15 Nov 2016

Things to Consider for Your Outdoor Design

Many of you, even though it’s only November, may already be planning for your future landscape projects in the Spring. But, before you tackle your next outdoor project, there are a few essential things to consider before you begin. These few areas will help you transform your outdoor space into your perfect yet functional sanctuary. So let’s get started!

 


Functionality

One of the most important things to consider in design is function. In regards to landscape architecture and design it is essential to base your designs and concepts around the function and use of the space. Is it an area for relaxation? Is it an outdoor meditative garden? Will it be an outdoor space for young ones to run around in? Or perhaps it is a garden for growing vegetables and herbs? These are just a few of the possible functions an outdoor space may hold, and it may not only have one function, but many. The functionality of a space will highly affect the placement of certain elements, such as planting beds, patios, pathways anImage result for gathering spaces landscape designd plant material.

The functionality of a space then branches out into other various elements to consider, such as foot traffic, wildlife and insect activity, sun path and micro-climate.

 

 

Foot Traffic

Foot traffic is a term used to describe the main areas of pedestrian or visitor activity – these can be found on major pathways leading from the house to a gate, a minor path around a planting bed, or perhaps a walkway that carefully loops around a play area. Essentially, foot traffic is a term used to describe the areas where main foot and bodily activity are present. Knowing the layout of these walkways will aid in organizing your exterior space. Additionally, in your landscape design, foot traffic can act as a good base and grid for how to divide your exterior space.

 

Local Wildlife and Insects

We share the outside world with other living things and we need to take into consideration those who inhabit it – the local wildlife and insects. The wildlife in our neighborhood is directly related to our location – we will come across different type of wildlife whether we live out in the country or in the city. Types of animals we may encounter in our exterior spaces are, various species of birds, squirrels, deer and coyotes, just to name a few. In regards to insects, those with an intolerance or an allergy to bees or wasps may retract away from using plant varieties which may attract such insects.

Being familiar with the wildlife and insects which interact with your exterior space will help you decide the type of plant material you would like to use and the layout of your design. Maybe you want a tall shrub with thorns, to keep unwanted wildlife from entering your yard, or perhaps you’ll use perennials which attract butterflies rather than bees.

 

Sun path

Knowing the direction your exterior space is facing will affect your design in various ways. Knowing when the sun shines on your yard will as well affect the types of plant material you choose. For example, if you have a south facing lawn, it is essential to choose sun loving and drought tolerant plants, or perhaps you’d like to create an area with strong shade by planting tall trees or a shade structure.

You don’t want to accidentally plant shade loving and understory plants out in the sun or near a hard surface, for they will dry up, get burned, lose their color and unfortunately, potentially die.

 

Weather Patterns and Wind Direction

Building upon the many decisions and choices linked to sun path, there are similar decisions and considerations being made in regards to weather patterns and wind direction. If a certain portion of your yard receives strong North Western winds, perhaps a seating and gathering area in that specific area would not be best suited, but rather to include a tall structure or trees providing a buffer towards these winds.

Weather patterns as well, can tie back in to the function of your space. Knowing the typical weather your yard experiences will help in deciding the placement of certain elements.


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So as you start to plan for your landscape, list all these elements down and tie them all into your design. There’s nothing worse than proposing a random design to your landscape which you won’t be able to enjoy and admire. With all these elements and considerations listed, it will be as easy as connecting the dots when designing your landscape.

 

31 Oct 2016

Thinking about Spring & Summer projects during the cold winter months


Not too long ago, Edmonton hosted the annual Fall Home Show at the Northland’s Edmonton Expo center. Hopefully many of you were able to come out to the show, for it was a great opportunity to get your creative juices flowing, get your head wrapped around design, and talk to numerous professionals about potential projects for your home.

You’re probably thinking, “but, it’s getting colder and the snow could fall any day now. Why should I plan for something months away? So let’s just do this in the Spring or Summer?” Well, guess what! Having all those months in between is all the more reason to plan and design ahead of time.

Here are a few good reasons of why you should start thinking of what you want to do in the spring and fall during the cold months that are about to arrive:

 

Longer Planning Time

Planning months in advance gives you ample amount of time to gather ideas, compile pricing, and find what works and what doesn’t work in accordance to your budget. Looking through various types of styles, designs, material, and plants is much more enjoyable and stress free when you have the time to thoroughly look and find what you like.

 

Smooth Production & Installation 

By planning and designing in advance your contractor or professional will be able to ensure that all the necessary materials and product will be available come the time of production. Living in Alberta, with a limited amount of warm summer months and time to install, there’s nothing worse than having to wait 6 weeks for specific materials to arrive.

 

More Time to Enjoy Your Landscape

If you get your planting beds, patios and overall ornate landscape design installed in the Spring, you’ll have the entire summer to enjoy your exterior space. A good thing to keep in mind is that there are many other people who as well wish to get their landscaping done. Many contractors and professionals have their Spring schedules booked even up to 6 months in advance, so it’s good to act fast and lock your spot as one of the first projects to be completed. You don’t want to be caught hesitating for too long, because next thing you know it might be July or August, and those warm summer months will soon be over!

