Tag Archives: Landscaping services in Nanaimo BC

We are Landscaper Gardeners in Nanaimo 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 garden space

In the fall of 2016 we worked with our garden owner Chrissy to transform her back yard.  Chrissy wanted a back yard oasis and we transformed her yard into exactly what she wanted.   She ask that we get in touch with her so we could do the same with her front yard in the spring.   So I designed a front yard design that would go with her house decor and extend her garden area to allow her more room to create what she wanted.  I went to work on the design as she required permission from the strata council.  I sent her the design and she presented it and it was accepted.  So here is what we did!

Before and design concept of area after.

Note: The existing garden in place is 12 feet in length and 40 inches from the front exterior of the garden to the foundation.  The concept for the new garden is to keep the existing back perimeter of the garden 12 inches from the foundation wall and extend the front garden out to a maximum of 54  inches and extend along the sidewalk 24 inches as the garden design is circular and will extend out in the centre further then the existing garden.  The front perimeter of the garden will be a rock wall defining it from the lawn area.  The front perimeter will be prepped by removal of a small amount of sod.  Landscape fabric will be placed under the stone to deter weed growth.  The rock wall will be approximately 8 inches high and will be placed approximately 4 inches back in order to add mulch in front of stones for ease of lawn cutting.  There is currently a hydrangea and several spring bulbs in the garden which will be left and some small shrubs and flowers added to the new garden.

*** The rock wall shown above is an example of what the design will look like.  The wall will not be exactly as shown.

The front garden area is now transformed and here is the new look!  I take my hat off to my son Tim who did a fantastic job…WOW what a transformation.  Here is to you Tim…Cheers!


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!

back-path-before back-gardens-before


christines-fenceline-before christines-fence-area-beforeback-walk-way-beforechristines-back-corner-before christines-back-corner-before-1


christines-fence-area-after christines-fence-after christines-back-fence-after christines-back-corner christines-back-corner-after


Creating a Pond – Update

I started creating this new garden 2 seasons ago and highlighted it in a previous post on Island Garden Scapes website.  The pond progress is coming along quite nicely.  It is a large project with 2 ponds…one draining into the other via a small stream.  The pond liner was purchased at Dinter’s Nursery and the pump purchased in Victoria.  The first pond is now complete and the 2nd is a work in progress.  The pump will not be installed until the 2nd pond is complete and the stream bed finished.

The liner is actually a two part job.  There is a cushioned liner laid over the bottom and then the actual liner is laid on top of this.  This two part insert is to protect the liner from any upheaval of rocks coming through the liner and causing leakage.  Once the liner was laid then stones were laid around the pond to hold the liner in place and to enhance the pond/s beauty.  The natural stonework around the pond was created from stones on the property.  Laying the stones was similar to a jigsaw puzzle fitting the stones together so they would lay flat.  One side of the pond’s stones has cement between them to ensure they are stable.  The garden owner wanted to be able to walk between the ponds so adding cement stabilizes the walkway.

It is definitely a work in progress.  It is coming together beautifully and I am so excited to see this project completed!

See you in the garden or the garden centre! 🙂Franks Garden 031…in the beginning!

IMAG0731 800x452…;ast summer

pond update 2 pond update…this summer

Spring Power Washing

Living on Vancouver Island brings lots of rain fall since we live in a rain forest.  Over the course of our wet winters the moss and algae grow on everything.  Each spring our decks, sidewalks, driveways, carports and anything else in the elements are covered with green growth.  Part of the annual spring cleaning has always been to power wash the outdoor space.

This power wash job took approximately 5 hours.  It included the deck, sidewalk, car port and front sidewalk also.  I do not use any chemicals…only high pressure water is all that is required.

power washing 1Before & Afterpower wash complete

power washing 5Before & Afterpower washing done


Designing an Xeriscape Boulevard Part 2

In an earlier post I designed a Boulevard and have now completed the job.  Earlier this week I posted Part 1 with a list of requirements for the job.

Creating this Boulevard had its challenges, one of which were the large rocks and boulders encased in clay.  I used the steel bar to leverage out the rocks and then re-added them to the boulevard after planting.  The rocks add minerals to the soil and are an important part of the health of the trees.  The boulevard was designed from the concepts of Paul Gautschi’s “Back to Eden” videos on youtube. I chose this method because the boulevard is too far from the house to be watered. Nature must ensure their survival.

