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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.

Landscape Planning Apps & Tools

Landscape Planning Apps & Tools

When renovating your yard sometimes the hardest step is the first one – knowing where to begin. Maybe you have a few ideas in mind but don’t know how to bring them together. Or perhaps you have no ideas and need inspiration. Either way, we’ve assembled a few suggestions to help you gather your thoughts and assemble a plan.

There are quite a few online tools and apps that can help you visualize your newly renovated yard before a shovel breaks ground. Below are a couple of apps we have selected as well as a couple social platforms where you can find inspiration.

2D Design: Garden Planner by smallblueprinter.com

apps and tools for landscape design better homes and gardens garden plannerFeatures and Benefits of this platform:

  • Easy to use – drag-and-drop
  • Available for Mac and Windows platforms
  • Printable designs
  • Notes section
  • Library of over 1200 plants and objects
  • Includes ability to design edible gardens
  • Free trial version + paid version
  • Paid version includes 3D capabilities
  • Available online demo

3D Design: Plan-a-Garden by bhg.com

apps and tools for landscape design better homes and gardens plan-a-gardenFeatures and Benefits of this platform:

  • Choose from generic home styles as the backdrop for your design, or upload a picture(s) of your home/yard.
  • Select from an extensive range of plants, trees, and shrubs.
  • See specific plant details to ensure they meet your criteria for inclusion in your design.
  • Filter search by plant type, size, light exposure, and spoil conditions.
  • Plants are scaled to reflect actual relative size depending on their placement in your design.
  • Drag and drop function allows you to easily move elements around your design.
  • Add architectural elements and patio furniture to complement your softscape elements.
  • Add hardscaping (walkways, patios, fencing, etc.) and even paint to the design and elements.
  • Toggle between seasons to see what your design will look like at various times of the year.

In addition, the following visual social media platforms can provide a heap of inspiration when planning landscaping enhancements.

Pinterest

A Touch of Dutch Landscaping on Pinterest tools apps platforms for planning and designing landscapingThis highly searchable, and widely used platform will provide inspiration from all over the world. So, whether your budget is big or small, and your style is traditional or contemporary, you will find examples from all over the world.

We continue to create thematic pin boards every month. Recently, we’ve added Pool Area Landscaping, Improve Curb Appeal with Landscaping, Hardscaping Inspiration, and of course, Windmills. One of the features we like most about Pinterest is the ability to create a private pin board exclusively for our client’s use, so they can communicate ideas with us.

 

Houzz

A Touch of Dutch Landscaping on Houzz tools apps platforms for planning and designing landscapingHouzz is an industry-specific platform specifically for businesses in home design, construction, repair, and restoration. On this site, you can find lots of great local inspiration. We share projects and idea books that help our customers better understand our wide range of expertise and completed projects, as well as related details including budget range for each project.

Starting with a plan – general or specific – can help you feel more comfortable when engaging the services of a landscaper. It will provide a solid foundation for discussion about the project and will make the whole process more efficient, ensuring you and your contractor get on the same page quickly. We hope you find these tools useful when you begin a landscaping project. As always, we invite you to contact us to get the ball rolling.

Professional Landscape Designs by
A Touch of Dutch Landscaping

Garden and landscape design stratford ontario
Garden and landscape design stratford ontario
Garden and landscape design stratford ontario
Garden and landscape design stratford ontario
Garden and landscape design stratford ontario
Garden and landscape design stratford ontario
Turn Your Pool Area into an Oasis with Landscaping

Turn Your Pool Area into an Oasis with Landscaping

Enjoy living in your backyard, not just swimming in your pool

When adding a pool to your backyard, the actual installation of the pool is only half the job. The other half is comprised of what goes around the pool to give your backyard oasis polish and make the area more livable.

Enter landscaping. Both softscaping (trees, shrubs, and flowerbeds) and hardscaping (decking, fences, patios, walkways, and retaining walls) can turn your new pool space into a backyard oasis. The key is adding the right elements that will fit your style, lifestyle, and budget.

To streamline your planning process, consider your vision, then how you want the space around your pool to function, and finally of course, your budget.

 

Vision

pool landscaping backyard oasis hardscaping natural rock waterfallThis is your invitation to have a big “blue sky” session. Include others who will also be using the finished space and note all wants and needs. Pinterest is a great tool for curating your vision in a private vision board that you can share with your landscaping professional.

This is not the time to stifle creativity with practical matters. Browse through images of other backyard pool areas and gather inspiration. If something looks too big, too complex, or too fancy, keep in mind that elements that you like can be scaled down, simplified, or otherwise altered to meet your needs and budget during later planning stages.

Right now, just allow yourself to think big and think of possibilities.

 

Function

pool landscaping backyard oasis hardscaping natural rock waterfallThis step incorporates more practicality into your plan. Take some time to think about how you will be using your finished backyard. Talk to other pool owners about the things they love most about their yard and perhaps what they would have done differently if they could do it again.

Consider maintenance required for trees, shrubs, and gardens. Do you need shade? Do you want more colour? Do you want fast-growing plants and trees or would you prefer softscaping whose shape and size is easy to maintain?

Do you want a large patio for lounging with family and friends? Do you want additional privacy? What about lighting for nighttime use? And you’ll likely need storage for pool and patio furniture and accessories. When we meet with clients, we address all of these things, but many people like to conduct their own due diligence beforehand.

 

Budget

backyard plan pool landscaping backyard oasis hardscaping natural rock waterfallFrom modest to unlimited, we work with all kinds of budgets. And we’ll be happy to work within yours while showing you how to maximize the return on your investment without compromising your entire vision.

Like most other landscaping projects, converting your backyard pool installation into a full backyard oasis can be accomplished in phases. So, if your current budget doesn’t allow for everything on your wish list, consider breaking the project into steps, adding your wish list elements over two or more years. We can help you establish priorities based on budget and short- versus long-term needs, and then create a plan accordingly.

A backyard pool project is exciting. However, if you want to spend your summers in your backyard, but not always in your pool, how you landscape and furnish the space around the pool is as important as the pool itself.

We love working with clients to make their backyard dreams a reality and are happy to work with you at your pace to bring your dreams to life. Contact us for assistance at any stage of the process.