 

So keep these few points  in mind, and contact us TODAY for a free quote and drawing! Even if you’re still in the beginning stages, it’s always a good thing to get those potential ideas and designs out, providing a great opportunity for installation in the Spring and you with ample time to enjoy your outdoor space.

 

30 Sep 2016

The Bright Side to Exterior Lighting

Written by: Rosalyn Estoque

A Few Bright and Right Reasons to Invest in Exterior Lighting


You just spent the entire summer creating a beautiful landscape for your home — let’s bring it to life and light it up with exterior lighting!

At first, exterior lighting may seem like an unnecessary addition to your home if you already have the a simple light or two outside your doorstep  – but, there’s more to it! Exterior lighting is an aesthetic addition to your landscape that benefits not only you the homeowner, but as well, for all things interacting with the space surrounding your home.

Here are a few reasons why we think exterior lighting is more than just twinkling lights.

 

Image result for landscape residential lighting

It Highlights your Landscape

Exterior lighting has the ability in accenting specific features of your yard, whether it be something as simple as a paved walkway, an ornamental plant, a planting bed, or even something as grandiose as an intricate water feature. Having a complete landscape takes an immense amount of time, effort and money, so why not show it off and bring it to life with exterior lighting? Think about it, why hide the beauty of your landscape in the dark? Bring it to life!

Prevents Robberies

Just think about it, no one in their right mind would do anything illegal if there was a spotlight – or in this case, exterior lighting – shining upon them. Thieves are less likely to trespass another’s property if it is lit and visible to the surroundings.

Evening Events & Safety 

Exterior lighting allows you to prolong those afternoon barbeques into evening soirees, or better yet, it gives you the opportunity to hold gatherings well into the evening. Rather than worrying if your visitors or yourself may trip over something while wandering in the dark, exterior lighting will help guide the way. No one wants to find themselves flat faced in a planting bed covered in mulch, dirt, a few leaves — and worst of all, that glass of red wine.

Increase the Value of Your Home

Exterior lighting is an effective way of increasing the value of your home. An outdoor lighting system has the ability of making your home stand out from the rest of the residences in your neighborhood; so if and when time comes to sell your home, habing an intricate exterior lighting system will likely attract the eye of prospective buyers. Most importantly, it will allow for your home to be worth more if and when the time comes to sell. It’s an investment that will be worth it in the long run.

 

There are many benefits to outdoor lighting and if you’re ready to increase the visual appeal, worth AND safety of your home – let’s light it up. With Halloween and Christmas coming up, think of all the different ways you can light your home during these holidays and following seasons? Let those passerbys be drawn to the ornate beauty of your home not only during the day, but as well at night.

07 Sep 2016

New School on the Block

Going back to school, doesn’t mean the end of your freedom — but rather, an opportunity to grow


Written/photography by: Rosalyn Estoque 

You wake up just before sunrise. You press snooze. It’s Tuesday morning and you stay there laying in the oasis otherwise known as your bed. Should you get out?

No, because this is heaven.

Yes, because your educational future awaits you.

 

The first day of school is never easy for anyone, especially if you spent a summer out in the sun, relaxing, adventuring, and spending heaps amount of time on yourself and with the ones you love. But, that first day back to school doesn’t have to be so bad. Just think of all the possibilities a fresh new day at school, or rather, a fresh new year at school can bring you!

Let’s think of a few…

First and foremost, you’ll get to see all those friends you never got around to seeing all summer. You’ll get to experience new things. And better yet, you’ll get to tackle new things and build on old skills. Nothing better than being able to develop and build on past knowledge that will only transform you into a better you!

Sidenote: Fall is possibly one of the most colorful and gorgeous seasons out there and who wouldn’t love waking up to that?

I think, a lot of the time when people think of school beginning they only focus and have a blind perspective towards the notion of things “coming to an end”.  Things like, summer or warm weather, and the sense of freedom that they’re both related to. But in order to grow, change, and to move forward — we need change. We need to break out of monotony — even if it means colder weather and a change in our routine.

 

The seasons change. The months change. And who’s to say that your school experiences won’t? (And always for the better.)

 

Anyways, whoever you are reading this, I know this all may sound cliche and cheesey.. but think about it. I hope your first day back to school, or your first day back into autumn is a great one.  Don’t forget to embrace the change and the great-new-weird-things you’re about to learn in the months ahead.

 

25 Aug 2016

Gardening in an Albertan August 

Summer is winding down, so what can you do to prepare your landscape for the Fall and upcoming winter months?

Written by: Rosalyn Estoque

Summer is nearing its end, the nights are getting longer and that Fall chill is creeping among us. By now, you probably already have the majority of your landscaping done, but just because summer is nearing its end, doesn’t necessarily mean so is your gardening.

One of the most important things to do in August is to ensure your lawn is getting continual hydration, even during dry spells. In regards to fertilizer, its application can be reduced, this allows perennials, trees and shrubs, a good amount of time to harden before the coming of cold weather. We all have those areas of the lawn that didn’t thrive as much as we wanted them to, so now is the time to seed the areas that are much more thin or dead. The cool weather of August encourages fast growth.

