What’s Hot In Backyard Design in 2018 [6 Tips to an Amazing Yard]

Aiming for a new look for your outdoor oasis? Check out what’s hot in backyard design!

You might be looking for some of the latest and greatest gardening and landscaping ideas to make your space just that little bit more special. If so, you’ve come to the right place! The following are unique design concepts that are currently topping the gardening charts…

Landscaping With Edibles

Most of the time, people plan their landscaping to include an herb and veggie garden separate from their florals and other more ornamental landscaping, but the trend now is to mix and mingle the edibles with the decorative.

It’s a perfect way to keep the edibles front and center, and in some cases, the florals can help protect them from insects. Marigolds, sunflowers and lavender are just three examples of ornamental plants that can help protect your veggie plants from pests!

For extra fun, investigate and try your green thumb at growing a new veggie this year. Cucamelon, anyone? They are a cucumber watermelon hybrid that grow more or less like cucumbers do but are smaller, with a tinge of sour. Perfect for pickling.

Planning For Climate Change

Global warming is here to stay, so gardening in sustainable ways that match the current trends in weather makes sense. In our neck of the woods, designing your landscape to handle more water from wetter winters and more heat from drier summers is the best way to go.

Drought tolerant, low maintenance plants, good water drainage and decks that are properly treated to avoid wood rot are just a few of the ways you can improve your landscape with the environment in mind. Another big trend is planning for less lawn and more garden, including raised or multi-level beds, more natural looking mixes of tall grasses and foliage and even adding wildflowers, that are hardier and more resistant to changes in the environment.

If you don’t already have a rain barrel, get one! They come with spigots, so you can fill your watering can and hydrate your favourite flowers and plants without using municipal resources. Makes sense, right?

Keeping It Real. Your Garden, That Is…

For a few years, the trend in landscaping was about bigger, better and more. The fancier your back yard was, the better. These days, the trend is towards a more natural, rather than stylized, design. Following the flow of a garden and working with its existing qualities, rather than imposing large, expensive, and unnatural additions that don’t add any calm to the space.

Invest instead in high quality craftsmanship, rather than elaborate and overdone designs. That concept has never been out of style! If you want to create a long retaining wall along one edge of your garden, you can! Just make sure you blend it into the existing landscape by using natural stones and high-grade materials for a project that is done well the first time!

Another great option is to go for an eclectic design by mixing your old landscape with something new. No need to raz down the whole backyard to change things up! Just look at what you can and want to preserve in your current design and develop a plan that works around it.

Enhance Your Calm With Water

A great way to add value and calm, without being over the top, is to consider a water feature. It doesn’t have to be huge or complicated: even a standalone fountain can make a big impact without being ostentatious.

Surrounding your water feature with compatible plants and rocks keeps it natural looking.

Add Comfort And Chairs Further From The Back Door

Gone are the days with those old plastic webbing flip out chairs that left awful marks on the back of your legs and weren’t that comfortable! Worse still, you couldn’t leave them out for even one season without finding them deteriorated and raggedy by autumn. Now you can have a sofa, loveseat, chairs and swings, all in gorgeous weather resistant fabrics that will make you want to stay outside for hours, all summer long. Add an outdoor pizza oven, along with your grill, and you barely need to venture inside after June 1st!

An interesting trend is the idea of putting a deck and the eating area further away from the house, getting away from the traditional deck that comes straight off the back. It creates an island, as it were, in your yard, which you can surround with lush plants, an arbour or container gardens. If you have a pool or other visual feature in your yard, this can be a great way to enhance it!

Making Outdoor Play Space For EVERYONE

Sure, you can have a swing set for the littles, but how about a bocce or boules court for the ‘big kids’? All the studies say that North Americans aren’t active enough, so if you have the room, setting up a space for badminton, or bocce, will get friends and family coming to your house for the weekend barbecue, more often than not! After all, it’s nice to sit on the outdoor furniture and sip a cocktail; it’s even better to beat Uncle Lenny at a rousing game of horseshoes!

Whatever trend suits you, have a lot of fun in your garden this upcoming season by planning it now! You’ll be ready to roll when the warmer weather is here to stay.

Looking For Calm? Plan A New Water Feature In Your Garden

Adding a water feature to your backyard is a wonderful way to create another layer of serenity in your quiet space. The tranquil sounds of water bubbling, the sunlight glinting off the surface… all intended to enhance your calm.

If you want to add your water feature this spring, for a summer of enjoyment, you should start planning now!

What Kind Of Water Feature Do You Want?

There are several questions you need to ask yourself:

  • How big a feature do you want? This depends on the size of your yard and your existing landscaping. You don’t want the feature to become overwhelming. Balance is everything!
  • You also need to decide why you want a water feature? If it is to enjoy the sound of running water, you’ll want to place it not too far from seating areas and you’ll want an option that runs, like a waterfall, rather than a standing pond.
  • What type of feature would suit your current landscaping?
    • Pond
    • Waterfall
    • Stream
    • Fountain
    • Some combination of the above?
  • How much budget you want to set aside for this project? With water features, ‘you get what you pay for’ is a true statement. If you skimp up front, you’ll have more maintenance issues downstream.

Features Of Different Options

Pond — A pond, whether inground or above, including fish or not, is a beautiful addition. You can add a waterfall, to get more of the sound of water effect. Either way, a pond is lovely but it is also space consuming so you need to have a big enough yard to accommodate a pond without risking that someone is going to fall into it because it’s taking up too much space! Consider also, if you have a sloping area in your garden, how a waterfall would look, with a pond at the base, making positive use of the natural grade of the ground.

