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Landscaping a Small Backyard

Landscaping a Small Backyard

Do you have a small backyard? Do you feel like you don’t have enough room to landscape it the way you want? Don’t worry, we have some strategies for you! In this blog post, we will discuss how to add plants and shrubs for privacy and visual appeal, how to add a small patio for relaxing and entertaining, and how to create balance with colour, size and shape. We will also discuss low maintenance landscaping options. So, whether you have a small city backyard or a country cottage yard, we have the perfect tips for landscaping a small backyard.

Make the Most of a Small Space

patio and gardens for small backyard landscape design small spacesWhen it comes to landscape design for small backyards, the key is to maximize the space and make the most of what you have. Start by adding plants and shrubs that will provide both privacy and visual appeal. Choose plants with varying heights and colors to create a lush landscape.

Make sure to consider the size and shape of your yard when selecting plants. Tall, thin trees may be best for narrow spaces and can be balanced with the addition of compact, low-growing shrubs, ornamental grasses, and other perennials.

Make Your Small Backyard Livable

landscaping small spaces armour stone retaining walls pavers patio mulch gardensYou can also create a cozy gathering space with the addition of a small patio using natural stone, brick, or interlocking pavers. There are even precast stone products that look like flagstone but have a much more uniform surface and are more cost-effective relative to their natural counterpart.)

A small patio is perfect for relaxing or entertaining, and its appearance blends nicely into surrounding landscaping, so it won’t be visually overwhelming. Consider adding comfortable but space-saving furniture to maximize seating capacity.

Visual Impact and Balance

When designing your landscape, be sure to create balance with colour, size and shape. Create visual interest by grouping plants that are different sizes and colours together. Install pathways along high-traffic zones with stones in unique shapes or patterns. You can also add lighting to draw attention to certain areas of your landscape and make them stand out in the evening.

Be Master of Your Domain (Not a Slave to It)

Raised patio river rock low maintenance small backyardFinally, when it comes to landscaping a small backyard, don’t forget to consider low-maintenance landscape options. Native plants are always a great choice as they require minimal upkeep and thrive in your local climate. Consider hardscaping materials like gravel or river rock over landscape fabrics to prevent weeds from encroaching on your garden beds.

By implementing these strategies for landscaping a small backyard, you will be able to create an inviting outdoor space that is both functional and visually appealing! With the right design elements and thoughtful planning, even the smallest of yards will provide years of enjoyment. If you’d rather leave the landscaping of your small yard to professionals, contact us to get started.

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.

Choosing Materials for Your Patio Project

Choosing Materials for Your Patio Project

A patio is a quintessential part of a proper backyard and, more often than not these days, homeowners are opting for stone patios rather than poured concrete. This blog post aims to make choosing materials for your patio project easier.

But there are so many products available to choose from these days that selecting the right one(s) for your project might seem a bit daunting.

Below we’ve outlined some key considerations to help you get a result that looks great and lasts a long time.

Some things to consider when choosing materials for your patio project


Size and Intended Usage

choosing patio materials stone pavers interlocking brick retaining wall boarder neutral beige traditionalFlagstone is often one of the first products people think of when they start planning a patio. It’s beautiful and natural, coming in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colours. While it can be cut into geometric shapes, many like the rustic appearance of a patio created using various sizes that are pieced together to create a walkway and/or patio.

However, if you’re planning a larger patio – one that is going to have a lot of seating and see a lot of traffic, the naturally uneven surface of flagstone may be an issue.

Pavers with a smoother, more consistent surface will be easier to walk on, and keep patio furniture from wobbling back and forth. And if you’re planning a pool surround, not only do you want a safe traffic area, but one that doesn’t collect water in its nooks and crannies.

If you like the look of flagstone, but want a smoother surface, there are precast pavers designed to emulate flagstone that would work nicely.

Style

choosing patio materials stone pavers interlocking brick charcoal grey blue green brown square rectangle traditional modernAbove, we mentioned the rustic style, which is a subset of traditional and informal styles. The main styles to consider include traditional, modern, formal, and informal.

Traditional design is defined by curved lines and uses multiple colours. There tends to be more texture and detail in the stone choices.

Modern or Contemporary design emphasizes clean, straight lines, 90-degree angles, and ethereal colour choices with minimal variation.

Informal design tends to share traits with traditional design. The layout has a more natural, less structured flow, whereas formal design tends toward a more ordered, geometric appearance with repeated patterns.

When you’re selecting pavers for your patio project, you want to consider both your personal style as well as the style of your home. If your home’s design is more traditional, but you would like a more contemporary design for your patio, you might consider adding a bit of colour and texture to your patio that ties in with your home’s exterior coverings.

Colours

choosing patio materials stone pavers interlocking brick grey blue brown flagstone traditional modernThere have never been more colour options for engineered stone products than there are today. And even natural stone is available in a wide array of colours and shades.

Generally, we recommend working with your existing environment – your home’s exterior cladding, other structures, and existing hardscaping – when selecting a colour(s) for your patio.

And consider adding visual interest to your patio’s appearance by selecting a contrasting border or inlay products. The options really are endless.

Budget

choosing patio materials stone pavers interlocking brick red brick traditional designThe budget factor needn’t take the fun out of your material selection process. There are lots of great options at every price point. If your budget is limited, consider selecting a cost-effective product as your primary material and then splurging on something a bit more expensive for a border, inlay, stairs, or other accent.

You might also look for discontinued or older stock, as these products can tend to be priced to sell quickly. Just keep in mind that there may be limited quantities of your chosen materials, so double check with the retailer about total available product in square feet, and compare that to what you’ll need to complete your project.

Regardless of what type of patio you’re planning, you want to be sure you’re happy with the choices you make both short- and long-term. We work with clients to help them select the best options for their needs, resulting in a patio that they love to spend time on, year after year. Contact us today to get started.

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.

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.