Why Wood Chips Work – Back to Eden Garden – L2Survive with Thatnub  

I chose to use wood chips because there is no access to water for these trees.  They are too far from the house for a hose to reach and there is other access to water other then nature.

Why wood chips….they will slowly break down and add nutrients to the trees, they will keep the sun out and the moisture in the ground.  When it rains they will hold water and in extreme temperature fluctuations they will maintain a good soil temperature.

I measured the space to make sure the trees were spaced equally apart.  I marked each hole to be dug with a rock.

Boulevard Measuring

Next was to dig the holes.  Digging them 3 x as wide and 3 x as deep as the size of the pot (ususally it is sufficient to dig it 2 x as deep as the pot) because the clay was so hard I opted to dig it deeper and I broke up the bottom of the hole to ensure the roots would have an easier time growing through the soil.  I also broke up the sides of the hole to ensure it was uneven so it will not become solid and smooth like the inside of a clay pot does.  This can and does happen in  clay soil.

Planting sprucePlanting spruce 1Planting spruce 2boulevard 10

Once the holes were dug I added layers of wet newspaper between the trees and made sure that it covered the insides of the holes 8 inches down.  This will stop grass and weeds from growing through the top layers.  I placed about 2 inches of sand and 2 inches of fine gravel to the bottom of the holes for good drainage.   Then I added the organic soil mix I had made.  I used 2/3 soil (made from the native soil dug from the holes and the organic soil I purchased of equal parts) and 1/3 peat moss (to retain moisture).  Then I added 2 bags of mushroom compost and 2 bags of steer manure. I placed approximately 4 inches of organic soil  and a handful of bone meal in each hole before I set the tree in.  Then I add water to the root ball in the hole.  You cannot over water at this point.  The trees are going to go through transplant shock and will recover faster and healthier with the proper nutrients and water…just like people!

**Note: Please be sure to soak the trees…pot and all in a bucket of water before planting.  I usally leave them overnight. 

Once the tree is in the hole,  then I continue to add organic soil around the root ball, tamping down as I go.  Once the soil is flush with ground, I tamp down once more and then I water thoroughly to make sure there are no air pockets and to help the soil settle around the root.

Next I added 2 to 3 inches of mulch and finally I added 3 to 4 inches of living or green wood chips.  Which are fresh chipped from felled trees or branches.  I chose cedar wood chips because it will add acidic nutrients to the trees and will slowly compost down and feed the tree.  Coniferous trees thrive in an acidic soil which most of Vancouver Island is.  However, using bone meal to help the tree through the initial transplant shock and encouraging a healthy root system form is a must…however…bone meal creates an alkaline environment.  So I off set one with the other.

Dwarf Alberta Spruceboulevard

It is important when using different soils, mulches and wood chips to layer them.  Never, ever mix them.  If mulch and wood chips are  mixed with soil they rob the soil of nitrogen and other nutrients in order for them to continue to break down.  If they are layered one on top of the other then they break down as a much slower pace and will not cause a soil imbalance.

boulevardShades in the top layer represent the mulch & wood chips

Boulevard completed 2The finished boulevardBoulevard completed 4

Cheers!  See you in the garden or the Garden Centre




Cleaning a Gravel Driveway

This driveway has been overgrown for a few years and needed a facelift.  I explained to the garden owners (who inherited this driveway when they purchased the property) that nature continues to condense…as with this driveway.  Year after year it becomes more compressed and there are always weed seeds floating around in the air just waiting to make landfall and sprout.  Since we live in a rainforest there always seems to be enough moisture to make things sprout.

The driveway needed to be lifted with a pitch fork and all weeds pulled out by the roots to ensure they would not come back any time soon.  Then, more gravel needed to be added to build up the driveway again.  It is similar to the garden beds…at some point you have to add compost, bark mulch, leaves, organic matter etc…  because it will continue to mulch down.  And although the gravel doesn’t mulch down, it does conpact allowing sand and small grains to be compacted enough for the weeds floating around to land and sprout.  It was a tedious labour intensive job.  There were no short cuts to be taken here.  Time and effort were required!  But, it was so worth it…when completed…it didn’t even look like the same driveway! 🙂  I worked the soil and weeded along the fence so I could lay down landscape fabric and then 6 inches of mulch to give it a finished look and maintain the weeds.  Many of the weeds were going to seed and sprouting in the driveway, compounding the problem.  It took 3 loads of gravel to amend the driveway, but it was so worth the time and effort & gravel put into it!

driveway 1driveway 10

driveway 4driveway 3driveway 5driveway 7

driveway 1adriveway 8

driveway 9driveway 10

Spring Clean up in the Garden 2016

I love landscaping on Vancouver Island because it allows me to work every season in the garden.  Each season has its challenges of weather, soil,  weeds and plants and spring is no exception.  Spring clean up has begun here on Vancouver Island in the garden already.