Ponds are build with a pump to ensure that oxygen levels are adequate for maintaining fish and plants. Your setup will also include a filtration system, which removes debris and other matter that might throw the pond out of balance. While a pond isn’t expensive to maintain, the initial cost might be a consideration, particularly if you want to add a waterfall to your feature.

Placement of an inground pond is particularly important if you want to avoid flooding your garden! A low spot that will already be taking the bulk of the spring run off might overwhelm the pond, in terms of water and chemical balance. Another consideration is what trees you have around the pond. Overhanging deciduous trees can look romantic until you end up spending a lot of time cleaning the leaves out of the pond.

Pondless Waterfall — As stated above, you can include a waterfall with your pond, but if you have small pets or children and are concerned about their safety, a pondless waterfall is a great option! The waterfall is designed to flow into a rock and gravel basin, which by way of a pump, is cycled back up and down the waterfall without pooling.

Utilizing natural elements, like boulders and rocks, to create your waterfall allows you to place it in your garden, almost as if just appeared there one day! A waterfall can also spruce up a space that is otherwise less visually appealing, like a standard retaining wall. Double it up with a waterfall and now you have a focal point to enjoy!

Stream — If you really want to create an interesting focal point and have the space for it, you could use a stream as a way to connect two separate features. For example, you could have a waterfall that is connected by a tiny stream to a pond. With the addition of foliage and rocks, the whole water feature can look very natural!

Fountain — If space is an issue, a fountain might be the perfect solution. An above ground fountain creates a gorgeous focal point in a garden. You can do anything from a traditional stone fountain or bird bath in the middle of your yard to a modern spherical waterfall fountain feature on your deck.

Just be sure to match it to the style of your home and garden. A focal point that doesn’t blend well with the surroundings isn’t a plus. If you use smaller, self-contained fountains, you can place several of them in your garden, surrounded by flowers and foliage, so that they almost seem part of the landscape.

Water gardens — A water garden is a space where you cultivate water plants. This could be a watertight container or a group of them on your deck, or set amongst other foliage in the garden. Lotus is a great example of a beautiful flower that blooms in water. Water lettuce and canna plants are other options.

Make A Water Feature Part Of Your Larger Landscaping Project

If you were planning to revamp your landscaping this spring, including a water feature in the plan from the beginning will be a lot easier—and less expensive—than adding it in later. Having to grub up some of your newly planted flower beds to make room for the pond isn’t ideal!

Whether you’re planning to DIY your project, or hire a professional to get it done, visit your local garden center for advice and information to make sure that your water feature project is a success you can enjoy for years to come!

5 Gorgeous Landscaping Tips & Images To Inspire You

With frigid weather and blowing snow, thoughts turn to green gardens filled with beautiful flowers, greenery and patios with cool drinks. What are your spring plans? January is the best time to start, because spring will be here before you know it, and the best landscapers & hardscapers in Mississauga book early.

At Toemar, we make planning easy with these five basic steps:

  1. Do your research including both style and functional design. For example, it’s just as important to make sure your pathway placement is right for the look as for usage and avoiding water accumulation
  2. Set a budget. This is the bottom line: what you can afford to spend on your project will dictate the extent of your plans. This might seem like an obvious statement but it’s always interesting how every spring, people have BIG projects and haven’t given a thought to how it will be paid for. If you need to meet with the bank, now is the time…
  3. Draw out your plan. Sketch out what plants, walls, or other ornaments you will want to add. Don’t forget to include measurements, including grade and slope, where it impacts the project. It doesn’t need to be exact, that’s your landscaper’s job, but it will make it much easier for your team to quote and to make sure everyone is on the same page
  4. Pop by Toemar, and talk to us. Together we can see if your plans match your budget!
  5. If you are going it alone, order everything you’ll need in advance, so that when spring arrives, you’re ready to go. If you’re worried about storing the supplies, talk to us. We’re experts in that area

Toemar has a useful planning tool that you can use to create the landscaping project you’ve always wanted.

It includes lists of items you’ll need and how to measure to ensure that you’re getting an accurate plan of what you want to accomplish. Our planning tool is help you turn a dreary January afternoon into a beautiful space you can enjoy with family and friends come May!

If you need some inspiration, here are a few beautiful examples of completed landscaping projects that you can accomplish in the spring and enjoy all season long.

Pool Area Landscaping

The right landscaping can turn a pool area into an oasis in the city. The trees create shade (in Mississauga, imagine lovely pines or junipers instead of palm trees) and that sense that you’re in another world. Strategically placed seating areas create a welcoming ambiance for neighbours to catch up and enjoy a little downtime.

pool-landscaping

Source: https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/450430400212043953/

A Romantic Landscape

Imagine your backyard looking like a quiet English country cottage. Whimsical and romantic, this design below, is quite easy. Toemar is carries a wide variety of pebbles and pavers, plus all the materials to stabilize this kind of design, like limestone and landscaping material. Add climbing vines, plants and trellises for a final touch.

romantic-landscaping

Source: http://www.countryliving.com/gardening/garden-tours/g1432/landscaping-ideas/?slide=6

Walls, Steps And Spacing In Your Landscaping

Adding rocks and boulders to create walls can take a large yard and add some smaller, more intimate spaces to enjoy and decorate with perennials, annuals and greenery of all types. Each season, we receive a large shipment of rocks from local quarries and yes, we DO deliver!

walls-landscaping

Source: https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/450430400213276450/

Looking to save on groceries this year? Or perhaps reduce chemicals in your diet. Why not  create a gorgeous kitchen garden with raised beds? A well-planned old-fashioned garden will provide visual interest and edibles all season, and is a source of wonderment for children. Preparing the right kind of soil is key, especially if this is the first time you’ve turned the earth over. Adding a garden path makes watering and weeding easier. Just remember to fence it off, or create a smaller second garden for the rabbits!

