the look of flagstone and the benefits of a precast product. And of course, if you’d like assistance with your upcoming project, we’re just a call or email away.