Tag Archives: island landscaping

We are Landscaper Gardeners in Ladysmith on Vancouver Island on the Pacific West Coast of Canada. Our motto is…”when you do what you love and you love what you do…you are one with the landscape. Creating a perfect garden paradise. We will create a landscape (an area) or garden space in a style which requires little or no irrigation.

Shaping a Cedar Hedge

We were hired to trim and shape this cedar hedge that surrounds the house.  The hedge has been taken care of and is healthy so the job was easy.

Xeriscaping a low maintenance front yard!

We were hired by our garden owner Gail in the spring to re-do her front lawn.  The lawn is approximately 1000 square feet of poor soil and very poor lawn.  Gail had struggled with the lawn since she had moved there.  After years of trying to get the grass to grow she decided she needed a low maintenance xeriscaped area.  When I went to meet her, I agreed.  My motto has always been, when you are trying to grow something, you want it to thrive not just survive.  Her lawn was barely surviving…although the weeds were prolific, nothing else seemed to thrive.  As a retired farmer Gail realizes the importance of water conservation and thought it best to get rid of the lawn and conserve the water for better uses.

Gail said as each year went by the lawn became more unhealthy then the previous year.  The lawn is patchy at best and really required a new design.  Gail had already decided she wanted all of the sod removed and disposed of.  She wanted a rock wall across the front and a path to her side garden for her to be able to water with her garden hose.  She also wanted as much of the front lawn mulched as possible.  she wanted a design that would compliment her beautiful home and create curb appeal.

I suggested we frame the entire front yard with a perimeter of river rock.  It would not only add a new layer to the design, but more importantly it would allow good drainage of rains and help to keep the mulch in its place.  The last thing I wanted to happen was for a heavy rainfall to wash all of the mulch to the sidewalk and the road.  Without the perimeter of rock it was a likely problem as the lawn is on a gradient towards the sidewalk and the road.

The work began on Monday taking out all of the sod and disposing of it. A sod cutter works great for such a big job.  The perimeter of the lawn had to be cut out with an edger as the sod cutter cannot get close enough to cut it out.

Once we went over the lawn with the sod cutter we realized that although the grass was not growing above ground the roots were a solid mass with some as deep as 6 inches.  We had to run the sod cutter over it twice to rid the area of roots and start with a clean slate.  It was labour intensive but a necessary requirement to ensure a long lasting low maintenance design.  We did need to take the lawn down by a minimum of 2 inches to make room for the mulch but it ended up coming down 5 to 6 inches which actually worked out better in the long run.

Once the lawn and roots were taken out and disposed of (7truck loads of waste), it was time to prep the entire bare area.  We used a landscape rake to level the entire area. Then we built a stone wall across Gail’s front lawn to add depth and beauty as well as hold the mulch in place.   We dug out the entire perimeter lower then the rest of the lawn and put garden edging in to keep the river rock separate from the mulch.  We also added  layers of wet newspaper and landscape fabric underneath the river rocks.

Then we used recycled newspapers….8 to 10 layers deep on the entire yard.  We wet the newspaper first so it sticks to the ground.  This creates a barrier so that weed seeds in the soil cannot sprout or grow.  We were not willing to lay landscape fabric down on bare soil.  The landscape fabric does what it is supposed to…it has tiny perforated holes to allow rain water to flow through it but cannot hold the weeds back.  Many fabrics have a 5 year or 20 year guarantee on the package. That is not for the duration that it will keep weeds out…that is for the duration of its life before it completely breaks down.  There is a big difference.  For anyone who has ever used the fabric in their garden they know that is only a matter of time before a tiny weed seed sprouts and pokes through one of these perforated holes in the fabric and begins a weed trend that does not stop.  Once the weeds begin to poke through the fabric, the only way to get them out is to pull all of the fabric up and weed it from underneath.  It is not the current seeds that are sprouting but rather the old weed seeds trapped under the fabric and they do sprout and grow.

We purchased commercial landscape fabric and yes there is a big difference.  It is a strong mesh material that allows the water to seep through rather then the cheaper fabric with perforated holes.  Commercial fabric is 25% more but it is the only fabric to use when I am covering bare ground to impede weeds growing.  We layered the fabric and overlapped to ensure there were no bare areas that weeds could sprout.  Then we covered it with a medium dark mulch.  The dark mulch is larger chunks and less likely to blow away or move around in a rain storm.  We covered the entire remaining yard with 4 to 6 inches of mulch.  We raked it all out and then we watered it down.  We knew a storm was coming the next day and rather then take a chance on the mulch being so dry and light it would migrate, we watered it down to weigh it down.  The re-design turned out beautiful and Gail is very happy with it and so are we!