spacing-landscaping

Source: http://www.countryliving.com/gardening/garden-tours/g1432/landscaping-ideas/?slide=7

Adding stone steps leading up to the front of your home can completely enhance the front view and landscape. Surrounding those steps with

elevated plantings is welcoming and visually interesting. This image below uses a combination of hidden garden walls, pavers and natural boulders (all available at Toemar.) This is one of the fastest ways to amp up your home’s curb appeal and therefore its resale value…

curb-appeal-landscaping

Source: http://www.countryliving.com/gardening/garden-tours/g1432/landscaping-ideas/?slide=13

Patios For An Outdoor Living Landscape That Wows

Living in Mississauga means living through winter weather for a good third of the year, but the way see it, it’s all the more reason to capitalize on the outdoor living options of your home, for as long as you can!

Creating a patio that is both private and inviting is not difficult, but it does require some planning so why be satisfied with the four months Mother Natures gives us?

Expand the seasons by adding both light and heat sources in early spring and late autumn. Faux faur throws over your patio furniture will create immediate warmth and ambience and an outdoor fireplace or chimenea is a lovely focal point.

patio-landscaping

Source: https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/450430400211905917/

For Landscaping That Is A Little Out Of The Ordinary

Imagine creating a space in your backyard that looks like the entrance to a secret garden. It’s every childhood fantasy come to life! In other words, the landscape you choose doesn’t have to be fussy or precise. Instead, it can be a little wild, creating a little scope for the imagination! Where does that path lead?

garden-landscaping

Source: https://www.pinterest.ca/pin/450430400211946078/

However you plan your landscaping, whether front or back yard, poolside or just a place to put up your feet at the end of the day, all it takes is a little time and effort. The results will be well worth it!

10 Wonderful Ways To Create Some Backyard Privacy & Enhance the Space

Living in modern Mississauga subdivision can feel a bit like living in a fishbowl. This is doubly true if you’re in a new home with neighbours sharing a yard on every side. And while it’s nice to wave to John while you’re outside at the BBQ, sometimes it’d also be nice for John not to know the details of your dinner every night!

Urban sprawl continues unabated, and many of us live in very close quarters with our neighbours. What’s that old quote? “Good fences make good neighbours”? So said Robert Frost in his poem Mending Wall. Well, it’s true.

Creating spaces in your backyard to maintain a level of privacy is a great way to enhance the space and make it feel more friendly and inviting.  Here are 10 ways to create some backyard privacy:

1. The Obvious Choice: A Fence

A standard wood fence is a good option, particularly if the point of the fence isn’t just privacy. If you need to keep your pets and kids safe from traffic, a solid wood fence is just the ticket.

A fence need not be aesthetically unpleasing either! If your neighbours will agree, you can you can trim it with lattice across the top, or at end points, where you can add some creeping vine or other greenery that will travel along and fill in the gaps a little.

If you’re not using fencing to keep people in the yard, you don’t have to cover the full length and breadth of your yard. Instead, use panels of fencing judiciously and in places where it will provide the maximum privacy. Surround it by bushes and grasses to break it up and make it look more natural.

This is a great option if you’ve sitting on a larger track of land (lucky you!)

2. A Natural Fence Made Of Hedges

Privet and other evergreens like cedar are a great option to have year round coverage in your backyard. Running them along property lines makes a clear divider without being harsh on the eye, from a landscaping point of view.

The advantage to well planted privet is that it provides excellent coverage with a minimum of fuss and bother. You have to watch that you don’t end up with too much weed and other plants popping up under or through the hedges, but on the whole, they are hardy and useful. The downside is that unless you plant it full grown, it will take a few years before your new hedge is doing its job.

3. Trellises And Pergolas

Placing a pergola over your patio area, or a trellis in the right spot, doesn’t destroy the sightlines of your garden but can shield you from the prying eyes of the two-story house right next door. You can enjoy the breeze and sunlight while still maintaining privacy.

Adding climbing flowers or vines give a more natural feel, blending the addition into the garden more subtly.

You can also do like the Europeans and grow grape vines over the pergola. When the grapes begin to grow they hang down and the look is enchanting. Ditto for wisteria, although grapes last longer. Just be aware that, if you plant purple grapes, they will stain the deck below.

4. Put Up A Gazebo

A gazebo has a lot of advantages. It provides shade and some privacy and if you get one that actually has window netting and a door, it will be a perfect reprieve from mosquitoes in the summer!

Eating outside isn’t always pleasant, thanks to bees, mosquitoes and other flying creatures, but a gazebo can create a space that will allow you to enjoy your picnics in peace.

Why not trim one side of the gazebo with lattice to provide more privacy? Or line the entire gazebo with bug mesh, so that when Rolf comes to visit your eldest daughter in a rainstorm, they can dance and sing around the gazebo without bug bites.

5. Vertical Gardening

This is a popular idea, particularly in smaller gardens where raised vegetable beds and other planting areas are more difficult to add, and it’s a useful solution for those who love to garden, but find themselves with an urban backyard the size of a postage stamp.

Build hanging planters on a wall of rods, which you then fill with vegetables, herbs and flowers. You’ve got an instant privacy wall and more space in the garden for a patio. Win-win!

6. Multi Level Gardens

By using raised beds at different levels, you can plant taller bushes, grasses and trees at the highest levels and use retaining walls to make a natural divider. By placing these strategically behind a terrace or seating area, your privacy is ensured.