When it comes to your shrubs, now would be the perfect time to prune them after they’ve all flowered. This pruning will aid in growth in that particular or desired shape. Additionally, it is important to remove all diseased or dead foliage and branches.

August is the perfect time to propagate plants. You can increase your plant collection by gathering seeds and cuttings.

Things to consider when gathering seeds

  • Collect the seeds once they are ripe
  • Remove capsules, heads or pods and they begin to dry – remove the seed later when they are completely dry.
  • Separate seed from other plant parts before storing
  • Store in air tight containers, in a cool, frost free area

Image result for august gardening

The size of cuttings is a matter of big debate – should they be large or small? And to be honest, they could be either. Some believe that smaller cuttings are more likely to root and at a faster rate, while on the other hand some state that larger cuttings will develop much deeper established roots. With all these things in mind, try cuttings of various sizes and see what works best for you.

One last things that August is amazing for is all those end of summer SALES! And who doesn’t love a good deal on all those plants and garden accessories you’ve been eyeing out all summer. So do a nice tour of all the nurseries in your hometown and see what variation of end of summer sales you can sparkle your garden with.

Ultimately, during the month of August one of the main things to do is to sit back and enjoy the wonderful landscape you spent all summer long creating for yourself (or someone created for you, hehe). And hey why not start preparing and planning for next summer! Now that you know what to do, it shouldn’t be a problem!

06 Jul 2016

Written by: Rosalyn Estoque


When we think of plant care and maintenance, one of the first things that comes to mind is ensuring the health and hydration in order to keep them alive. Yes, that is the case for the majority of our green leafy friends, however there are a select few that are the exception to this.

What characteristics do these plants have that make it possible for them to withstand these dry environments?

Some of these characteristics are:

  1. Smaller leaves
  2. Waxy Surface
  3. Silver
    or Hairy Foliage
  4. Lateral Roots

Plants that can withstand these harsh conditions will usually have a much smaller leaf surface area or contain needles — this explains as to why coniferous trees are more present in environments with less water, or in areas where deciduous trees don’t reside.   On the other hand, if you ever come across a plant with waxy foliage this plant is as well drought tolerant, the wax conserves the water on the surface for long periods of time. Similarly, plants with fine silver or white hair are as well do something quite the same, for these hairs are able to trap the moisture on the surface. Lastly, the majority of these plants will have a deep rooted system which have the capability in absorbing and pulling in moisture well below the soil.

 

09 Jun 2016

Written by: Rosalyn Estoque


You’re exploring your city’s downtown core, it’s plus 30 degrees Celsius outside and after a long afternoon of wandering you could use a nice public park or garden to relax in. However, to your dismay the closest park is over an hour walk away and there is nothing in your surrounding perimeter to provide you that green oasis. So there you are, immersed in the overpowering summer heat trapped in the middle of a concrete jungle.

Many of us city dwellers may relate to this scenario. Cities and their urban growth are expanding at rapid rates. In order to successfully build and create urban development, something must be sacrificed – and in this case that means the original natural environment which once existed where that tall skyscraper or apartment complex now stands.

A possible solution to this predicament — and one which supports urban expansion — is the implementation of rooftop gardens. A few cities across Canada, such as Vancouver and Toronto, have already been making successful small steps towards the inclusion of these gardens in their urban design. Rooftop gardens benefit all living things on Earth; man, nature, and the environments that inhabit both. A few of these essential benefits are: its ability to reduce storm-water runoff, improve air quality, provide an area for extra vegetation and habitat for wildlife (such as birds and our friendly insects). But most of all, rooftop gardens provide a green escape within a busy downtown core.

Remember that weird-smog-like-feeling you felt while while wandering the streets downtown? Well, that is known as the ‘urban heat island affect’. Urban heat islands are composed of the heat that is absorbed by dark materials (cement, concrete, tarmac, tiles, etc.), in combination with the heat that is released from vehicles, air conditioners, offices and factories. In addition to these factors, due to the densely packed arrangement of buildings, the air flow and heat between buildings have little to no proper circulation, in other words the heat absorbed and released from buildings, plus all the other varying factors are trapped between buildings, which in the end has you the pedestrian feeling much more hotter than it really is. When all these factors and their varying chemicals react with the sun’s solar rays, poor air quality — like, pollution and smog — is the product. As you can see, a rooftop garden can substantially reduce these negative effects by absorbing the solar energy from the sun, (rather than these hard dark surfaces) and use it towards useful purposes, thus creating a much more healthier environment.

Urban growth is inevitable, and as a society we need to ensure that we are replacing and/or giving back to the environments that have been taken away for expansion; we are not saying to stop the growth of our cities, but rather to grow and re-create alongside with these green spaces as our partner.


Sources:
Fletcher, J. (2015). Rooftop garden design. Mulgrave, Victoria: The Images Publishing Group Pty Ltd.
Youngman, A. (2011). Green roofs: a guide to their design and installation. Ramsbury, Marlborough: The Crowood Press Ltd.