 

 

Clean-up and Re-design of a patio garden space

In October last year, a lovely senior lady contacted me in regards to cleaning and re-designing her small patio garden.  She loves gardening but found she could not do the manual labour of weeding, digging and replanting some of her potted plants and some of the plants that were already in her garden.

Small garden spaces are a challenge and take some getting used to…not to mention they try your patience at the worst of times.  Such small spaces make for cramped quarters for the gardener and can cause cramped muscles, short fuses and damaged areas if not careful from miss-steps in the garden area itself.  After many many small garden projects for many garden owners (as well as my own small garden space) I have discovered that often times these small spaces can take as much time and sometimes more then a larger space, due to the confined quarters.  What I truly love is the final display of the garden owners design.  Sometimes, the design is left up to me and sometimes (most times) Mother Nature shows you how the garden should look…if we really open our visual telepathy we will see the plants characteristics…in terms of colour, size, growing patterns, leaf patterns and flowering times…then the design picture comes to light…such was this garden…it really just unfolded as I weeded and cleaned the area.

Eva is a lovely lady who waited since last October as it froze up before I could get to her garden and was kind and patient enough to wait for me to get to her re-design this spring.  A sincere thank you Eva for giving me the opportunity to beautify your outdoor space…it really was a pleasure for me and I am so very please that you are happy with the end result…hope you enjoy your patio all season long!  Cheers Eva !

Total length of time was 5 hours…which included weeding and mulching her front gardens as well, although I did not include before and after pics as I forgot to take them. Total cost to her was $175.00 which included the mulch costs.  The plants that were in pots she had me plant into the ground.  With the exception of her mint…because if you have ever grown mint you know how invasive it is.  In a small garden like Eva’s, the mint would have spread to every area of her garden by fall.  So we agreed that I should heal in the entire pot with the mint in it.  I dug the hole 3\4 the depth of the pot and placed the pot in the hole and filled in around it.  The pot will maintain the mint in the pot and not allow it to travel throughout the garden area.  It will go to seed and spread that way but it will be much slower and easier to manage…just by pulling out the seedlings as they sprout.

 

 

A front yard clean-up!

We were hired by Pinky to do a complete clean up of her rental property in Ladysmith BC.   We finished the back yard the first day and moved to the front yard.  The Rose bush in the front yard is the largest I have ever seen.  It is a very old Rose and is thriving here.  We also trimmed and pruned her deciduous hedge that runs parallel to the sidewalk.  There were shrubs that were overgrown as well.  However, they too were very mature healthy plants.  I am always amazed at the end of a clean up just how beautiful the garden design is, as sometimes it gets lost in the overgrowth.  Living in a rainforest has its challenges…everything grows 365 days a year as nothing really goes dormant due to our mild temperatures.

Before ↑ & After↓

Before ↑ & After ↓

                                                                    Before ↑ & After ↓

 

A small front yard clean up

The winter has been very long here and much work is needed in the gardens for spring clean up.  This small front yard took 6 hours from start to finish.  the yard was raked, the tree was trimmed and a new garden created along the house.  The clean up included putting wood chips around the plants and along the new garden bed.  The lilac bush was trimmed and the english ivy cut back also.

Front yard before

Front yard after

My Back Yard

Last year I posted pictures of my back yard with a design that I had in mind.  Due to unforeseen circumstances I had to move a couple of months ago and my yard design was not completed.

So now, I have a new yard…which is…well the pictures speak for themselves.  There is nothing that motivates me more then landscaping…I love to create beauty through design with alot of help from mother nature.  This yard is like a blank slate just waiting to be designed.

Here are the challenges: Privacy, Privacy & Privacy

Privacy    Our home is in town and has a walking path along the back (east) of the lot and up along the south side of the property.  Our neighbour is the local dog park so you can imagine the traffic around our house.  I love dogs and humans…don’t get me wrong…but I love my privacy more.