Just make sure that you consult an experience hard-scaper before doing this yourself, so that you don’t upset the elevation and disrupt run-off patterns.

7. Outdoor Curtains

Who doesn’t love this trend? Each year we see more and more front-yard patios curtained off on the sides, and it’s beautiful.

We suggest that you take the trend into the backyard too.

Whether you have a pergola or a back deck, outdoor curtains are a great way to keep the breezes flowing and prying eyes out.

Even better if they’re hung on moveable frames, so you can place them where you want them and perhaps out of the path of a strong wind. White curtains always look best and provided they are machine washable, should look great throughout the warm season.

8. Potted Gardens Around The Patio

Particularly for a large yard, it’s sometimes easier to create a space within the space and protect one small part of the garden. Place potted plants, bushes and trees around a small raised patio or terrace in one corner of the yard, so as to maximize privacy when you want to sit and read or chat with friends, without having to figure out a way to create privacy over a vast expanse.

Another great option is to add trellis panels to planters and position them strategically to ensure maximum coverage

9. Privacy Screens For Smaller Spaces

If your “garden” is more like a tiny space out the back of your house or even a balcony, you can still add planters with lattice and climbing vines to create division.

Another great option is a privacy screen. You can buy these or make one from reclaimed shutters, and it has the advantage of being moveable. When the sun turns or your neighbours come out on to their open patio, you can set it up in such a way as to give a little privacy without putting in a permanent structure.

10. Shade Trees For Larger Spaces

In larger gardens, creating privacy and shade can be accomplished by strategically planting deciduous trees. You get a natural screen protection with the leaves and branches from other multi-level homes near you. And in the winter when the leaves have all fallen, you can have streaming sunshine for your home. Planting deciduous trees is a longer term project, but well worth it in the end.

However you enjoy your garden and green spaces, a little bit of privacy can go a long way to making these places another part of our home. Places where you can entertain or just relax after a long day. Plan your garden privacy this winter so that come the spring, you’re ready to go!

5 Wonderful Ways To Beautify To Your Winter Garden

Think back to previous winters, when you looked out a window of your home, come December or January. What did you see in your winter garden?

Perhaps blankets of snow, or piles of dead leaves depending on the weather. But was there any visual appeal to your garden through the winter months?

If your answer is no, it’s time to start thinking about sprucing up your outdoor space so that it is a pleasure to behold, twelve months of the year.

Start With A Little Planning

Before winter sets in, visualize your garden as it will appear in January and ask yourself these questions:

  • Does it include a variety of pathways, levels, walls?
  • Are there any eye-catching attractions non-vegetal focal points, like rocks and boulders?
  • Do you have easy to clear pathways for your pets and other people to navigate?
  • Do you have foliage that is still attractive in the winter?
  • Do you have firewood that you store year-round?

Variety For Your Garden

Being able to access the garden, even through the winter, makes the long season bearable.

Having pathways that are stable, well-built and either covered with interlocking paving stone or other stone work, can help make your garden accessible year round. After all, you need to be able to easily remove the snow from the path, to continue to enjoy it.

Adding in different levels to your garden, including a well-placed garden wall or two, provides interesting visual relief. Instead of looking out on a flat, often white space in the winter, you’ll have bushes and plants on different levels to attract the eye.

Garden walls are particularly attractive for visual interest, but you do need to make sure you build them correctly so that they don’t fall or crack under the pressure of ice and snow.

Pathways and walls need to be correctly placed and built to ensure that there is proper drainage in your garden, avoiding patches of ice forming where water can’t clear out.

If you’re not sure how to go about this, consider getting some professional help from a hardscaper.

Non-Vegetal Focal Points

Whether you like concrete statues or displays, or a more natural composition of boulders and rocks, creating non-vegetal focal points keeps your garden more interesting regardless of the weather outside.

Every rock or boulder is unique, and whether your go for one giant monolith or a grouping of smaller pieces, consider the vegetation that will grow around it to keep that natural look.

When adding rocks or boulders, you need to consider the following:

  • The size – bigger isn’t always better, depending on the look you’re trying to achieve in your garden. Good proportions are more important.
  • Placement – where you put these features in your garden is very important but they are also hard to move, so try to do some visualizing before your pieces arrive.
  • Shape and colour – if you already have rock features in your garden, any additions should blend in with them.

Prep Your Pathways

We’ve already noted that you should have pathways into your garden that are easy to clear but it’s equally important to make sure that they are in good repair.

The freeze and thaw cycles of winter can cause a lot of damage, particularly if you’ve got drainage issues, so before the winter sets in for the season, make sure your pathways are all in good repair and effectively draining.

Winter Foliage

Deciduous trees are lovely in any garden but once those leaves are gone, you’re left with little visual appeal until spring returns.

Mix in a few evergreen trees or shrubs and some ornamental cedars to keep the appeal. Just don’t overdo the evergreens as they will attract mosquitoes in the summer!

Holly and juniper bushes are also excellent options, mixed into your beds or surrounding the natural rocks.

The pops of colour from the berries are gorgeous, particularly set against the dark green of the leaves and your evergreens, as well as the snow!

Dogwood shrubs are also lovely, thanks to their signature red / burgundy bark.

Ornamental grasses are the perennial that stay the course through winter and snow, popping out to create a visual break in the landscape.

They come in many colours, which makes them a standout choice.

And if you’re thinking of adding any trees to your garden, one that looks particularly good throughout the winter, thanks to its bark, is a birch tree.

Decorate With Your Firewood

If you have the good fortune to have a wood burning stove, you can be creative with your stack by putting in a covered rack, somewhere in visual range, and stacking your wood there.

