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How To Create Privacy In Your Garden

As the poet Robert Frost said: “Good fences make good neighbors.” We like to say: “Privacy makes GREAT neighbours.”

We’re not talking about building an English style walled garden with a secret doorway—though that would be lovely! When we say privacy, we’re talking about ways you can create spaces in your suburban backyard that go beyond standard fences.

Many neighbourhoods in Mississauga and beyond are designed in rows of two story, single family homes. That means that unless you’re at the end of a row, you’ve got neighbours who can see into your backyard on three sides. Your ideas around creating a private backyard oasis will be marred slightly if every time you sit out, you can see your neighbour in their bathroom, looking back at you!

In other words, fences will only get you so far: you need some other garden creations to create some legitimate privacy for yourself and your family.

Assess The Space You Have To Work With

Your first step in creating some privacy is deciding where you want it most and where it makes sense for your garden. Depending on the size of your garden, which way it faces and how much sun you get, there are different ways you can proceed.

Toemar has a handy checklist you can use before starting any project.

For A Small Garden, A Great Option Is A Living Wall

When you don’t have a lot of space for garden beds or even potted plants, creating a vertical garden, known as a living wall, will help you get some plants growing AND create some privacy. This is also a great option if you live in a condo or apartment to separate your patio from your neighbour’s side.

Planting edibles and perennials that bloom throughout the season in a vertical garden is ideal use of the space, while still giving in to your green thumb. If you place it in such a way that the plants get the sun they need, you can then create a space for yourself in the shade beside it! Add a simple shade awning, using your wall as an anchor, and you’ve got a little private space to lay on the chaise and snooze on a sunny, summer afternoon.

A Pergola With Vines, For Shade And Privacy

If you have more space in the garden, it’s nice to create a patch where you can set up seating or a dining table, to really enjoy your outdoor space to the maximum, without ruining the sight lines in your garden.

A pergola set up on a deck or on some flagstone can be enhanced with flowering vines, or even grape vines, grown through the lattice like “roof”, so that you have shade and privacy in one natural looking setting.

This can also be a perfect set up if you have a hot tub, to ensure that you can sit and soak without being peeped at.

A Gazebo Can Give You Privacy And Bug Protection

With the solid roof of a gazebo, you can eliminate the second floor viewings of your lunch spread as well as create a decent amount of shade. If you set up your gazebo on the corner of a deck, adding lattice on two sides can help create even more privacy.

The other advantage to a gazebo is the ability to add netting and a door, which makes dining al fresco more enjoyable, and an evening drink with fairy lights decorating the ceiling will be mosquito free.

Outdoor Curtains

You’ve probably seen people who have added gauzy, flowing curtains to the sides of their porches, giving them more privacy while still letting the breeze flow through. You can take that same idea to your backyard by adding them to your pergola or gazebo, if you have a side that is particularly exposed to the view of others.

If you don’t have the space for a pergola, another option to leverage the beauty and privacy of flowing curtains is to create moveable frames for them: this way, you can put them where you want in the garden, in effect creating a privacy wall, and you can move it around if you want to, depending on the position of the sun.

Lattice And Vines Keep A Balcony Cool And Private

If you have a small deck or balcony that you don’t use because of the way you are on display when you sit there, a simple fix is to add lattice with climbing vines intertwined throughout, positioned on the sides where you have the most ‘visibility’. The light still comes through but you can sit out and enjoy your morning coffee in peace, with a little shade to protect you from the heat of the sun.

For A Large Yard, Plant Some Trees

It’s a solution that takes time to grow up, but if you have a good sized yard, a large, leafy deciduous tree or two  will help create shade and privacy throughout the spring and summer months. The only downside is the raking you’ll have to do come fall, but jumping in leaf piles is a time honoured tradition worth preserving!

However you create your space, always be mindful of what you want to use it for and how much space you have to work with. The winter is a great time to start planning for next spring, so that by summer, you’re able to enjoy your backyard to the fullest.

Tips For Landscaping Around Your Hot Tub

Hot tub sales are through the roof these days, and with so many of us spending more time at home, it’s no wonder. Retailers are hard pressed to keep up with the demand these days. One of the reasons is that, unlike swimming pools, you can make use of the steamy waters of your hot tub year round.

If you’ve got a tub already or are getting one installed, you need to consider the landscape that will surround it, when it comes to positioning and views. It’s important that the immediate area around your hot tub be clean and safe, but it doesn’t have to be concrete and ugly!