Weeds/Overgrown Lot

The entire lot is fenced in and has great potential but has not had any type of landscaping or gardening done in many years.  The only neighbours on the north side had a beautiful cedar fence installed some years ago and it has stood up to the test of time.  The fence does give us some privacy.  However, our yard runs on a gradual slope downhill so there is next to no privacy in the entire back yard.  We live downstairs in a suite and there is also a suite above us.  Thankfully, (for now) my son rents the upstairs suite so privacy is a non-issue.

Backyard swampafter moving in November, we discovered the back yard was like a swamp.  The ground was so waterlogged that we could not walk through most of it without getting soaking wet feet.  To our surprise we found out that the former owner had pumped all of the gray water from the house into the back yard via an underground hose that she had buried.  So all of the water from the laundry room and all of the water from the kitchen sink travels to the back yard.  It is also obvious that there is poor drainage in the back yard.   We already use all natural “green” products…phosphate free, so this is one less thing to worry about.

Cedar Hedge – Many years have passed since the previous owner planted a cedar hedge at the back of the lot.  They are slow growing cedars so they are small and there are holes in the hedge.  Not sure if some died or if there were not enough planted.  In any case, it is going to be one of the biggest challenges landscaping and I am so looking forward to it.

Rocks Rock & More Rocks  The entire yard has rocks everywhere.  The neighbour told me the previous owner brought in truck loads of rocks of all shapes and sizes.  Oh my, I have never ever seen so many rocks on such a small property.  So  I will incorporate what rocks I can  and the rest I am taking to two different clients who are in need of rocks….oh my goodness I hope they want lots!!!!  As you can see from the picture, I already pulled some rocks from around the tree in the picture below.  I planted strawberries under the tree in November when I moved in, so its a very small start. 

Oh, I almost forgot, we inherited a fish pond, in the forefront of the bottom left picture.   It is beautiful and has great potential as a focal point in the gardens.  So here we go with a new project!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Winter Damage to Tree

The last week of weather on Vancouver Island has been brutal.  First snowstorms and literally inches and inches of snow accumulating with freezing temperatures and wind.  The snow here is always very very heavy when we do get snow…which is seldom.  Then we were graced with warmer temperatures and rain.  During this week of stormy weather mother nature provided us with beautiful silhouettes in nature.  With the storms comes many many trees, shrubs and plants that now have winter damage.  This beautiful tree in my yard which was stunning when the snow came, had several branches break under the weight of snow and ice.

After the storm when I realized the tree was damaged, I played a waiting game with mother nature as the branches were frozen in the snow.  Now, today, I have cut the branches off with a landscape saw, giving them a clean cut at the trunk.

I will not be using wound paint or any other kind of sealant on the tree as I know it is a myth that it requires it to heal.  Trees are incredibly resilient and will heal themselves if left alone.  Wound paints and dressings claim to prevent rot and help trees heal from pruning wounds, but research suggests that they actually do more harm than good. When you cut off a tree limb, or the bark gets damaged, the tree never actually “heals.” Instead, it compartmentalizes the wounded area with a special type of calloused wood – like a scar – that keeps out bacteria and helps the rest of the tree recover.  Wound paint can actually interfere with the trees recovery by preventing it from creating the calloused wood to compartmentalize it and can weaken the tree.  Tree wounds heal from the inside out so dressing it with wound paint can actually seal in moisture causing tree rot and allowing fungus or bacteria to survive and possibly thrive.  The last thing I want to do is interfere with the trees natural recovery processes…after all trees have been on this planet longer then humans and have evolved to heal themselves most of the time.

Spring is on its way!

For many who do not live on Vancouver Island it is a shock for them to find out that although we live in Canada, we don’t (as a rule) get snow…or at least not the kind that hangs around for days…never mind months.  Well this year has been much different.  In December of 2016, the 3rd of December to be exact, was my last day working for the rest of the month.  Winter came and stayed and stayed and stayed.  We were in a deep freeze for over a month and the snow that came…STAYED!  So much for living in a rain forest!  When the snow finally melted (most of it) two weeks ago, it was only because we received so much rain.  It washed away the snow and melted the ice.  I have now been back to work for the last two weeks.

Since it was so cold and frozen, I had to lay the staff off and am now back to work, but working alone for the time being.  Springs clean up has already started in many gardens and I am hard at work.   Many shrubs and trees have winter damage from carrying the weight of the snow and ice for so long.  Many branches are broken or damaged which means a larger clean up then normal.  I have also started trimming and pruning, as well as weeding.  It is a perfect time to weed as the ground has so much moisture many of the weeds pull right out.  Which is great because saving time on weeding helps to off set the extra time required for the extra clean up and the extra pruning necessary to keep the gardens healthy and vibrant.

