Spring has arrived. You look around the yard and ask yourself for the umpteenth time: “Is this the year I finally redo the whole thing, or do I leave it the way it is?”
To help with your decision, determine your expectations and actual needs. Planning the landscaping around your home requires long-term vision and good knowledge of materials, plants and municipal bylaws. It’s not as simple as heading to the hardware store and garden centre, buying a few items, and putting in a weekend or two in the yard. In fact, it’s often better to entrust the whole job to professionals.
That said, here is an overview of points to consider to properly plan the landscaping for your property.
Following is some basic information on construction options for your project (including paving). Keep in mind that this often requires major excavation work.
- Plan these features first, because their location is subject to municipal bylaws.
- Check how much clearance is required at the edges of your property. If necessary, hire a surveyor.
- When choosing materials (e.g., asphalt, concrete, interlocking pavers, natural stone), take durability and maintenance into account.
- To ensure harmony, match the style and colour of the materials to those of your house.
- These structures can help ensure privacy or define different areas of your yard.
- Also, use them to create shaded areas, which you’ll appreciate on the hottest, sunniest days of summer.
- Make sure the guard rails comply with height standards.
Buying plants can be expensive—especially if they fail to thrive. The advice in this section will help you make the right “green” investments.
Here is a non-exhaustive list of plants to use in a landscaping project:
- Trees, shrubs, hedge conifers;
- Climbing plants;
- Perennials, bulbs and annuals;
- Ground covers, grasses;
- Fruit and vegetable trees, herbs.
- Hardy plants are better equipped to survive our winters. Refer to the list of plant hardiness zones for Quebec .
- Estimate how much space each plant will take up at maturity: you want to keep all plants in a planting bed at a sufficient distance from each other, but also ensure that trees don’t eventually reach power lines, your house, or the edges of your property.
- Consider root systems: near the house, conifers are better than broad-leaved species because their roots are closer to the surface. For more information, see the Tips & Tricks instalment Trees near the house? Foundations beware!
- Think in terms of the overall effect, especially if you have different-coloured species flowering at the same time of year.
Tip: Themed gardens with just one or two colours will prevent a “pizza” effect!
- If you’re planting perennials, create arrangements of plants that have early, medium and later flowering periods, so that parts of your yard will be in bloom all season.
- To ensure their continued good health, pay attention to how much light plants need: sunny, shaded, semi-shaded, etc.
- Plant broad-leaved trees on the sunny side of the house, where they’ll provide shade in summer but let sunlight through in winter.
- Plant conifers on the windy side of the property to create a windscreen. They can also form an acoustic and visual barrier, which is practical, especially if you are in an urban area.
- If you don’t think you’ll have much time to care for your plants, choose species that don’t need as much water. A sprinkler system can also compensate for your time constraints.
- To cut down on tap water consumption, install a rainwater collection barrel and use it to water your plants.
- Find out what kind of soil you have around your house. Is it sandy (well-drained), clayey (compact), or organic (aerated and rich)? Is the pH neutral, acidic or alkaline? Buy a DIY analysis kit or take a sample of soil from your yard to a garden centre for analysis.
- If necessary, amend the soil (e.g., by aerating or adding lime).
- Learn how to recognize plants like giant hogweed and Japanese knotweed, which have become destructive to our environment after being introduced here as a result of ornamental horticulture.
- Beware of invasive rustic species as well. Learn about the growth behaviour (root and aerial) of a plant before adding it to your yard or garden.
To show off your landscaping project, a well-thought-out lighting system can make all the difference.
- Choose the lights carefully: bulb type, power, and beam orientation are all important.
- Respect your neighbours as well as municipal bylaws: confine the field of illumination to reasonable limits.
- Make sure the electrical system, if applicable, is code-compliant and the materials are suitable for our climate.
- Don’t create light pollution: there’s no need to light up the sky!
- Plan the right type of installation: will it be permanent or seasonal? Will you need to disassemble and store the system every autumn?
Your project is taking root, so to speak, and now you want to add water! “Safety first” is the watchword: any pond, swimming pool or spa that you install must comply with national safety standards. To learn more, read Is your pool really safe?
Ask yourself what it is that you want, exactly, according to your tastes, space and budget. Above-ground or in-ground? Whichever you choose, it’s essential that the construction be solid and waterproof. Don’t forget to include drainage and electrical systems if the project will extend underground.
This concludes your grand tour of landscaping and gardening options… You now have a solid foundation for choosing the materials and plants that will bring your landscaping project to life!