After all, a hot tub in the backyard becomes a focal point just by virtue of its size so a little bit of planning and design will make it stand out in the right ways.

Consider Your Positioning

If you haven’t already installed your hot tub, consider the positioning of it from a couple of perspectives:

  • How far is it from the back door? If you’re going to have to shovel out a long path in the snow to get to it, you might decide it isn’t worth the effort, in January. To get maximum use of the tub, it should be within a reasonable proximity from the back door of your home for an easy dash!
  • Avoid placing it in the middle of your yard: it will become TOO MUCH of a focal point. Hot tubs integrate best into the landscape if they are more off to the side.
  • Covered or not? Many people choose to put a hot tub under a gazebo or overhanging deck, in order to provide some privacy and also to protect the area around it, to make it easier to access in all weather.
  • Look at the view. Unlike a swimming pool, where you are more often swimming laps or just fooling around, a lot of time in the hot tub is spent sitting back, relaxing and looking outwards. So what will you be looking at? The compost pile and garbage cans or a beautiful wall of blooms and grasses?
  • Consider who will be viewing you while you’re in the tub. By placing it near a privacy wall, or in a spot where you can create privacy, you can avoid your nosy neighbour peeping over their fence at you while you’re trying to relax!

Walkways Around The Hot Tub

Some people choose to integrate their hot tub into their deck, so while the tub is still above ground, you walk into it, as you would a pool. It’s pleasing to the eye but it’s a bigger project. If that’s not in the cards, it’s important to consider what the pool will be set on and what will surround it.

Cement, interlocking pavers, flagstone or stone tiling, are just a few options for walkways and areas around your tub. The pavers are a superb way to create pathways to and around the hot tub, allowing space to get around it for cleaning and maintenance, as well as making a clear path to have access even in the winter. Durable and easy to install, pavers don’t require mortar, so they make a good economical option too. Different colours and shapes are available, which allow you to design a hot tub area that matches your style.

You can also consider landscaping around the hot tub, with tall grasses, bushes and so forth, which have the added advantage of creating some privacy. After all, your enjoyment of an evening soak might be dashed a little if your neighbours are able to peer over at you!

Landscaping And Hardscaping Around The Hot Tub

If you’re planning on having trees near your tub, look to species that will not ‘shed’ a lot of leaves and branches into the hot tub. Even though you’ll use a cover when it’s not in operation, it can still rain a lot of leaves from the time you set up to get in and when you exit your tub! You also don’t want trees with root structures that could impact the flat surface you have created for your hot tub.

All that said, having some foliage can create a little shade, which makes your tub usable even in the midst of a fully sunny day, as well as to create a windbreak and some privacy for your enjoyment of the tub. With both of these functions in mind, evergreens are a good, low maintenance option.

If you want more plants and colour around your hot tub, container gardens, set at different levels are a good choice: you can move them if you need to but they can also be set at different heights for a variety of a view.

The types of trees, flowers and plants that you choose should be consistent with your hardiness zone: recreating the tropical paradise from your last vacation might be the goal, but the reality is that you can’t plant palm trees in Mississauga. You can, however, use a textural mixture of stone, rock, garden pots, grasses and shrubbery to create a truly luxurious ambiance.

Container gardens around your hot tub will also allow it to blend into the landscape more, rather than standing out. It really depends on the look you’re going for, but this type of landscaping will still give you the access you need to maintain and protect your hot tub, all year round.

Blending the materials from the rest of your garden design into your hot tub design is the best way to keep flow and a cohesive look. For example, if your garden patio is made up of elegant stone, you want to keep that up around your hot tub. Most hot tubs are set up on a concrete pad, to ensure they stay level, but there’s nothing preventing you from integrating the same stone from your patio right up to the level of the pad, to keep it out of sight.

Other Considerations

Lighting around the hot tub is an important consideration: you don’t want a spotlight on you while you’re in it, but you need to be able to get to it safely, any time of the day or night. After all, a late soak after a long day might be just what the doctor ordered, but not if you trip on the way to the tub and hurt yourself!

However you design the space around your hot tub, make sure that the maintenance panel is accessible at all times, whether through a trap door section of the deck or enough space around the tub, particularly near that panel. You don’t want to have to tear apart your design so repairs can be made!

With all these tips in mind, you can get to planning the ideal hot tub escape to enjoy for years to come.