It will be interesting to see what happens with the palms that have been planted in so many gardens.  The research I have done says that the palms can withstand temperatures dipping to -10 C.  However, we had extended periods of days where it stayed that cold.  It is true that mother nature can be cruel and it will be sad if many of the palms do not survive.  They add a new texture and vibrancy to the landscape here on the island and I shall be sad if their survival is threatened.   As the temperatures warm up we will see what has been damaged.  Only time will tell.

For those gardeners who are unsure of when to prune or trim.  There are basic rules that I follow.

  1.  Any plant or tree that has damaged limbs…prune immediately.
  2. Pruning and trimming in the fall/winter will slow down growth as the plants are moving towards dormancy.
  3. Pruning and trimming in the spring stimulates growth as the plants are becoming active again.
  4. Never ever take more then 1/3 off of any plant or shrub as it could kill it.  The more you prune or trim the more likely it is that the plant will become stressed.  When a plant is stressed it can bring many problems.  It sends a message to insects, diseases, fungus, etc…”I am not well so come and eat me.”  Plants are similar to humans…stress can be a killer.

Growing tomatoes in December on Vancouver Island

tomatoes-in-december

Yes folks, they are ripening outside in December.  For those of you who are not from Vancouver Island and many who are, it might come as a shock but this is growing right now.

I recently was hired by new clients to do a fall clean up in Saltair.  Stan and Doris are long time gardeners and lovely people and I am blessed to work for them.  On my first day at their house way back in September, I saw these incredibly healthy tomato plants they were growing in pots against their house.  Each visit, I have watched these plants and am amazed myself.  The plants are still flowering….almost 9 months after planting.  Yes the plant has slowed down with shortened days but it is still flowering and ripening.  Who would ever have thought this would be possible in December.  Stan said they are still eating ripe tomatoes a couple days a week and the plant was loaded with flowers when I was there on December 2nd.  Wow!!!

Happy Gardening…see you in the garden or the garden centre! 🙂

Cheers!

Creating a Back Yard Oasis

We were hired in October this year to create a back yard oasis for a newly retired lady who has such a green thumb I was envious.  Her flowers in pots were so healthy and beautiful.  I first visited her in September when everything was in bloom.  Such lush healthy plants were a feast for the eyes.  She wanted everything in raised garden boxes to tidy up her small space.  We suggested cedar as it stands up to the test of time and is so beautiful.  The job took much longer then expected as the rains came and have stayed.  With 29 days of rain in October it hampered our effects but we persevered.  The largest garden box built is 15 feet 4 inches long.  It had to built at our house and then trucked to her place to put in place.  It took three of us to load it and had to ratchet strapped into the truck.  It took 1 yard of wood chips in the bottom and 1.5 yards of organic garden soil to fill it.  Each of the garden boxes were built to be portable.  The rules of the condominium complex are:  anything built must be moveable and it must be a minimum of six inches from the fence.

The greatest challenge of the job was to level everything for the boxes and the patio.  The sod was taken out first and then the soil taken out to level it.  We added 1/2  of a yard of sand behind the garden boxes so weeds would never be a problem.  The sand is about 6 inches deep.  It also allows good drainage during rainy season.  We considered adding mulch behind the boxes but knew it would hold moisture up against the boxes and encourage moss to grow.  So sand was the best choice.  Another 1/2 yard was used to level the patio area and poured between the stones to hold them in place.

So we rolled up our sleeves and got to work.  Half of the garden boxes were built at our house and half were built on site.  We also added a patio in an area 5 x 10 with a beautiful garden potting table we built for her to complete the job.  It has completely transformed her back yard and we love how it looks and more importantly…So does she!

What a wonderful lady and a wonderful project…thanks Crissy!  We shall miss your great cups of coffee and your mmmm sticky buns for coffee breaks!

Happy Gardening…see you in the garden or the garden centre! 🙂

 

20160916_153336-625x833patio-completed

Patio area before and after

chrissy-corner-beforecorner-garden-box-complete-and-planted

Before and after corner garden

 

20160916_153346-625x833largest-garden-box

Back yard before and in progress

large-garden-box

Largest garden box complete and planted