It will still be protected from the elements but will add a rustic appeal to your garden. Something straight out of Norman Rockwell painting!

However you choose to add a little something to your winter garden, the key is to create a space that you can enjoy, even from behind your living room window, as you grip a mug of hot cocoa.

Different Types Of Christmas Trees: Useful Pros, Cons, & Tips

‘Tis the season for planning Christmas and how you’ll decorate this year!

The first and most important decision you’ll make, when it comes to getting ready for the holidays, isn’t the turkey. It isn’t the presents. It’s the Christmas tree. What kind of tree should you get? How long will it last? How do you take care of it? All valid and important questions that we’ll address right here!

Fake Or Real?

The first question many people ask themselves is whether they want to bother with a real tree or if they will just get a fake one to use, year over year. Call us biased but there are a lot of reasons that a real tree beats fake every time, not the least of which is the gorgeous smell of evergreen in your home. Nothing beats it at Christmas time!

  1. Real trees—spruce, fir or pine—are sourced locally, within 5 – 25 kilometres of your home. They keep small family farms in business, which also contribute to your local economy and employ local people. Fake trees—made from PVC: polyvinyl chloride—come from overseas locations 85% of the time, to the tune of 2000+ kilometres, creating business for overseas firms, with no local employment.
  2. Real trees need sunlight and water to grow. Fake ones from countries like China need coal to be created (powering their electricity).
  3. Real trees might need some pesticides—about ¼ ounce over the lifetime of the tree. Fake trees are full of PVC related toxins, including phthalates and dioxins.
  4. Fake trees are not recyclable or biodegradable. Real trees serve the environment before and after they are cut, as well as being easily managed in terms of agricultural standards.

So, now that we’ve convinced you that real is a good option, the question is: which variety?

Spruce Trees—Pros And Cons

White Spruce

Pros are a good, uniform shape, dense branches and a gorgeous dark green colour. If you like a symmetrical, full and well balanced tree that looks good from any angle, this is a good option.

Cons are that the needles tend to be very prickly, which can be an issue if you have little ones helping with the decorating!

Fir Trees—Pros And Cons

Balsam Fir

Pros include dark green needles with an amazing fragrance, a tall, slender look with excellent needle retention. This variety is ideal if you need a tree for a smaller space and want a classic Christmas fragrance to permeate your home. Also, the needles aren’t very sharp, so decorating is easier, particularly for kids.

Cons include a shorter lifespan than some other varieties, with an outside limit of six weeks indoors.

Fraser Fir

Pros include a long life, up to eight weeks, and a beautiful scent. The needles are silvery and not as dense as some others, which makes a gorgeous backdrop for your decorations.

Cons include the lack of needle and branch density, which doesn’t give that full appearance you get with some of the other varieties, but that’s really up to personal taste. The branches are also flexible so are not ideal for heavy ornaments.

Pine Trees—Pros And Cons

Scotch Pine

Pros include vivid colours, ranging from bright green to a blue green, superior needle retention even as it dries, strong branches, and it keeps well during shipping and storage. If you use heavy decorations and HATE vacuuming needles, this is the tree for you.

Cons? There aren’t many. This is one of the most popular trees in North America for a reason! One remark people tend to make is that the needles are longer than with spruce or fir, so that can make decorations more difficult to see and arrange.

Five Tips To Keeping Your Tree Healthy

Now that you’ve chosen your tree, you’ll want to know how to keep it happy and thriving right through until New Year’s Day. These tips should help you along the way:

  1. Pick a healthy tree to begin with. At the tree lot, do a pinch test: Pick a branch of your chosen tree and place your thumb and fingers around it, about six inches in. Pull gently along the branch, towards you. If the tree is healthy and fresh, no more than 10 needs should come off in your hand.
  2. Make a cut. Give your tree a fresh cut, about an 1” above the base, to ensure that it can absorb water easily.
  3. Keep it cool. If you need to store your tree for a day or two before putting it up in the stand, make sure you choose a cool, dark place. An unheated garage is perfect. Leave it standing in a bucket of water so that it stays hydrated and cut it again before putting it in the tree stand indoors.
  4. Give it water. Make sure your tree stand can take a lot of water because your tree will need it. 4 litres is ideal. Set yourself a reminder to check the water levels and add to them regularly. Skip the chemical additives: they will only prevent your tree from getting the hydration it needs.
  5. Pick a good location. Placing the tree near heat sources, fireplaces, appliances like televisions or direct sunlight are not ideal. It will dry out more quickly.

Finally, when the holidays are over, you can dispose of your tree with curbside pickup in January, but if you miss it, just put it aside and cut it up in the spring to put out with yard waste.

Every November, Toemar receives a shipment of the healthiest and most beautiful Christmas trees in the GTA! Keep your eyes peeled; we always announce when trees are in store! We’ll help you choose the best tree for your home…

5 Simple Fall Landscaping Ideas For The Front Yard

Curb appeal takes on a whole new meaning in autumn with some landscaping ideas

The colours of fall make it a perfect time of year to really enhance the front of your home with landscaping.

Leverage the cooler weather, as well as the beautiful plants and flowers that bloom at this time of year, to create a visual impression.

Planning your landscaping so that you have colour and texture all year around is ideal and easy to do. Incorporating perennials, shrubbery and grasses that bloom at different times of year assures you a beautiful front yard (well, with the exception of the blanket of snow from January through March!)

If you have deciduous trees on your property, Mother Nature will help you along in terms of brilliant colours, but there’s so much you can add to improve upon her good work!