After working two seasons in this garden the care and maintenance is much less labour intensive.  Some of the shrubs did not need trimming.  They have retained their shape from last fall and will now only need to be trimmed every fall.  But there are many that do need care and attention in order for them to be spectacular for the coming season.

As I work through the gardens I lift the soil with a pitch fork aerating the soil and pull any weeds growing…making sure to get the entire root.  These garden owners allow the leaves to stay in their garden over fall and winter and much has composted down feeding the soil precious nutrients and minerals.   Half of the remainder of the leaves and garden waste I clean up and take to Peerless Road Recycling in Ladysmith (at no charge) where they will finish the composting process.  The other half I work into the mulch and soil for them to continue to feed the ecosystem.  Now is a good time to amend the soil with organic compost, fresh organic soil, bark mulch, etc…  to feed the garden all year long.  Garden Clean up before upper 1st gardenGarden Clean up 1st Garden afterBefore and After Clean up

Garden Clean up 10 AGarden Clean up Tiered Garden afterBefore and After clean Up

Below Pictures after Clean up

Garden Clean up 10Garden Clean up Tiered Garden After 2Garden Clean up Pond afterGarden Clean up Tiered Garden After 1


Below Pictures: Shrub Garden Before Clean Up

Garden Clean up before shrubsGarden Clean up shrubs beforeGarden Clean up before shrub gardenBefore and After Garden Clean up shrubs after


Garden Clean up after shrubsGarden Clean up upper garden

Garden Clean up junipers



Pampass Grass in the Garden

Growing Pampas Grass on Vancouver Island is easy since we live in a rain forest and have hot dry summers for the Grass to thrive.  What is difficult is the size.  The Grass needs room, lots of room to grow and expand!

Living on Vancouver Island and gardening definitely has its challenges.  There is no other place like the West coast in all of Canada.  We live in a rain forest and it brings its own benefits and challenges to the gardener.  In fact, living on Vancouver Island has different growing challenges depending on where you live.  I live and work in the mid island region.  Here the weather is temperate all year long.  On occasion we get snow (usually once or twice a year) but it melts within a day or two because we are right on the Pacific Ocean.  We also do not have the ground freeze beyond a depth of about 1 1/2 inches and it also never stays frozen.  This allows gardeners to grow many plants that will not grow anywhere else in Canada.  Plants such as palm trees, lemons and even olives not only survive but in some cases depending on the type of plant and the location, thrive here.

Such is the case of the Pampas Grass and although it grows in other regions of Canada…here it thrives…often becoming invasive!  As I mentioned it needs plenty of room and I mean lots of room…I cannot stress it enough.  We live in a rain forest and often I tell garden owners when they are designing or re-designing their gardens to remember that living in a rain forest means many many plants grow all year long…albeit the winter may slow growth to a snail’s pace but it does continue to grow and it grows larger then in other regions because it is a rain forest with plenty of rain and hot dry summers…often mirroring a Mediterranean climate.

This was the challenge of a job in July 2015.  The Garden Owners loved the Pampas Grass but it had been planted many years before they purchased the property and had grown to an enormous invasive size overtaking the hedge growing behind it and almost completely enveloping the garage also.  Although it was beautiful and majestic it had outgrown the area it was growing in.  It had to come out in order for the hedge and other area plants to survive.   Most garden books, garden centres and websites will tell you that Pampas Grass will grow 5 to 10 feet high and wide which is true in some regions.  However…here on the east side of Vancouver Island it can and does grow much larger as was the case here.  It was over 15 feet wide and over 13 feet high and still growing.  It is difficult to trim and to clean which should be done a couple times a year.

