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
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.

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.

 

Increase Curb Appeal of Your Home with Landscaping

Increase Curb Appeal of Your Home with Landscaping

Enhance the appearance and enjoyment of your home on any budget

First impressions are lasting impressions. And this is as true of your home’s appearance as it is your personal appearance. Little updates can go a long way. Of course, extensive updates can as well. Regardless of your budget, we’ve compiled some landscaping tips below that will help you put your home’s best foot forward.

Any Budget

Lawn Care
increase curb appeal lawn care edging pruning trimming weeding landscapingIf your home has a grass-dominant greenspace in front, keeping your lawn neat and tidy is a no brainer for improving and maintaining curb appeal. Keep grass cut to a consistent length, but not too short as doing so can cause undue stress and increased exposure to weeds and pests. Edging your lawn along walkways, gardens, and your driveway provide a nice, polished appearance as well.

Garden Maintenance
Eliminate dead foliage as seasons change and cut back or split any overgrown perennials. Pull weeds and apply a thick layer of mulch, which will instantly give your flowerbeds a uniform appearance. Mulch has the added benefit of helping to maintain moisture and keep weed growth down.

Pruning & Trimming
It’s hard for people to get a first impression of your home if they can’t see it. If you have large trees, trim back dead limbs and those that block the view and/or sidewalks. Shrubs against your home and along walkways should be pruned and shaped. And be sure to train any wayward vines on a trellis, pergola, or fence.

Hardscape Repair
We can’t overlook your yard’s stairs, walkways and driveways. If your stone or concrete is in a state of disrepair, it can take away from your home’s otherwise neat appearance. Eliminate weeds popping up in cracks and repair or replace broken stones or pavers. Ensure all hard elements are level and secured in place to ensure the safety of your visitors.

Moderate Budget

With a moderate budget, you can add some architectural interest to your front yard and entrance that will make it look more inviting. Here are a few ways to add warmth to your home’s façade:

Softscaping
improve curb appeal medium moderate budget window boxes stone walkway Fill in flat, exposed areas of your home’s exterior with shrubs, ornamental grasses, and small trees. This will add depth, balance, and visual interest to areas that were previously a blank canvas. Remember not to obstruct windows.

Window boxes
Adding boxes of annuals below windows allows you to add splashes of colour in the warmer months and perhaps some seasonal décor for the holidays. Ensure that box shape and size is balanced with window size and coordinated with the rest of your home’s exterior finishes.

Sitting area
Create or better define an area where you can sit and watch the world go by. A small stone patio or porch not only increases curb appeal but also creates additional outdoor lounging space. Be sure to add appropriately-sized greenery to add visual interest and a bit of privacy.

Small water feature
The appearance and sound of a bubbling rock or small fountain creates an attractive focal point for passersby and enhances your own enjoyment of a front patio or porch. Birds are also more likely to visit feeders when there is a nearby water source.

Upgraded concrete steps or walkway
Consider upgrading your standard concrete sidewalk and/or stairs with natural stone pavers. You can create a traditional or modern look to match the style of your home, and this upgrade can add significant visual impact to your front entrance.

Shade tree
While planting a tree won’t provide instant shade, over time a properly selected and placed tree will provide visual interest as it matures. Some varieties grow faster than others, so if you’re looking for quick results, consider a Birch, Ivory Silk Lilac, Crab Apple, or a smaller Maple variety like the Tartarian Maple.

Larger Budget

If you have a more significant budget for upgrading your front yard and entrance, here are some sure-fire ways to enhance curb appeal and enjoyment while adding value to your home.

Upgraded driveway
Improve curb appeal privacy of front yard retaining wall raised gardens wind screen privacy screen shrubs treesConsider replacing your asphalt driveway with a professionally-installed stamped concrete or natural paver driveway. This area of your front yard is highly visible from the street and sidewalk, so making it visually interesting not only adds curb appeal but also distinguishes your home from others in your neighbourhood.

Privacy or windscreen
Adding a row of small trees, shrubs, or natural grasses can add privacy, cut down on wind exposure, and better define your property. As an alternative, you might consider mixing well-placed fence panels with shrubbery for a balanced and visually-compelling appearance.

Pond or water feature
Many find the sights and sounds of a pond or waterfall both calming and visually appealing. Adding a water feature that is proportionate to the size of your house and yard increases the value and enjoyment of your home. Adding lighting allows you to enjoy your pond or waterfall even after the sun has gone down.

Multi-tiered gardens
If your house is tall and you’re your front yard is sloped, you might consider adding tiered flowerbeds defined and contained by natural stone retaining walls. For colour and interest throughout the year, fill your beds with a mix of shrubs, flowering trees, perennials, and annuals in a balanced mix of shapes and sizes.

Whether you’re getting your house ready to put on the market or just keeping up with the Jones down the street, there are big and small things you can do to improve your home’s appearance and value. Of course, if you’re not up to the task, we are here to help. Just contact us to get started.

 

Why Choose Native Ontario Plants

Why Choose Native Ontario Plants

Creating a healthy local ecosystem in our own backyards

There have been myriad reports over the past few months from backyard birders about the decrease in visitors to their feeders. If you’ve noticed this too, you’ll be pleased to know there are things we can each do to radically reverse the decline of small wildlife in our yards.

Coral Bells are a native Ontario plant that flowers in the late summerIt’s all well and good to provide seed and suet for birds, but the solution to population decline requires us to look a little closer. Instead of thinking short-term, say season by season, let’s look at it from a yearly perspective, or even longer.

What we choose to plant directly affects the quantity and activity of small and large living organisms in our yards. If our only priority is a yard that looks pretty, we may be missing opportunities to positively impact the local ecosystem.

We should also consider biodiversity – choosing a variety of species that co-exist nicely. If we also opt for plants and trees that require minimal resources for survival, then we can move toward a landscape that not only looks good, but is low-maintenance and welcomes beneficial interdependent activity above and below ground.

Nature's Best Hope Book by Doug TallamyWildlife Ecologist Doug Tallamy, author of “Nature’s Best Hope: A new approach to conservation that starts in your yard” offers strong arguments and simple tips for being a backyard conservationist. Here are a handful of his suggestions:

  • Reduce the amount of lawn in your yard to that which you require for walking and playing. Fill this area instead with more productive “host” plants.
  • Over thousands of years, native fauna has developed defences and tolerances (and thus, preferences) for consuming native flora (plants with which it has co-evolved), so naturally if we replace these native food sources with non-native alternatives, local wildlife will either have to go elsewhere for food or perish.
  • If not kept in check, unproductive, foreign cultivars can become invasive species, choking out native plant life beyond our back yards.
  • We currently have 3 billion fewer birds than we did 50 years ago. Globalization and hybridization have replaced native garden options with more “exotic” options that might be fashionable, but don’t contribute to the local ecosystem.
  • A great deal of the animals in any ecosystem don’t eat plants, but eat something that eats something that eats plants, so ensuring the right plants are available as a food source for caterpillars and insects is a very big deal to our entire ecosystem.

Butterfly Bush is a native Ontario plantThe good news is this isn’t an all-or-nothing proposition. You don’t have to swap out all of the plant life in your garden and risk disrupting your current modern or tropical motif, for example. Plants that are native to Ontario come in a wide range of shapes, sizes, and colours, so you’re sure to find a few cultivars that appeal to you.

And adding just a few native plants and trees will produce favourable results. Visit our June 2019 post on Choosing Native Ontario Plants for Your Garden or head over to our Native Ontario Plants Pinterest Board for some inspiration.

As always, if you need assistance choosing the right native plants and trees for your yard, or you just want to get started on a landscaping project, contact us.