Interlocking Pavers For A Pulled Together Look In Your Mississauga Garden

If the path be beautiful, let us not ask where it leads.  ~ Anatole France

Are you a landscaper looking for the perfect way to add some class to a design? Or perhaps you’re a homeowner looking for ideas to make your garden look stylish, and while you’re at it, the value you of your home? Either way, interlocking pavers are the perfect way to accomplish these goals.

The contrast that interlocking pavers provide, whether as a patio, a poolside design, or a pathway in your garden, makes everything else in your green space stand out! Concrete pavers are durable and come in different colours and shapes, to enable you to create intricate designs and patterns that are pleasing to the eye.

History Of Paving Stones

Yes, they have a history! “Interlocking pavers were invented by the Dutch after World War II, when brick, their traditional paving material, was in short supply. Billions of the chunky blocks found their way onto European roads, and many of the originals are still in good shape despite 50 years of traffic.” (Source) What a testament to their durability!

Why Use Pavers?

Part of the value of interlocking pavers is that they are very durable but also because, unlike poured concrete or asphalt, they can move independently and are less likely to break or crack. They aren’t susceptible to damage from ice or tree roots and if any of your pavers ever ends up being pushed up or out of place, you need only remove that one, fix the ground below and replace it!

Interlocking Pavers Are Easy To Install

The genius is in the interlock design itself, which allow for relatively simple  installation, without the need for mortar. That said, it’s one thing to lay pavers for a small path through your secret garden; it’s another to use pavers to create an entire driveway. For a larger project, we would recommend using a hardscape expert who can lay them down perfectly.

In addition to an expert installation, your hardscaper can help you ensure that you’re not creating water runoff problems. Water will wash off and away from concrete pavers, as it would on any paved surface. Ensuring that you’ve planned for runoff from larger installations is essential.

So without mortar, how do the pavers remain in place? The strength of the lock and a very valuable extra: polymeric sand. Spread over the final laid pavers and into the spaces between them, polymeric sand creates a solid―but pliable―joint between the pavers.

With the sand in place, you simply need to moisten it to create the bond that will help prevent weed growth between the pavers, stave off insect erosion and be resistant to traffic, cleaning and so on. Plus it’s environmentally friendly, so there’s no downside to using polymeric sand to finish off your interlocking paving project.

Interlocking Pavers Are Easy To Maintain

  • Being made from concrete, they can stain, so if you’re using pavers for your driveway, and a vehicle leaks some oil, remove these stains as soon as possible. That said, pavers can be washed, swept and kept tidy with minimal effort.
  • Keep them weeded. While the polymeric sand will keep most of the weeds at bay, it’s worth pulling any strays that get through, right away!
  • Thanks to their durability, you will likely have your pavers in place for a long time. Do you want to keep your pavers looking new? A sealant can help.

Paver Projects To Consider

There are so many lovely ways you can use interlocking pavers to improve your outdoor space:

  • Accents, like a walkway or path, rather than the entire patio area of your backyard, is one option. It adds some different texture to your yard, creating a break in the green space for the eye, which makes your flower beds and other beautiful blooms shine!
  • Terraces, creating the look with elegant patterns from your interlocking pavers. If you want an easy to clean space where you have your outdoor dining, interlocking pavers are a good choice. A well planned design can look natural and inviting!
  • Steps, which creates a pretty design for your steps, rather than standard concrete. This is a project that you can add to your plans when you’re redoing your front walkway or porch.
  • Driveway, getting away from poured concrete, which can be very slippery when wet or icy, particularly, if it’s on an incline, or asphalt, which isn’t aesthetically pleasing.

Homes in Mississauga, particularly newer ones, lend themselves beautifully to the look of interlocking pavers, both at the front of the house and in the back. You can create paths and walkways that enhance your outdoor space, and the value of your home, with a minimum of effort.

Can’t Wait For Summer? Break Out The Patio Furniture And The BBQ NOW!

At the first signs of Spring—buds on the trees, tulips waving in the breeze—Ontarians are out of hibernation, sporting sandals and shorts and ready to soak up the sun.

The best way to enjoy the outdoors this Spring, Summer and early Fall is to build yourself a backyard oasis that you can enjoy with minimal upkeep.

START By Cleaning Up!

Whether thanks to the winter weather or ice storms, there’s always some clean up to do in the Spring to bring your garden up to drool worthy status.