Fix The Basics

If your lawn has patches or your planting beds need weeding, turning and mulching, now is the time. The cooler weather is an ideal time to start thinking about overseeding your lawn, to fix patches. Why? Because the cooler temperatures mean less evaporation of the soil moisture.

Grass seeds will have the opportunity to germinate and build a solid root structure before the stems take over, in the spring. Use a high quality overseeding soil with your new seeds and be sure to give it all plenty of water.

Don’t forget to do plenty of raking to pull up the dead grasses and remove your leaves. Your lawn can breathe better without the extra layer, though some fallen leaf coverage can be helpful to protect plant beds from an early frost.

It’s also a good time to take a look at your hardscaping and make sure it’s all in good condition for the upcoming winter. Your walkways and retaining walls should be repaired, as ice forming in cracks can expand and create further damage.

While water features are lovely in spring and summer, it’s a good time to drain yours and prepare it for winter by covering up any pool basins, so they don’t get clogged with falling leaves and other autumn detritus.

Establish Some New Color And Texture

Your summer blooms are fading, so it’s time to add some shades of fall. In fact, autumn is an ideal time to plant perennials because, just as with the grass seed above, the warm soil and mild evaporation make ideal conditions for roots to form and take hold.

What flowers and plants will bloom through the fall, improving the look of your landscape?

  • Hostas – from vibrant blue to dark red, there are many shades to pluck up your garden.
  • Daylilies – pinks and purples to gold and yellow, you’ve many shades of the rainbow in these!
  • Daisies – who doesn’t love daisies? To quote that old goody of a movie “You’ve Got Mail”: “They’re such happy flowers.” True.
  • Peonies – usually more subtle in creams, pinks and lavenders, these flowers add a special subtlety to any landscape design.
  • Chrysanthemums – that quintessential fall flower has lovely blooms to brighten your front garden.

As for texture, there’s nothing more elegant than some beautiful ornamental grasses, waving in the autumn breeze. They can add some flourish when other plants are beginning to be cut back for the season and are hardy enough to withstand our winters.

Trees and shrubs often do very well if planted in the fall, for the same reasons as the grass seed and plants, as noted above, so if you don’t yet have any trees with leaves that change (deciduous) in the fall, now is a great time to add some to your landscape plan. Just be sure to buy a rake at the same time!

Fall is also a good time to consider adding a structure to your hardscape, whether that is an arbor or a stone retaining wall, slate stepping stones or boulders. Whatever look you’re trying to achieve in your garden, adding structure to its already good bones will improve the look immeasurably!

Let There Be Light

Another way to enhance the landscape is to add some strategic lighting. Thanks to solar powered units, you can place lighting along your walk way or throughout your gardens to highlight the hard work you’ve put into them!

Porch lighting can be so much fun if you indulge in a wrought iron sconce or perhaps a hanging lantern? Whatever you choose, lighting the front of your home really improves the welcoming look of it.

Evergreens Are Important Too

With all this talk about adding colour, don’t forget that standing evergreens add symmetry and consistency to a garden, to say nothing of year round privacy and a beautiful backdrop for your blooming autumnal plant beds. That contrast of a dark green background with flaming florals and grasses set in front? Beautiful!

Improve Your Front Entrance

In addition to the landscaping, you can add a touch of fall to your front entrance by incorporating a seasonal wreath or planters on either side of the door, filled with fall foliage, grasses, flowers and more.

The key with entrance decor is to be subtle, with a few touches rather than overflowing buckets of plants and greenery. This is definitely one of those time when less is more. There’s one exception to that rule however: if you’re big on the fall holidays like Halloween, you can add a lot of color and a whole lot of fun with pumpkins and hay bales, scarecrows and fake spiders. Just be sure to take it all down before Santa comes by on his sleigh!

Ultimately, if you have a front porch, keep the furniture out as long as you can: it’s a lovely way to spend a cool evening, with a blanket and some hot chocolate, enjoying the landscape you’ve created!

Raccoons, Rabbits And Pets In Your Garden…Oh My!

If it’s like Wild Kingdom in your garden, you can take steps to protect your green space, and the animals who use it!

A beautiful garden filled with lovely plants and flowers is basically an open invitation to the animal world to pay you a visit. That might be a daunting thought but you can create an inviting outdoor space that is safe for the animals you love and less interesting for those that you don’t.

What’s Dangerous To Your Pets

There are a variety of plants and flowers that are toxic for pets so if you plan to have them as part of your garden plan, you might want to consider keeping them in raised beds or away from bed borders, or install some cute picket or lattice fencing, to minimize the chances of your pet coming into contact with them.

Here’s a short but by no means complete list of common plants that can harm your pets:

  • Lily of the valley—they contain cardiac glycosides, which are used in human heart medication!
  • Daisey
  • Tulips
  • Holly—Christmas can be a dangerous time of year!
  • Azaleas
  • Birds of Paradise
  • Fall Crocuses—while the Spring crocus might cause an upset stomach if ingested, the Fall version is highly toxic
  • Daffodils
  • Amaryllis
  • Lavender
  • Lilies—cats are in danger with tiger, easter or day lilies, among others. Even a small amount of pollen or a petal or two can cause liver failure.

In addition to plants and flowers, there could be other things in your garden, which could harm Fido. Mulch, for example. Some types of mulch are made from cocoa bean by-products. The result is that they have a chocolate odour that attracts your pets but, as anyone with a dog knows, chocolate is toxic. Dogs don’t have the enzymes necessary in their bodies to process theobromine and caffeine, both of which are found in cocoa bean.

A good alternative mulch is hemp mulch. It’s effective as a mulch in keeping the soil moist, avoiding erosion, keeping weeds down and promoting seed germination BUT it is completely pet friendly!

