For the last 100 years, scientists have been exploring the reason why temperatures are so much warmer in the city compared to the rural areas surrounding them. This phenomenon, called an urban heat island, is a direct result of our activities. Unfortunately, with global warming, this increased heat continues to go up in areas with lots of stone and concrete like parking lots and even in our own backyards. Even though more cities are investing in green spaces and promoting green roof technology, several online sources state that more than 70 per cent of all of the surfaces that we are currently installing in our landscaped spaces are concrete, pavement, stone or pavers. We are turning our own backyards into mini urban heat islands.
The cost of landscaping always seems to shock homeowners.
Somehow people relate the cost of landscaping to the cost of gardening and are surprised to find out that decks and wood cost more than plants — not to mention the labour involved to install them.
In speaking to several industry professionals, the average backyard renovation starts at around $20,000 with some projects crossing the $1 million mark.
With such a huge range, how do you know how much your outdoor renovations should cost and how much should you really be investing in your home?
Many moons ago, I read an article written by the amazing Dear Abby where she spoke about being asked the same question by readers on a regular basis. Who knew that so many people cared about which way to toilet paper roll goes on the holder!
Now that I’ve been writing for a few years, I’m beginning to understand what she was referring to. In her honour, I am going to post the answers to the top three questions I always get asked in hopes that this will solve some of your own outdoor challenges.
The power of the front yard continues to be the focus for many homeowners looking to add value to their biggest investments; their house. The winner of the Herald Homes spring tool giveaway is no different. Their home already had the decks for entertaining and the planted gardens in the backyard. What it needs is some curb appeal from the street.
As a designer, my eye is immediately drawn to a few spots in the front that present some great opportunities.
The cost of landscaping always seems to shock homeowners. Somehow people relate the cost of landscaping to the cost of gardening and are surprised to find out that decks and wood cost more than plants … not to mention the labour involved to install them. In speaking to several industry professionals, the average backyard renovation starts at about $20,000, with some projects crossing the million-dollar mark. With such a huge range, how do you know how much your outdoor renovations should cost and how much should you really be investing in your home?
For the last 15 plus years I have been on television helping people create stunning backyards. Patios, decks, barbecues … you name it, I have shown people how to have them. Even now, I describe myself as a landscaper and not a gardener. I go into a backyard and look at how the space can be used for outdoor living instead of where the plants go. I was able to launch an amazing career creating backyard escapes for homeowners with swimming pools, fireplaces and outdoor kitchens. And all of that recently changed …
I blame the zombie TV shows and movies. Every night I went to bed thinking about what I would do if everything fell apart. Funny how many people have an escape strategy for the end of the world!
I love to help homeowners get the backyards of their dreams, but sometimes the news isn’t always what they want to hear.
The following letter is a perfect example of a homeowner who wants something in her backyard and wants to change the rules in order to accommodate her vision.
“Dear Carson. Please help. My land is almost pure gravel. My idea is to put down eight to 10 inches of sawdust, and then topsoil. Do you think that will work until I can build up everything with compost?”
There is nothing quite like travelling south in the middle of our Canadian winters for a little R&R. This year, I was lucky enough to do just that. I got to spend a week in an amazing new resort that was landscaped like a tropical park with big palms, beautiful fountains and even some flamingos walking around.
I definitely got recharged and found a little inspiration at the same time.
We can have spots in our backyards that can look just like this balmy resort by using some strategic design ideas.
Want a tropical inspired backyard? Here is how you can do it …
Dave has a flowerbed on a slope at the back of his home. With a two-tiered deck on one side and a hill on the other, this flowerbed is tricky to weed and care for. There is also a small Juliette balcony overlooking this weed-filled space. Dave would like to either level the garden or find some way to gain access to the side of the home where the composters are.
The existing slope is severe enough that levelling it with a series of retaining walls and gardens is going to be very costly. With the ample outdoor living space already at the back of the home, does Dave need more? To add another wrinkle, Dave’s septic tank is under this garden, which is probably why all the plants are doing well, but makes it very difficult for retaining walls or major landscaping.
Charlotte has a hill that nothing grows on and she would like to look out of the back of her home and see something green instead of the loose gravel berm that separates her house from the forest behind. She would like something low-maintenance, that doesn’t require a lot of watering or mowing.
Adding plant material to a slope is always tough because it takes awhile for the plants to develop a root system that will anchor them in place. Trees and shrubs take even longer, often uprooting with a heavy rain or wind. Another issue that Charlotte will have to think about is the wildlife in the forest, specifically deer.