  • Weed the garden beds
  • Remove any fallen debris / autumn leaves
  • Seed / sod your lawn after prepping the soil
  • Trim the hedges
  • Take out the patio furniture and wash it all down!

OUTFIT Your Outdoor Cooking Space With Necessary Herbs And Spices!

Eleven of them, to be precise. Not that we’re being copycats here, but there are in fact eleven excellent herbs that flavour up cooking for all tastes, that you can grown in containers near your patio.

Having your own stock means no rushing to the store to buy a great big bunch of something, when all you need is a few leaves to complete your recipe. Some of these herbs are more susceptible to being eaten up by bugs and animals, so just keep that in mind:

  1. Mint
  2. Basil
  3. Parsley
  4. Sage
  5. Cilantro
  6. Chives
  7. Thyme
  8. Rosemary
  9. Bay leaf
  10. Dill
  11. Coriander

Container gardening is a great way to grow some (or all) of these lovely herbs and has the advantage of being moveable. You might find that at certain times of year, the bees are loving your edibles, so you might want them slightly further away from your eating area. By using containers, you can move them away from the dining area, which will keep the stingers at bay.

Other plants that you shouldn’t place right next to the patio, if you want to avoid bees and wasps? This is just a sampling:

  • Cedar trees
  • Lavender
  • Flowering chives
  • Apple trees (or any fruit bearing tree, for that matter!)

CLEAN Up Your Gas Grill!

Now onto the good stuff! If you’re not the type who BBQ’d all winter long, complete with parka and oven mitts, it’s time to take the cover off your favourite grilling appliance. Spring cleaning isn’t just for the indoors!

Steps to get your grill ready for a season of delicious:

  1. Detach and clean the grates and burners. You’ll need a special brush, called a venturi brush, to really get through the burners and remove any debris left over from last season! A brass wire brush is perfect for cleaning the burners to a spotless shine.
  2. Soap and water are good for the grills, after which you can apply a little oil to season them for your next grilling session.
  3. If there is a grease build up in the base, use a hard edged spatula to scrape down to the drip pan, removing any excess.
  4. Then, remove and thoroughly clean the drip pan. Add a foil liner to make this job easier, if you haven’t do so already!
  5. Inspect the hoses to make sure nothing is frayed or damaged. That includes the hoses to and from your propane tank or to and from the house, if you’re connected directly; and check to see that the ignition is working correctly and the gas is flowing.

BETTER Still… Invest In A Pizza Oven

There is nothing better than a wood fire oven for the best, most delectable artisan style pizzas. Forget the takeout number and install one of these instead!

Easy to put together, quick to heat up… you’re on your way to pizza night with a twist. We’ve already given you the best recipe for a pizza base here, so this time, let’s look at some variations on toppings that you might not have thought of! Sure, we’ve all had our share of pepperoni, or all-dressed pizzas. Some of us even go for a little pineapple and ham… but what about chicken tikka pizza? Or how about goat cheese and blackberries with a dash of honey?

Chipotle cajun shrimp pizza anyone?

  • 1 pound shrimp peeled and deveined
  • 2 tablespoons olive oil
  • 2 tablespoons cajun seasoning
  • 1/2 tablespoon brown sugar
  • 1 chipotle chile adobo (canned)
  • 1 tablespoon adobo sauce
  • 8 ounces sharp white cheddar cheese shredded
  • 2 ounces blue cheese or goat cheese crumbled
  • Chopped green onions, or try chives for a less intense onion flavour, and chopped cilantro for garnish
  • Salt and pepper to taste
  1. Toss the shrimp with the olive oil, seasoning, brown sugar, chipotle chile and adobo sauce in a bowl. Let it sit for a 30 minutes in the fridge.
  2. Sear the shrimp in a medium hot pan for 3 minutes per side. NO MORE as they will continue to cook on the pizza.
  3. Get out your prepared dough and spread your favourite base sauce on the pizza. Adding a little of the cajun seasoning to your sauce, will bring it all together.
  4. Spread a layer of cheddar cheese, then your shrimp, then a little more cheese.
  5. Bake in your oven until the cheese is melted and gooey and garnish with the onions / chives, cilantro and blue / goat cheese.
  6. EAT!

Now that you’re set to enjoy your backyard oasis, enjoy every moment you can: Canadian Spring and Summer is fleeting!