Other concerns?

  • Fertilizers—any fertilizer that contains blood or bone meal can be both attractive to and dangerous for pets as the iron levels they contain, if ingested in sufficient quantities, could be harmful.
  • Pesticides—pesticides generally can be harmful but you particularly want to watch any that contain organophosphates, as many products produced for the care of roses do. Even small doses of these can seriously harm your pet.
  • Compost—yes, that earthy goodness can be dangerous if consumed by your pet directly from the compost heap or container. Why? One word: mould. As the compost breaks down, some mould does naturally develop. It will eventually break down as well but during the composting process, it can still be active and make your pet quite sick! Keep your compost area fenced off and away from your pets.

It goes without saying that if you do have chemical based products for your lawn and garden around, they need to be out of reach of not only children, but pets too!

 

Damage By Pets

The most common kind of damage in the garden caused by pets, aside from the digging of holes where you didn’t want them, is patches of burnt lawn, where the animal has urinated and the grass has died.

You can solve these in specific areas of your lawn by either seeding or sodding. How? Check out another of our posts, on this very topic!

If you’re just planning your landscaping, another way to avoid the problem is to work in more hardscaping! Yes, your doggo will love a good patch of lawn, but if you replace some of your planned lawn with stone, brick or flagstone, it’s that much less that you have to worry about patches on!

 

Damage By Other Animals

As cities expand, we humans are coming into closer contact with a wide range of wild animals and our gardens provide some great feeding grounds!

Raccoons and skunks—These are grub diggers! Your lawn might get dug up in parts as these two animals search for grubs underground. Your best bet for dealing with this issue is to minimize the grub population, utilizing a non-toxic, enviro friendly pesticide designed for that purpose! As for vegetable gardens, covers will stop most of their activities. Either cover individual plants or use netting to protect a larger grouping of plants.

Rabbits—How do you know if rabbits are eating you out of lawn and garden? Check the ends of the greenery that has been eaten. If they are neatly clipped, odds are it’s rabbits! You can also look for tell tale small round droppings. The only real solution for rabbits—and deer, if you’re farther out in the countryside—is fencing. You’ll have to dig down a few inches to avoid them going under and chicken wire won’t do the trick. You’ll need a stronger wire fencing to get the job done!

Squirrels—Squirrels LOVE to dig holes in lawns, as well as dig up and eat bulbs in flower beds. The only protection is a wire mesh cover. But here’s a tip: squirrels don’t like daffodil bulbs, so an investment in a few more of those will mean more flowers next year!

Whether your animal filled yard is by choice or by force, you can live peaceably with four legged creatures by taking the time to plan your landscape and hardscape so that everyone can enjoy the space, safely!

THE Best Homemade Pizza: Fun and Easy Tips and Recipes!

Forget what the ads say: the BEST pizza is homemade. It’s easy and healthier than the store bought alternatives, to say nothing of fun to put together as a family. The next time you’re in the mood for a pie, pull out these tips for a perfect pizza made at home!

These steps will help you avoid a soggy pizza crust covered with toppings where some are barely warm and others that are charbroiled. Read on, my foodie friend…

The Best Base You Can Manage

Just like the foundation of a house which, if badly built, will crack and break down, the foundation of a great pizza needs to be solid to achieve maximum eatability.

Ideally, whether you make your pizza dough from scratch or buy it pre-made, you want to make sure you are stretching and rolling it out at room temperature. If it was in the refrigerator, let it rest on the counter while you prep the rest of the ingredients, before attempting to roll.

When the dough has dropped its chill, you can flour your rolling surface—more is better here: you don’t want the dough to stick!

Press your dough ball flat with your knuckles from the centre out towards the edges. If it’s still too cold, it will spring back and refuse to stay flat, like an out of control cowlick, so if that happens, just let it rest a few minutes more before continuing.

Whether you use the recipe below, or a store bought dough, it’s better to stretch the dough, rather than roll it. Ideally, you will be tossing it in the air, like you’ve seen at your pizzeria so that it pulls evenly and doesn’t tear. You’ll find it easier to get the round shape, but since we all can’t toss pizza dough in the air without making a mess, a rolling pin is fine to make sure that you get a consistent ¼ inch thickness and VOILA! You’re ready for toppings!

The best ‘from scratch’ recipe is so easy, it will take less time than walking to the store to buy pre-made, though it needs to be put together the day before, so a little planning is required!

This recipe makes four balls of dough—great for making individual pizzas:

Ingredients:

3 and ¾ cups of bread or all purpose flour

¼ teaspoon of active dry yeast

2 teaspoons of salt

1 ½ cups of water

Instructions:

  1. In a bowl, blend all your dry ingredients (flour, salt, yeast).
  2. Add the water to the mixture and mix, preferably with your hands.
  3. Cover the bowl with plastic wrap and leave it to sit on the counter overnight, at room temperature. It will rise to more than double the initial size!
  4. Generously flour your work surface where you will be rolling out the dough and scrape it out of the bowl. Now you can divide it into four and shape each dough ball. Dust with more flour if they get tacky or sticky.
  5. You don’t need to knead this dough extensively as the gluten needed is activated by the rising process. Just get stretching!

Toppings Galore!

Here’s the fun part for the rest of the family! Quality matters when it comes to toppings. Homemade or high quality crushed tomato sauce, hand shredded cheese and anything your heart, and stomach, desires. Of course, there’s nothing wrong with pre-shredded cheese but like a fine wine, the secret is in the quality of the source ingredients!

Whatever toppings you like on your pizza, just remember to spread them as evenly as possible to avoid clumps that won’t cook through properly.

Other tips?

