Landscaping has a direct and significant impact on the value of your home. Talk to a professional. Discuss your ideas. Listen to theirs. Together you’ll come up with a plan that’s compelling and does what you want it to do.
If you’re wondering where to start a landscape transformation, look no farther than your front yard. It’s the first thing that you see driving up to your house, and you can wow guests before they even enter your home. Just remember that curb appeal is essential, but no matter how pretty your landscape is, it needs to be functional.
Landscape designers introduce focal points. It can be something as simple as a fountain in a shallow pond, a birdbath at the junction of a walkway or a flowering tree seen through a pergola. It will likely wind up being a far more effective way to draw attention to your favourite flora, and you’ll also leave room in the landscape for other elements. And that’s important because if you overload your view with too many instances of a single type of plant or tree, the yard will look barren when that particular plant or tree stops flowering. If there is a specific type of flowering tree you’re fond of don’t fill the yard with it.
A tree’s shape, height, size at maturity and function in your landscape will determine the best tree to plant in a particular location. The overall plan will dictate where things should be planted, how big those plants should be, and whether they should be flowering or not. Remember, the design does not exist to support the individual components. The different elements are there to help and activate the configuration.
Choosing the Right Native Plants
Individual exotic plants may work correctly within your landscape design on paper, but will they survive in your yard? Choosing flora that is incompatible with the local climate is a common mistake driven by the best of intentions. Before planting anything, study your landscape. See where the sun rises and sets. Consult with a local garden center about the plants that you intend to use and know their needs, so make sure to design your areas appropriately.
You work hard to bring the property together with a compelling landscape design, so the idea that it should just disappear as soon as the sun goes down is a little silly, especially in Toronto. Use low-voltage night lighting to highlight items, but also position lights along walkways to make maneuvering after dark easy and safe. Trees create shade during the day, and at night, they’re strung out with lights.
Consideration the house
When you create a landscape design for the yard, don’t forget that there is a house involved. Many an otherwise beautiful landscape design has wound up falling flat. The materials you choose will be of particular significance because they must co-exist peacefully with the materials used on the house. Colour is another consideration as you don’t want the colours of your landscaping to clash with the colours of the home.
Make sure the geometry you introduce into the yard works harmoniously with the geometry of the house. If the design of your home celebrates the joys of rigid geometry, straight lines and right angles having a landscape design that is all curves and swirls is not going to work. Make sure the design motifs of your landscaping extend to the front of the house so that the entire property is tied together pleasantly.
Playing with Shapes
Add some design elements to your landscape by playing off the shape and texture of plants. Use fine-textured plants that have small leaves or needles next to bold-textured plants that have broad leaves. Upright linear growing plants can be positioned next to round or low-growing plants to create interest.
Do all of your hardscaping projects before you set out any plants. Hardscaping can include a porch, sidewalk, driveway, parking areas, decks, fencing, patios and arbour. These projects usually involve construction, which can compact your soil or damage turf and plantings. As we stated above, hardscaping is vital to the success of any landscape design, but too much of a good thing could just as quickly torpedo your landscape. Hardscape elements are there to inform and support the model.
Move to the Back
Your backyard should be an outdoor living area to enjoy. If you need privacy, install wooden fencing or large shrubs around the perimeter to create walls. Decks and patios make great sitting or dining areas when the weather’s appropriate and they create a beautiful overflow for guests during parties.
A Little on the Side
Side yards are often narrow strips that are rarely seen. They can be an excellent place to house your functional needs. Garbage cans, firewood, storage and garden sheds often work well tucked into your side yard. It might be an excellent place to install a dog run. You’ll probably need a walkway on at least one side of your house so you can easily navigate from the front of the house to the backyard.
Keep in mind the long term
Know a tree or shrub’s ultimate size before you put it in the ground. Rosebushes, shrubs and trees grow. As they grow, they’re going to change the look and feel of the design.
As the trees grow, they’ll send out ever more extended root systems which may wreak havoc under the natural stone floor of your outdoor kitchen or encroach upon the inground pool. Avoid planting brittle trees close to parking areas to avoid damage from falling limbs. Before you introduce any living things into your landscape, consider what they’ll be like ten years down the road.
Four-Season Landscape design
The basic idea of planting for all-season interest is to select trees and shrubs so that as soon as one plant is done putting on a show, you’ll have a different plant picking up the slack and strutting its stuff.
- Spring Season
By the time winter’s over, you want to see the colour, and you want it fast. Thus, the popularity of one of the earliest blooming shrubs, Achieving tone in the landscape in mid-spring generally is not a problem, since there are so many flowering trees and shrubs from which to choose. If you plan carefully, late spring need not take a back seat to April and early May, in terms of colour.
- Summer Season
In summer, the brilliant spring blooms on trees and shrubs give way to just plain old leaves. It can be a challenge to find any trees and shrubs that will bloom for a significant amount of time during the summer season. In Toronto, Hydrangea shrubs inevitably enter the discussion, but another saviour is the long-blooming rose of Sharon, whose flowers conveniently hold off until the second half of the summer.
- Fall Season
While floral colour reigns triumphant at the beginning of the growing season in Toronto, near the end, it is foliage colour that is king. The best fall foliage plants include must-have maples, of course, as well as many shrubs and vines for fall colour. You can get a jump on your fall foliage display by planting sumac shrubs, which introduce the autumn season well before the maples. The best colour of the maples in Toronto will be gone partway through October, so you also need a fall foliage specimen that takes from the maples and carries it a bit closer to the winter season. Oak trees will do just that.
- Winter Season
Alas, despite your best efforts to prolong beautiful fall foliage season in Toronto, winter will inevitably arrive. Indeed, winter poses the greatest challenge to the goal of achieving yearround interest in Canada landscape. With the exception provided by evergreen trees and shrubs, the winter landscape is largely dominated by the colours white, gray, and brown. But you certainly have some other options. A patch of attractive reddish bark against a backdrop of pristine snow makes for an unforgettable winter scene.
Finishing Touches Incorporating Your Personality
Adding containers, hanging baskets and window boxes is a great way to incorporate a little more colour into a landscape. A large planter or grouping of containers placed by your front door will create an inviting entrance. Add your personal touches to your garden. You can do this with garden art, statues, water features, a birdhouse or architectural fragments.
To keep a beautiful landscape, it must be maintained. Proper maintenance is a crucial component of any landscape design, and you’ll need to consider the maintenance implications of every element you introduce. Keep in mind mulch makes a landscape look finished, but it also helps the soil retain moisture and keeps weeds in check.
Establish a budget before you begin planning. Luxury items are exceptional as long as they’re going to be used, seen or otherwise experienced. But even then you should prioritize spending on the bread and butter items and spend what’s leftover on extras. While most of your efforts will no doubt be focused on the backyard, don’t forget that your property has a front yard too.
A beautiful and functional landscape makes the house more appealing and will increase its value. Hardscape elements give your Toronto landscape character, create sightlines, direct traffic and of course, add colour and texture. We will describe more Hardscape elements in the next edition.