Tag Archives: landscaping ideas

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.

Transforming a Front Yard

We were hired by Beryl to transform her front yard in Ladysmith.  After several discussions we came up with an initial plan so I could design the area.  She wanted raised garden boxes in front of the house and smaller raised garden boxes on each side of her trellis.  There will be no grass in the front yard.  The grass is non-existent anyway, with only the weeds growing.  She wants a low maintenance design, with a large curving patio.  We incorporated a dry river bed to run along the perimeter of the patio.  This will add visual appeal as well as natural drainage from the yard.

The fence and arbor were installed last year.  The shrubs in front of the house had to come out and the garden boxes installed.

Then the yard had to be taken down in height.  In some areas it had to be taken down 14 inches so that it would be level.  This design is an ongoing project.  I will update with the design pics next.

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!

 

 

Creation of my Garden Labyrinth

The work continues on my Garden Labyrinth in my own yard as discussed in a couple of previous posts.  We have now built another garden box and I have started planting the first one.  I have added ever-bearing strawberries to the first box.  The strawberries are later to come to fruitation.  The harvest will begin late in July, about a month after the regular strawberry harvest starts.  Ever-bearing strawberries will produce until late in the year.  I have eaten strawberries as late as December.   I planted two rows and will now plant sunflowers in the back half of the bed.  The sunflowers will create a privacy back drop and will be a beautiful addition as they mature.  They will be facing East so they will get plenty of morning sun.  The sunflowers will also attract many bees and insects that will serve to pollinate everything I have growing in my gardens.  The strawberries were a gift from one of my garden owners who wanted to divide and had lots to give away.  They have weathered the winter a little worse for the wear but are already perking up.  I have tested my soil and it is a well balanced soil and does not need any enrichment.  The first two garden boxes built are 11.5 inches high by 4 feet wide x 8 ft long.  The newest garden box is built from pine 2 x 4’s and is 16 inches high by 4 feet wide x 7 feet long.  Four feet is the widest we will build them as anything wider will be hard to weed.  We have reinforced each box with a brace to ensure they do not bulge from the weight of the soil inside.

I also have regular bearing strawberries that I planted underneath my Japanese ornamental cherry tree so my grandchildren will have strawberries to eat for many months.

 

 

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!!!

 

 

 

 

 

Enlarging a Garden for spring bulbs!

The garden owner wanted her garden enlarged to be able to plant spring bulbs.  Her challenge is to have colour all year long in the garden.  Her back yard is fenced so deer are not a problem.  She also has a beautiful cat who helps to keep the squirrels and other critters from digging and feasting on anything she plants.  The existing garden gets plenty of sun fall to spring so it is a perfect location for her to extend.  She also has a problem with her grass…a serious lack of top soil limits the grass from growing but allows the weeds to multiply exponentially.  A common problem with lawns today.

I brought in 1/2 yard of organic garden soil, 1 bale of coconut peat, 1 pail of bone meal and 1 pail of blood meal.  It is important to amend any soil added so there is a balance of nutrients for an optimum growing medium.  The soil was unloaded one wheelbarrow at a time.  As mentioned her entire yard is fenced so the soil must be brought in one wheelbarrow at a time from her driveway.  Each wheelbarrow was mixed with the soil amendments using a pitch fork then added to the existing garden.  Remember to add enough soil so that it is approximately 2 inches higher then what you require.  The soil will settle considerably over time once you have added it.

For a small garden extension like this one, I use an edger to cut through the sod for a guide to follow the edge of the new garden area.  For a larger area or a new garden, I often use a garden hose to lay out for a guide.  A garden hose is perfect as you can adjust or rearrange it for the curves you want.  Then I use the edger to cut through the soil or sod to follow as a guide.

I took all of the sod out first and then used a pitch fork (my favorite tool) to work up the existing soil to about 4 to 6 inches.  Then I added the new amendment of soil and worked it into the existing soil making sure it was well blended.  Carrollyne is very happy with her new garden.  She loves how rich the soil is and said it was a pleasure to plant with bulbs.  Her only challenge was her beautiful kitty…who thought the new garden was for her, so Carrollnye used chicken wire over the top to keep her kitty out!

Cheers!  See you in the garden or the garden centre! 🙂

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A diamond in the rough-clean up continues

Well we are now into several months of clean up and re-design on this diamond in the rough.  It is a big project and is turning out beautiful!  We work away part-time at it when the weather permits!  Fall rains arrived in October so it is a matter of working around the weather now.  We recently tackled the back path area and are very happy with the results.  The back garden area is planted with a cultivated broom and had been overgrown for years.  We did have to take out a few of the broom plants that were dead but the rest has shaped up very nicely!

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Before

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After

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Maintaining a Multi-Million Dollar Estate for sale

I was hired in May this year to maintain the gardens on a 10 acre wooded estate that is for sale.  This is where the great spotted owl lives that sometimes visits me while I work.  The property backs on to the ocean and has a private cove.  The gardens were all existing but needed to be trimmed,  pruned and cleaned up.  The lawn needed to be aerated, thatched and seeded.  I work there once per week to maintain everything. This includes cleaning out the garden beds, amending with soils and fertilizers, trimming a laurel hedge around the carriage house, trimming a cedar hedge along the driveway and cleaning the driveway each time I am there.  The garden owner is a great person to work for and has a fantastic sense of humor.  She is clear and concise on what she wants done and appreciates the work I do…and I am so very grateful to work for her.

The driveway runs through the entire property and opens up on the water with the main house and a carriage house overlooking the water.  So of course a fall clean up was required also.

 

 

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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! 🙂

 

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Patio area before and after

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Before and after corner garden

 

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Back yard before and in progress

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Largest garden box complete and planted

 

 

 

 

 

The cost of a landscape gardener

Recently, someone ask me about a garden clean up.  She has been on my website and loved the work I do.    I explained to her, I charge an hourly rate which includes one person and one truck.  I do not charge for taking garden waste away and do not charge for truck time for picking up materials or supplies.  I only charge for the hourly labour.   I provide the tools, lawn mowers, fuel and anything else required for the job at no extra fee or cost.

She said her concern was the length of time it would take.  She had been on my website and saw that some gardens seem to take months.  Then I realized that she thought the garden jobs on my site had taken months to complete and she thought I had been working full-time at them.    I said yes, some of them have taken months..but it is only part-time I work at them.  Depending on the garden owner and their budget, the weather and my time constraints, some of them I work at part-time.  If the garden owner has a large job and wants it done immediately, then I do try and accommodate that but usually a very large job is part-time and does take months.

I have regular clients that have me set days in their garden and I also take on what I call “one off” jobs where I am hired to plant or prune a hedge or re-design a small garden or do a one day clean up.

That being said I thought I should clarify for everyone on my site how my business operates.

Cheers!  See you in the garden or the garden centre! 🙂

A Diamond in the rough!

I took on this garden clean up in Saltair BC in July 2016.  It is an ongoing job and is really shaping up nicely.  When first I walked through this garden I realized its potential.  I did not create this garden…it is 5 years old.  I am blessed to work in such a beautiful place with so much potential.  It is definitely a diamond in the rough!  Everything was overgrown and needed pruning and trimming.  Many of the ornamental grasses needed to be divided and moved.  I am so happy with the progress so far and so are the garden owners!

 

 

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