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—  Landscape Design Blog

Ranchland Bliss

BEFORE

AFTER

We want to be closer to our horses.”   As design briefs go, that might have been the best one yet.

This delightful client has 17 horses on her acreage and felt separated from them. (After spending a day on site, we totally understood.) We were tasked with designing and shaping a space where the family could spend their time and while still feeling connected with their horses.

Of initial concern was an existing retaining wall about a storey high and it had the kind of path down that you could break your neck on. Obviously that needed to be remedied in the new space.  

Merle integrated a larger berm adjacent to the retaining wall and built in to it a horse shoe shaped fire pit complete with wood storage. From there, a new grass path led down to a set of steps that lead to a lower patio. The adjacent paddock was given new, soft lines that disappeared into the retaining wall and the visual barriers between the family and their horses were removed.

Plant beds in and amongst the retaining walls, fire pit and patio were filled with layers of purple and green. Soft grasses mingle with lavender and russian sage, salvia and anchored by some evergreen viburnum to create layers and depth with a little bit of that meadowland feel. All together it creates a sense of place, of context and meaning. 

This project was a particular favourite of Merle’s. He grew up with horses and working in the company of Samson, Ike, Delilah, Spot and the others was good for his soul. If you look closely at the photos, you can spot the horse shoes he inset in the patio and the fire pit for that ultimate, personal touch.

Boulder steps connect the upper and lower patios.

 

Sampson helping me out during fence renovations.

You can view more construction progress photos of this project on our Current Projects page.

 

The Perfect Patio

patio season

In an earlier post I wrote about making the perfect patio yours this summer season.  Well, we did just that for clients here on the peninsula.

This lovely couple had recently moved to the island from a colder climate and wanted to enjoy their ocean view and sun filled back yard.  However, a rotten deck and weirdly sloped lawn made that impossible. We got the call when someone put their foot through a deck board.

After some conversations about their priorities and wish list, we decided to create a boulder retaining wall to address the grade issue and stone steps from the back door down to a paver patio that faced the ocean. We kept the beautiful japanese maple that lent shade and interest and built a mini-pergola over the back door to give a little drama and balance to the space. We surrounded the space with low maintenance grasses that soften the rock and provide privacy and we tucked lighting all around the boulder wall. 

We have been back often to their patio and can happily testify that it really is one of the best patios around!

3 Men & An Excavator

Recently we began an exciting new project here on the Saanich Peninsula.  Having worked with these clients previously on another property, we were all quite eager to begin another project together. 

Back yard before work begins.

Back yard before work begins.

They had lived in the house for a few years but had never felt at home in their backyard. From the back door you had to go up four steps to a little patio awkwardly positioned right in front of the concrete steps, so basically you had a view of your back door from the bistro table. It wasn’t exactly inspiring. The ground was level, there were an assortment of plants, some overgrown trees and just a general sense of blandness, and our clients wanted more.


Over dinner, we dreamed about what could be.  


We talked about outdoor kitchens and water features, a fire pit and hot tub, a retaining wall and patio, new plantings, old plantings and everything in between.We listened to them talk about spending time together outside, connecting as a couple and as a  family. We heard their desire to show hospitality and to have a space that could be really enjoyed and well used.


We talked about how much work excavating the entire back yard would be, but how awesome that would make it!


We brainstormed around the problem of access - basically there was none!  We calculated that we had to remove 150 yards of material in order to lower the grade.  There was no way we could get a truck into the back yard or even next door, so everything had to be carted out in a mechanical wheel barrow! Good Times!!

Computerized Concept Plan 

Computerized Concept Plan 

The next step was the design phase. We talked and sketched, because for us, creativity and the physical act of drawing are inseparable. There is an inherent ease and fluidity that come from pencil and paper that doesn't exist when designing from scratch on computer.  Merle then translates the sketches from paper into our design program and the design came to life.


Then the digging began. For those of you that don’t instantly know what 180 cubic yards of dirt and clay means, let me break it down for you.  


