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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.

Add Privacy with Landscaping

Add Privacy with Landscaping

Often, when homeowners want to add privacy to their yards, they think of walls and fences made from stone and/or wood. And sometimes solid structures like these are needed if the goal is to keep people and animals in or out.

However, if you simply want to break up visual sightlines, add privacy with landscaping including plants, shrubs, and trees. And if you’re looking for inspiration, here are some of our favourites that we incorporate into landscaping projects when clients desire increased privacy from neighbours.

Evergreen Options

Add privacy with cedars emerald blackEmerald Cedar

Although, slower growing than other cedars, the Emerald Cedar is a vibrant green, dense, cone-shaped evergreen that grows quite tall (4 metres) and can survive (preferably in full sun) for 30+ years.

Black Cedar

Although cone-shaped like the Emerald variety, the darker-coloured Black Cedar has a wider base, making it an excellent choice for windbreaks and perimeter hedges. They are a faster-growing shrub and can survive for 50+ years topping out at approximately 5 metres in height.

Add privacy with landscaping juniper hedge

Yew (Taxus canadensis)

The Canadian Yew, the most prevalent of yews in Southwestern Ontario, is a vibrant green with dense limbs of soft, flat needles. While it does grow quite wide (up to 7 feet) it maxes out at only 4 feet in height, making it a candidate for low hedges and topiaries. Bright red berries mature in late summer to early fall, providing visual contrast against green foliage.

Spruce

While Black, White, and Red Spruces are indigenous, the Norway and Colorado/Blue varieties also thrive in Southwestern Ontario (hardiness zone 5). Generally speaking, Spruce trees are quite hardy with dense foliage, and reaching heights of 20-25 metres. This option is better planted away from buildings and other structures, with plenty of room between each, if planting in a row/group.

Upright Juniper

Low-maintenance and hardy, upright Juniper varieties like the Wichita blue and Ontario green juniper mature quickly with dense foliage that makes them a great alternative to fences and privacy walls. Junipers can be planted fairly close together as they are narrow, but grow to approximately 15 feet tall.

Deciduous Options

American Hornbeam

This hardwood can reach 15 metres tall and provides ample privacy with its densely packed leaves, which turn a brilliant red in the fall.

Add privacy with a Hornbeam hedge

English Oak

The English Oak can grow to 60 feet tall and just as wide, though many varieties start out in a more cone-shaped habit before spreading out. These trees can live well beyond 100 years. There’s also a narrower variety more suited to tight spaces.

Privet

The fast-growing Privet makes a great privacy hedge with its dense, glossy, oval-shaped leaves. It flowers in the early summer, and yields non-edible fruit after flowering concludes.

Add privacy with Privet hedge floweringNinebark

A popular hedge choice in landscaping, the Common Ninebark’s leaves are a yellowish-green and grow in dense arrangements with seasonal flowers clusters. It is a fast-growing shrub, reaching up to 10 feet high and 8 feet wide.

Add privacy with a ninebark hedgeLarge Ornamental Grasses

Ornamental grasses that thrive in Southwestern Ontario come in a wide range of shapes, colours, and sizes. Feather Reed Grass and Fountain Grass both grow to about 3 feet tall and make good low privacy screens. But if you’re looking for complete privacy, tall varieties like those of the Miscanthus genus are your best bet. They work great in conjunction with fence panels, planted in a standalone cluster, or lining the perimeter of a deck or patio. A word of warning though, Miscanthus can become invasive, if not managed with regular splitting and cutting back to the ground.

Add privacy with Miscanthus ornamental grass

Although these suggestions can help you get started, you might benefit from expert advice and installation, ensuring that the right varieties of trees to add privacy with landscaping are chosen. Contact us any time for assistance with enhancing the privacy of your yard.

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