Permeable Pavers

Permeable pavers are interlocking pavers that have joints between them that are filled with small stones. Because of the space in the joints between the interlocking pavers, water enters this space and flows through to a base of crushed stone layers and then into the soil below. As a result the stones in the joints, this provides 100% surface permeability and reduces storm water and filters out pollutants.

The Future of Interlocking Pavers

Last year on July 8th, 2014, we all felt the after effects of one of the biggest rain storms to hit the Greater Toronto Area. With reports of major streets completely underwater and even a major rescue operation on the GO train, storm water has become an issue as a result of all the impervious surfaces that have been created to handle ever increasing volume of vehicular traffic. As a result, this has impacted stream bank erosion, flooding and polluting of streams, lakes and rivers which also affects our source of drinking water. It should come as no surprise that cities are now looking for cost effective storm water management solutions. Permeable pavements are what cities around the world are looking at now and beyond to help combat storm water runoff. It is also something that homeowners should be considering as well to help contribute to the reduction of harmful and potentially devastating effects of storm water on our environment.

It’s “Green” = More $$$?

The cost of installing permeable pavers is comparable to the installation of standard interlocking pavers. At Toemar, we have a product called Moderna and it can be configured in a specific pattern so that it is permeable while creating the high end look of regular square-cut flagstone. In addition, the base created for permeable pavers is essentially identical with the exception of using more pervious base such as ¾ clear stone and high performance bedding (HPB) which will allow a flow through of the water into the soil base.

Check out this video on Moderna’s permeable capabilities starting at 1:48.

How does it look?

Depending on what your needs are and your taste, you can setup your permeable pavers in many different configurations for your driveway and/or walkway. You can set it up so that it looks just like a standard interlocking paver driveway or you can “green it up” as part of the natural look. Check out some samples of what people have done:

permeable-paver-designs

Other Benefits of Permeable Pavers

In addition to diverting water from storm sewers which goes into stream, permeable pavers can also reduce something called “heat island effect”. This effect is caused by the buildup of heat in and around cities, towns, and structures. Asphalt and concrete absorb sunlight and convert it to heat and that is why when you walk on your driveway or a mall parking lot it feels that much warmer.
Lastly, by retaining water on your property you not only water the plants but also return water to the water table on your property.

Feel free to reach out to us should you have any more questions by commenting below or contacting us phone or email.

Flagstone – How to Buy for Patios, Walkways and Driveways

Buying flagstone may seem like a daunting task to the everyday homeowner, but it doesn’t have to be. You just need to understand some basics and you can have a good grasp of what your potential dream flagstone patio, walkways or driveway may cost you.

Here are some things you should know:

How is it sold?

Flagstone is typically sold by the weight, specifically either in lbs or tonnes. The reason it is sold by weight is because of how it is sold by the quarries and because of the irregular shape of each piece of flagstone.

How do I measure or figure out how much I need?

There is an industry standard that everyone goes by to determine the amount of flagstone one needs to purchase. For every 100 square feet of coverage, you will need approximately 1 tonne or 2000 pounds of flagstone that is between 1″ to 1.5″ thickness with spacing between each flagstone around 1/2″ to 1″ wide gap.

What varieties are available of flagstone?

Slate, limestone, and sandstone are just a few varieties of flagstone that are available in the market today. In Ontario, the most common type of flagstone available is called Wiarton since the quarries are located in Southern Ontario. Wiarton is a form of limestone that comes in various colors. However, the most common color range is from light grey to charcoal grey.

What thickness should I use?

Flagstone thickness ranges from 3/4″ up to 3″ and possibly even more. The most common thickness from 1″ to 1.5″ thickness. This flagstone thickness is good for paved concrete surfaces. The reason for a thinner flagstone is because of there little chance the flagstone would be affected by winter on a concrete pad. For surfaces where the base is gravel, you would want to purchase flagstone that is at least 2″ to 3″ thick. The reason for this thickness is that the weight and the thickness of the flagstone will to help counteract heaving during the freeze thaw cycle that happens each year and minimize any potential for cracking that may occur.

What are the jointing materials that I need to finish the flagstone project?

As it was mentioned earlier, there are different types of jointing materials that can be used. If your flagstone base is a concrete platform/pad, then you should use cement or other types of mortar. If you have a gravel base, then you should use sand (fine or coarse), pea gravel, or even polymeric sand (wide joint variety) as a mortar. The sand or pea gravel is a more forgiving and will not show cracks should the flagstone have movement after the freeze-thaw cycle of winter.