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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!

4 Useful Tips for Pool Landscaping – More than just a fence

Pool Landscaping is more than just a pool and a fence!

You want the area around your pool to be clean and safe, but there’s no reason why it has to look unpleasant.

An inground pool is THE focal point in a yard, so the surrounding features should enhance it and blend beautifully.

If you’re thinking about putting in a pool this spring, think ahead not just to the pool itself but on the landscaping / hardscaping that will surround it, so that you can include it in the budget.

Consider Your Space

This is the kind of landscape project that benefits from a drawn design—so you can get a sense of scale and how the project will look when it’s completed.

  • A good design will draw from your home and the existing landscape. Do you have a preference for clean lines or are you into very ornate styles? The design style in your home should extend to the outside area, so that it creates a seamless flow.
  • Do you have colour schemes that you prefer? A lot of natural greens, browns and shades of stone? Or do you prefer strong, vibrant florals? Contrast is ideal so if you’ve got a deep blue pool, keep the stonework lighter, or vice versa.
  • The pool already requires some level of maintenance so you have to consider how much time you want to spend dealing with the landscape that surrounds it, particularly during prime swimming months. Focus on plants, trees and layouts that suit the level of time commitment you want to make.
  • Look at the grading of the ground around your pool, if it is already in place, or if you’re planning one, make sure that drainage has been factored into the design. (More on this later!)

Walkways Around The Pool

There are so many options: Cement, interlocking pavers, flagstone or stone tiling, to name a few. The pavers are a superb way to create pathways to and around the pool and a pool deck, allowing space for sunbathing or sitting poolside with a cocktail in hand. Durable and easy to install, pavers don’t require mortar, so they make an economical option too. Different colours and shapes are available, which allow you to design a pool area that matches your style.

A very popular design style is to use pavers or interlocking stone on the walkways and pool deck and then switch to natural rock and boulders, intermixed with small evergreens, tall grasses and mulch or decorative stone. It’s a clean and easy to maintain look.

Landscaping Around The Pool

If you’re planning on having trees near your pool, you need to consider those that will not have a far reaching root structure.

Look to species that will not ‘shed’ a lot of leaves and branches into the pool (and consequently, the pool filtration system!) Some people choose to have trees to create some shade for part of the day, or even as a windbreak, depending on your land’s elevation and how much wind flow your backyard is subjected to. Evergreens are a good option for both aesthetics—that oh so Canadian look and feel—and ease of maintenance.

For flowers and plants that are placed close to the pool, consider garden containers. Flower beds are lovely but unless you have set the pool on an incline and the flower beds on the downstream side, a heavy rainstorm could leave you with mud draining directly into the pool. You can, of course, line your walkways with a small edge, which will keep the flowerbeds close but still protect the pool. Make sure these drainage considerations are part of your design plan, from the beginning!

The types of trees, flowers and plants that you choose should be consistent with your hardiness zone and the look you are trying to achieve. It may be that a tropical paradise is your heart’s desire, 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. Ideally, your floral landscape will consist of a variety of plants that will bloom throughout the ‘swimming season’, to ensure a pleasing aesthetic.

One advantage of adding green plants, grasses and bushes near to the pool area is that it gives the impression of the pool being an integrated, natural part of the space; more like a chlorinated (or salt water!) pond, than a pool.

Other Accessories

Lighting around the pool area, accenting certain trees, ornamental grasses or the walkway around it make all the difference come nightfall, in terms of the look of your garden. It also ensures the safety of anyone venturing out after dark.

And don’t forget the patio furniture! Because what’s a pool if you can’t luxuriate beside it on a comfortable chaise longue or under the wide shade of a beautiful umbrella?

With all these tips in mind, you can get to planning the ideal pool escape to enjoy for years to come. Got questions, call us today for some friendly landscaping advice.

Outdoor Projects: Hiring Qualified People Is A Must

You’re not sure whether you need a gardener or a landscaper or perhaps an arborist, for an outdoor project that you’re planning? This post will walk you through the ins and outs of each role so you can make the right choice.

In the not so distant past, if you wanted to do some work to the garden or exterior of your home that was a little bit beyond your DIY skills or just something you didn’t want to take on personally, you would call up your local ‘handyman’ contractor to take up the project. But here’s the thing: hiring a generalist for a specific project is not usually a good bet. They just don’t have the background or skills to do it right the first time. This can lead to significant downstream costs if the project needs to be repaired or re-done at a later date.

The roles of gardener, landscaper / hardscaper and arborist are actually quite different and each one is suited to very specific tasks; a well trained professional will be knowledgeable and experienced, leaving you with project results that will last. No one is an expert in everything, particularly where bylaws and regulations are concerned, so you’re always best to pick the professional, based on your needs and their training, expertise and knowledge.

What Does A Gardener Do?