9 days

3 men

1 mini excavator

1 walk behind bobcat (her name is Baby and nobody puts her in a corner*)

1 horrendously named mechanical wheelbarrow/ buggy thing

12 30 feet long bins that arrived empty, got filled, removed and replaced with a new one.


The digging begins.

The digging begins.

Motorized wheel buggy holds .7 yards per load.

Motorized wheel buggy holds .7 yards per load.

Making good progress.

Making good progress.

One of the 250 plus trips to the bin on the driveway.

One of the 250 plus trips to the bin on the driveway.

By coincidence and incredible convenience, our client’s next door neighbour just so happened to be the happy owner of a mini excavator as well as bare land across the road where we can store our supplies.  Through his help and generosity we have been able to make it all happen!  

Demo Done ... now it's time to start the build.

Demo Done ... now it's time to start the build.

 

4 Tell Tale Signs That It's Time To Hire A Landscape Designer

Every landscape needs a tweak or two each season as it evolves, but when do you know when your landscape or garden needs to be completely overhauled? It’s not always easy to know where you fall on the continuum between a small investment and some time in the dirt or a serious investment and big equipment.

 The best thing to do at this point is talk to a landscape designer who can clarify your goals and outline the steps and timeline for what you have in mind.

But what about the less obvious signs that you might need a landscape designer? (Or that your neighbour might?) Here are four clues that it's time to get help:

 

1. Your Garden is downright UGLY

Source: Google 

Source: Google 

You know it, your spouse knows it, your kids know it.  It is just not good.  It doesn’t matter how you try to improve it, you just seem to be throwing good plants after bad.  Do you find yourself apologizing or explaining the state of your yard to every single visitor who stops by?  Then it’s time to call a landscape designer.  Sometimes the best thing you can do is rip everything out and start over!  

If the caretaker of this garden was my client I would suggest pulling everything out. The little maple tree might get a pass depending on the variety, as it could easily get too big for the space. I would also make sure that the view from inside the house through this pretty window is just as appealing as the outside view!

 

 

2. You can’t stand the idea of a plant without a home. 

 

Every time your friends divide their hostas or other favourites, you’re right there to make sure they don’t throw out “perfectly good plants!”  

(You might laugh if this isn’t your particular bent, but we once had clients who moved into a new home where the previous owners were horticultural society members and would actually take all the unclaimed plants at their plant swap because they couldn't bear to see them composted. It was a nightmare for our clients and took days of cataloguing as we sorted out what to keep and what to toss.)  

Source: Google

Source: Google

Often gardeners have one of all of their favourite plants in their gardens and the result is usually chaotic and messy. This discord creates unrest when our eye doesn’t know where to focus. A landscape designer knows how to combine the plants and colours you love into something harmonious and beautiful and can curate your collection in a way that shows the plants to their best advantage.


3. Your Pinterest Garden board is out of control.


Source: Pinterest

Source: Pinterest

It’s got container pics, cute veggie boxes, fairy houses, estate gardens, vintage wheelbarrows, gardening outfits, and all the upcycled garden accessories you can shake a stick at! You may not have your perfect garden yet, but one day your garden dreams will come true!  

Let a designer help you narrow down your vision, not in a reign you in kind of way, but to distill your vision so that your garden is the best reflection of you and your personality that it can be. 

 

 

4. Your deck/patio/steps are cluttered with containers of petunias and/or geraniums. 

 

Source: Google

Source: Google

Source: Google

Source: Google

Just no.  There are a million other solutions for “little pops of colour” and these outdated plants have had their moment. It’s time to let other plants shine. Granted I am a plant snob, but can we please call time on these ‘beauties’?  A landscape designer can freshen up your containers with new combinations or suggest other annuals that will complement your garden and house nicely, perhaps even suggest some perennials that will bloom all summer long and eliminate the need for annuals.

 

If you or someone you know is showing any of these signs, it's not too late to get help!

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