  • Just like the pie from your favourite take out place, leave a half an inch around the edge to avoid the toppings dripping or bubbling over. Pinch it a little so that it’s raised up to create a sauce barrier!
  • Try and limit your toppings, beyond sauce and cheese, to two or three. Anything more starts to get heavy and thick and might not cook through as evenly. Simple is best!
  • Don’t forget fresh herbs! Basil is the best when handily torn up and thrown over your toppings, right after the pizza has come out of the oven. Chives give that onion-y flavour without overdoing it and are also best popped on post-bake.

Cook It Low And Hot

Whether you have a pizza stone, pan or a perforated pizza sheet, make sure you put your oven rack to the lowest level before pre-heating. This will brown the crust nicely, leaving no soggy pockets.

What you’re looking for is a flat surface to ensure that the crust cooks evenly. If you’re worried about the pizza sticking, just spread a little cornmeal on the pan or sheet before adding the rolled out crust.

The key to home cooking a pizza is high heat—as high as your oven can go! Why? The air bubbles in your pizza dough will expand when they hit the blast of heat, causing a light, soft dough on the inside, which also crisps up nicely on the outside. Win-win!

Better yet, invest in a wood burning outdoor pizza oven. These easy to assemble, and even easier to use, ovens mimic the cooking process from your favourite pizzeria, right in the comfort of your own backyard.

Invest In A Pizza Wheel

Cutting your perfectly cooked pie is in itself an artform! You don’t want your toppings to come off the crust to tear in weird ways by trying to cut your pizza with a standard knife. A super sharp pizza wheel is an inexpensive kitchen tool that you will get value back again and again.

Prepping some dough and having it at the ready means you can have homemade pizza in a flash, so say goodbye to your delivery guy and hello to easy dinners that everyone will enjoy!

Garden Walls: 4 Things You Should Know Before You Build

Also known as ‘retaining walls’, garden walls can make or break a yard – literally…

If you’re thinking about selling your house, garden and retaining walls are a great way to boost the curb appeal and value of your home.

They draw the eye into the garden and give the appearance of a major landscaping design with relatively little effort.

They can be a DIY project, for the adventurous gardener, but if a retaining wall is needed to maintain the integrity of the garden structure, it’s always wise to call in a pro (or risk disrupting the flow of runoff and flood every lawn on the block!)

Whether to boost the appeal, or to improve your garden for your own enjoyment, a garden / retaining wall might be just the addition you’ve been looking for.

What Is A Garden, Or Retaining, Wall?

A garden, or retaining wall, is a concrete or stone, for lack of a better word, wall. They are used in a variety of ways in landscaping, including creating raised beds, an elegant border, or to help with soil erosion and drainage.

While similar, a garden wall is more about creating raised beds and upping the look of the landscape , while the retaining wall is more functional, to deal with uneven ground levels and slopes.

Why Should You Have Garden Or Retaining Walls?

Walls serve a practical, as well as aesthetic purpose. A solid retaining wall is designed to hold back the pressure that the soil exerts when there are two different ground elevations in a garden.

A slope might not be what you want in the garden, so the wall acts to break up the two elevations. The stability of the soil and more elevated portion of the garden is ensured by the solid stone or concrete wall, which takes the bulk of the pressure being exerted by the soil.

Garden walls are more about design: they typically aren’t as tall and are used more to create divided garden areas and beds, rather than to deal with slopes or elevations. They can be created in curved designs, which are very elegant and can enhance your flower beds and other divided garden areas immeasurably.

Materials Used In Garden Walls

Whether you opt for stone or concrete, most walls products are mortarless these days, which makes garden walls a project that the DIY landscape gardener can undertake (with caution.)

You can also opt for a combination of concrete and stone, such as where you use natural stone for steps or for the caps / coping; you or your hardscaper can create an elegant design that will last for years.

Concrete forming technology has resulted in concrete wall products that have the look and feel of natural stone, available in a range of textures and colours.

Concrete is lighter than natural stone, making it possible to build a wall without the extensive use of machinery, though it does require a level base, which might take some effort to dig down to create, to prevent the wall from shifting down the road.

Concrete wall systems are designed for easy tongue-and-groove interlocking installation and the new designs allow you to create curves that are still smooth and consistent.

One of the biggest pluses to concrete, particularly if this your first attempt at building a wall, is that is relatively inexpensive, compared to natural stone.

Those points made, natural stone has a beauty to it that is unmatched in other products.

The stones are different shapes and sizes, so they take more creativity to fit together tightly to build the optimal wall, but the result is gorgeous. Natural stone is stronger—and consequently heavier to work with—and requires less effort during the leveling process, as most natural stones aren’t perfectly level to begin with.

You may need some machinery to bring in natural stone and it is much harder to create a curved, consistent look. But when a natural stone wall is put together, with flair and design, it’s a sight to behold!

Should You DIY Your Wall?

The short answer is: Probably not.

Building a retaining wall to deal with unequal ground levels without the help of a professional CAN be risky. You want to be sure that you aren’t interfering with run-off patterns. Drainage that isn’t planned properly could end up seeping into your—or your neighbour’s—basement, among other risks.

Like what? Foundation erosion, drowning plants and trees, wood rot on decks and other garden features, pests and so on!

Building a garden wall, which is far more about creating a design that you want for your yard, is much simpler and can be done with a little design help from your local garden centre. With it, you will soon have a new focal point in your yard and a new area to grow flowers, plants and trees.

Concrete or stone, DIY or professionally installed, consider garden or retaining walls when you’re planning your landscaping changes: they can add a real dimension of visual interest to your yard, helping it to make it an oasis for you and your family to enjoy!