Finding Zen in the backyard

Zen garden

The backyard isn’t just an ordinary plot of land. With just a little work and imagination it can be the homeowner’s portal to their favourite place in the world.

Whether it’s a small lot at the back of a townhome, or an expansive space of an estate home, the backyard can be shaped into something more than it is. It can be a Japanese Zen Garden; a serene, desert oasis; a gurgling stream; a meditative grotto; or a spot primed to entertain residents and their guests.

Landscaping is key in this pursuit. No matter how small the yard is, there are crafty ways to make the most out of your private outdoor space and make it truly your own.

Karlee Walters, Landscape Designer and Project Coordinator at Edmonton-based HML Landscape, Construction & Maintenance, tells R+D that landscaping is key to enjoying our own private outdoor space at home.

“Not only does landscaping increase the value of your home it also increases the amount of living space on your property. A well landscaped yard can provide another entertaining space, playroom, or even kitchen to your home,” she says.

A common misconception is that landscaping involves just yard maintenance. It goes far more than that, Walters says, and can include the designing and construction of water features, stone patios, and walkways, and putting up decks, fences and pergolas, and retaining walls.

Where to start

It can be a bit intimidating to look at an overgrown, weed-infested backyard and not see the potential for beauty. But Walters says it all begins with a vision.

“We always tell people the best place to start is with a plan. Even if it takes 10 years to complete your dream yard you at least know where your headed and will avoid having to re-work sections of your yard to no longer fit as your tastes change,” she tells R+D.

“When planning your front yard always pay attention to where you are going to pile snow. Maintenance products like salt and ice melt can damage your lawn if it in the snow being piled along the driveway or street,” she cautions.

“Always think about how your lawn mower will move in your yard. If you are incorporating a lot of planting beds or trees always make sure they are in beds with an edge easy to run the lawn lower over to avoid needing additional trimming. Make sure you are not creating pinch points that the lawn lower can’t get into. Set your lawn up for the easiest maintenance possible.”

Aim for use

She adds that – no matter if it’s the smaller backyard or a townhome or the grand spaciousness of an acreage - getting the most of the private outdoor space is planning how it will be used.

“Always think about how your family is going to use the space. Do you entertain a lot, do your kids want to play soccer in the backyard, do you have a dog? All these things are necessary to determine the flow and function of your yard,” she says.

“When mapping out your backyard you always want to think about function first. Once you have determined how your yard will function you can start to work on how it will flow. How will the entertaining space interact with the play space, or how will the dog run access link to the patio doors? No matter what size your yard is you always want to make sure you are maximizing every corner of it making it a space you want to spend a lot of time in.”

Landscape trends

HML has been working on landscaping in the St. Albert and Edmonton area for years and are attuned to the unique needs of the land – from its tricky weather patterns to soil composition, all of which can affect how the backyard turns out.

“Our landscape designers work with you every step of the way to help you get the most out of your property investment. We draft your vision in 2D and 3D perspectives, effectively presenting a design to suite your lifestyle, purpose and vision.”

She says that, as far as using the backyard for entertainment goes, they always recommend the use of a paving stone patio.

“Decks are great, but they typically elevate you a couple feet off the ground making you even more exposed to your neighbors. Building a small landing off the back of your house that will lead you down to a ground level patio brings your entertainment space below the fence line so your 6’ fence acts more as a privacy screen.”

As for design trends, Walters says bringing light to the subject is important.

“Lighting, lighting, lighting. We live in a climate that only allows us to enjoy our backyard half the year. Adding landscape lighting will enhance your yard and allow you to enjoy it from inside your home. It really helps tie your backyard into the rest of your house and makes your living spaces appear larger.”

HML has also noticed a rise in the number of raised garden beds. “More and more people want to be able to grow some food at home but the thought of taking care of a large garden can be daunting. A raised garden bed makes maintenance way easier and gives and overall cleaner look to a garden space in a small backyard.

Pepper Rodriguez, Editor Calgary/Edmonton
Pepper Rodriguez, Editor Calgary/Edmonton
A Reno + Decor Influencer
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