Taking out Pampas Grass is difficult to say the least…especially when it is this large.  The Grass is still growing and at this size it means the root ball is over size.  The Grass blades are large and sharp…sharp enough to cut.  Wear long pants and long sleeves and long garden gloves because you will need to protect yourself from cuts.    Wear tight fitting pants at the ankle because the Pampas can go up your pant leg and cut your legs…it did me…and its like a paper cut…it stings and bleeds.  Wear safety glasses or at the very least sunglasses to protect your eyes from blades and dirt.  It is a dirty job and a labour intensive job.  The root will be imbedded deep in the ground…often 3 feet or more.  I used sharp garden sheers to cut the blades down as much I could.  Then I used an electric chain saw (I did not use gas because of the dry summer and the risk of fire from a spark)  to cut the rest to ground level.   I tried to lift the root ball with a pitch fork and several different shovels but it was over 5 feet across and over 3 feet deep.  The root ball would not budge.  So I used a pick axe to break the root ball out in chunks.  Nothing else would take it out.  Trust me…I tried.  It took over 6 hours and 1 and 1/2 truck loads to take it away when I was done.   Keep in mind also that because of the hot dry summers here, Pampas Grass that has been left unattended also becomes a fire hazard…the dead grass and plumes are tinder dry and only take one spark to catch fire.  As you can see in the photo it almost looks like wood chips at ground level and it is like wood chips only thinner…paper thin.

In place of it I planted a rhododendron.  I did not purchase a large rhododendron to replace it because it was the heat of the summer and there was a stage 3 watering ban on and the Owners wanted it planted right away.   The hedge and other plants will take time to recover…probably a couple of years but in the long run it is much better then the alternative of letting the Pampas Grass to continue on its invasive path.


Pampas Grass Overgrown1 800x600Pampas Grass 2 750x1000Pampass Grass 3 progresspampus grass root 800x452

Pampass Grass 4

Pampass Grass 5Pampass Grass 6Pampas Grass Complete800x600


Which Garden Tools will get the job done!

garden tools

Landscaping or Gardening is a labour intensive job that many people are not fond of.  I am one of those people who loves the physical work out as much as the end result.  I love working with the earth and seeing a finished landscape evolve through my own hard work.

The tools used are of utmost importance, saving you frustration, time and yes money at the end of your work day.  My favourite and most used tools are a pitch fork, a good pair (or two) of trimmers, loppers, a rake and an edger as well as a garden bag for trimmings and clippings.  As a landscape gardener I need tools that I can depend on day after day.  After many dollars spent on tools that did not stand up to the test of time, I discovered “Fiskars” brand.  The company, which was founded almost 400 years ago, offers a life time guarantee on their products.

My work takes me to every corner of an outdoor space and the job changes often by the minute.  I needed tools that would stand up to the intense workout of multiple demands hour after hour.  So I bought my first pair of Fiskars hand trimmers and was so satisfied with them, I bought another pair.  My first pair is now many years old and I still use them.   Since my first purchase, I have replaced most of my tools with Fiskars.  I have not found another brand that stands up as well.   So at the end of my work day when I am cleaning up my tools and the garden area, I am grateful that I found a product that stands up to the labour intensive job of garden work and landscaping  Many other tools I have purchased, became dull almost immediately, often bending or warping after little use and many others rusted from the moisture.    But not Fiskars…they just keep going and going.  And I love the orange coloured handles…easy to find in the garden.  I have lost  many hand tools in the garden because they are black and difficult to see against the black soil.

So the next time you are thinking of purchasing or replacing some or all of your garden tools…consider Fiskars…you will be glad you did.  They are available in every hardware store and have a website loaded with tool and garden information.  Best of all…they come with a lifetime guarantee!  See you in the garden…or the garden centre!  Cheers!


A Gardener’s Paradise…cleaning a pond and water fall

pond garden1 pond garden 2

Pond Cleanuppond garden 3

Before clean up


pond garden 4pond garden 5

After Clean up!


I often call myself the extreme landscaper.  I love taking on BIG landscape or garden clean up jobs!  Not only because I love the challenge but because I am a visual person and love the garden restoration after it is complete!  The work is often tedious and painstaking and often times at the end of a work period it seems I have made no headway!  But then almost magically, the garden comes to life and is revitalized.  Many,  many times after a garden is complete and I download the final photos and compare them with the before photos…I am amazed and energized by the garden work I have completed!  This clean up was one such challenge.  The pond and walkway had been overgrown for some years and it often times seems endless as it was a very detailed labour intensive job.  I worked it that garden yesterday and walked the steps up past the pond and it has held up to the test of time.  I completed this job a few seasons ago and still it is clean and beautiful!  So very happy with the end result…and MOST importantly so are the Garden Owners! 🙂