A gardener is adept at planting new flowers, trees and shrubs—provided you have a plan for the design of your garden (see the landscaper role, below!)—watering, feeding, fertilizing, mulching, composting, grass cutting, hedge trimming and the like. If it involves the care and maintenance of your outdoor space, a gardener is the right person for the job. They can help you to maintain a beautiful, healthy lawn and garden throughout the seasons and prepare your garden for the winter season, including protecting sensitive plants and shrubs, raking leaves, trimming or pruning and the like.

What Does A Landscaper / Hardscaper Do?

Landscapers / hardscapers also do most gardening tasks and most landscaping companies are happy to provide you with a maintenance package for your garden, but their true talents lie in designing a garden that works for you, taking into account where you live and what plants, trees and shrubs are best suited to your climate zone, the uses of your garden, and other considerations.

If you want water features, ponds or if you have drainage issues around your home, a landscaper / hardscaper can fix these with contouring, grading and leveling of the ground and the addition of additional drainage, where necessary.

Hardscaping, which includes things like walkways, driveways, paved areas, solid water features and stairs, is done with the impermeable materials. Never hire anyone other than a qualified hardscaper to build a retaining wall or a landscaper to design the physical layout of your garden unless you really love spring floods seeping through your or your neighbour’s foundation because you’ve interrupted the run-off pattern. Without adequately planned drainage, you can find yourself with not only flooding but foundation issues, soil erosion, plant / shrub drowning, wood rot on porches and decks, pest infiltration and even sinkholes!

What Does An Arborist Do?

The technical definition is that an arborist is someone who is a professional in arboriculture: in the management and study of trees. The term trees, in this case, includes shrubs, vines and other wood perennials. An arborist is focused on individual or small groups of trees, rather than forests—which are managed through forestry and silviculture.

Arborists are knowledgeable in all things about the trees: different pests, infestations, signs of ageing and decay in a tree, best pruning methods, planting distances and so on. They should also be knowledgeable on the local bylaws in the areas within which they practice. For example, planting distances to power lines, regulations concerning the pruning or removal of trees, or the protection of trees in a construction zone. Most municipalities are very strict in the management of trees, so before you consider planting or pruning a tree on your property, make sure that your arborist is up to date on the laws.

Is There Such A Thing As An All-In One Professional?

If you’re still wondering why you wouldn’t just hire an all round landscape company to do a bit of everything or ask your arborist to trim the hedges a little while they’re dealing with an ageing tree, the reason is quite simply that it’s a waste of their time and your money. Hiring an arborist to do a little gardening is something like hiring a hazmat team to sweep your kitchen floor. A little bit of overkill, don’t you think?

In Summary:

Do you need your garden maintained, hedges trimmed, lawn fertilized, weeding and other similar tasks? You need a gardener.

Do you want a risk assessment done on a damaged / ageing tree, tree removal or the trimming of trees, including knowledge about the local bylaws on this topic? You need an arborist.

Do you want to build a retaining wall in your garden, install interlocking stone / brick, figure out drainage or ground leveling or design a garden from scratch? You need a landscaper /hardscaper.

With these roles in mind, think about the projects that you want to undertake in the next year and ask for referrals from your local garden centre and always check their references!

Gearing for Streetscape Mississauga 2013

April showers bring May flowers. Yes, it is that time of year that gardens wake up seemingly overnight from their winter slumber and transform into lush green and colourful landscapes.

Do you have a garden that you always thought was worthy of a magazine cover? Well now you have the chance. Streetscape Mississauga is a city-wide, summer- long garden and beautification contest that features entries from both residential and small business. Established by the city together with Mississauga’s four horticultural societies to encourage beautification and conservation, to showcase and raise awareness of innovative garden styles, and to celebrate the creativity of the residents of Mississauga.

But what if I’m a beginner? How can I compete with experienced gardeners?

All are welcome to participate – from novice to seasoned gardeners. Many past winners have been beginners and the judges are looking all types of gardens from traditional to alternative. Entries will be judged on visual appeal, design, general maintenance and originality.

Not only are bragging rights on the line, but prizes including gift cards, one year’s membership to one of the city’s horticultural societies and a commemorative plaque!

Throughout the month of July, specially trained volunteers from the horticultural societies will make their rounds to judge every entry. So make sure your space is in tip-top shape!

Gardening is about experiencing the outdoors and turning your passion into something creative and beautiful.  Try your hand at it and see what comes up! And remember to have fun!

For more information on dates, judging classes, contest rules and tips – visit the Mississauga Streetscape website or call: 311

Mississauga Location of Services – Call Before you DIG!

location-services.jpgDue to the wonderful weather we have been having recently, people are beginning to tackle their outdoor garden or landscape projects sooner rather than later.

At Toemar, we highly recommend that before you begin to dig up your property, it is important to pinpoint all the services (e.g. gas, electrical, sewer, cable, telephone, water, and irrigation) located around your landscaped residential property. By taking this precaution, your project will not run into unexpected surprises and possibly very expensive repairs.In Ontario, you can take advantage of the FREE ‘Locate Services’ program. It is a smart way to be assured that your project is safe – both physically and legally. You can book this service online at ON1CALL or call them at 1-800-400-2255

 

 

 

 

 

 

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