A well designed and kept yard has many benefits. Not only does it increase curb appeal or attract potential buyers if you’re wanting to sell your home, it also makes your home and yard more aesthetically pleasing and enjoyable. These tips from the best landscapers in Edmonton will help you achieve the yard of your dreams.
Learn about your plants, shrubs, and trees – seriously. The information tags on the plant at the time of purchase are a great starting point, but a flourishing yard usually requires a little more academic investment on your part.
Learning the basics about your plants and their needs can make the difference between having a yard bursting with growth, and a plot of land that is a struggle to keep alive. For new additions (plants, shrubs, and trees that you purchase and plant in your yard) the research is made much more simple by the fact that you have the tags and know the genus and species. From there the internet can do most of the heavy lifting in terms of information gathering, although the library has many wonderful resources if you prefer physical books or you can contact one of Edmonton’s best landscapers for professional advice.
For plants pre-existing in your yard, the internet can be a good resource too if you know roughly what you’re looking for. If not, a very safe bet is to take a clipping of the plant into your local nursery or greenhouse. They normally employ master gardeners and horticulturalists who will be able to help you identify your plants and how to best go about caring for them. Don’t be afraid to get to know your local nursery or greenhouse, as they are a wealth of information about plant care and maintenance. Some facilities even offer information sessions and classes on different gardening topics throughout the year, and information for signing up can be found on their websites or in stores.
Know Your Zone
The most important thing to know when choosing plants for your yard, and subsequently, when caring for them, is the zone in which you live. For us in Alberta, it’s a real range, as we have Boreal Forest nearing Arctic Tundra in the North, grasslands central and east, Alpine and Aspen Forests and mountains to the west, and a cool Desert and grasslands in the south. In and around Edmonton, we are Zone 3b, with 3a slightly to the North, and a small pocket of 4a to the west of the city.
This is very important to keep in mind when choosing selections for your yard, as some greenhouses and nurseries sell exotics that are outside of our range. It is possible to grow outside of our range, particularly with plants meant for higher latitudes or cooler climes (ie. Zone 2a, 2b), however lower latitude zones such as 4 or 5 can be more difficult to keep alive through the winter, and will almost certainly require more care during the growing season as well.
However, as with all rules, they can be bent and sometimes broken. Knowledgeable nursery staff should be able to assist you in making selections based on the sunlight and directional exposure of your yard, your gardening abilities, and the time you are willing to commit.
Plant Selections for Year-Round Beauty
Beautiful plants can be selected for their looks all year round. We are very lucky here in Alberta to have so many native plant species that are beautiful throughout the year. Dogwoods are a particularly lovely genus that come in many size and colour combinations and varieties. Many of these beauties are showy in summer with soft, medium to large almond-shaped leaves in variegated or solid colours depending on your preference. Several varieties have beautiful red or white berries that can help you if you aim to attract birds to the yard. Not only do many of them put on a spectacular show in the fall with pops of gold, orange, red, or burgundy, but many varieties also have brilliant red stalks that provide stunning contrast to the white of winter snow. These plants grow very well in our zone and require relatively simple maintenance, with one or two prunings per year to keep them healthy.
The right evergreen can be a great addition! Some people get nervous or can be particular about which evergreens to grow in their yard. Once again, we have won the native species lottery in Alberta, with a vast array of beautiful and hardy evergreens from which to choose.
The one species that may present a challenge is cedars, as they are hardier in zones 4-8. One key to successfully growing cedars is to make sure they receive enough water. Unlike junipers and pines that can tolerate drier conditions, cedars grow best in more moist climates, and can be seen thriving in areas such as interior, mainland, and coastal BC. They also may require a little more TLC in the winter, particularly if they are exposed facing North or West without a buffer such as your house, a fence, or shed for protection from the wind and other elements. Piling on lots of snow around the base in winter is great for them to keep them both insulated and hydrated.
Junipers are an excellent option for evergreens in the yard. They are a beautiful addition and are a very hardy and easy to maintain. The many species of Juniper have very unique textures and add a dash of variety and year round colour to an otherwise drab yard. These conifers grow quickly and can be used as an excellent filler in large spaces or areas that need a contrast for colour and texture.
It is generally best, as with all selections, to research the varieties you are considering planting before purchase. Be aware of the height and spread, and know the sunlight, watering, and care needs of the plants before you make up your mind. It may even be a good idea to measure out and mark where the plants you intend to select will go so that you allocate the proper amount of space. If you’re not sure which to choose, contact one of these landscapers in Edmonton for some guidance.
More excellent selections for year-round interest are perennial grasses. Once again, most species are drought and extreme weather tolerant, and do very well in our zone. The foliage or “flowers” are the seed heads that grow from the tips of the stalks, and appear early to mid-summer in most species. The seed heads slowly evolve throughout the season, changing colour and texture, and filling out until the fall when they change once more. Some of the seed heads change colour in summer and become a different, more contrasting colour before adopting their creamy-tan colour that will remain through the winter. For example, Karl Foerster Reed Grass has foliage that begins green in the spring, and transitions to a rosy-purple colour in mid-summer before its final change for winter. In late fall (depending on weather and temperatures), they will transition to the colour that they will stay for the remainder of the winter (usually a lovely creamy tan-yellow).
One great benefit to grasses is that they keep the same texture throughout the winter, where many other plants lose their foliage or are covered up by snowfall. Taller grasses that stay above the snow are particularly wonderful for some winter flair, as they still respond and sway in the wind and provide a nice colour and texture partnership with the winter snow. A very popular selection is the Karl Foerster Reed Grass, and this can be seen in many yards across the province. It is tall (usually growing 4-6 feet tall), does not spread wider than 2-3 feet, and has a very appealing pillar-like growth habit that contrasts well with more traditionally shaped perennials and shrubs.
A few other very interesting (and lesser known) grass selections are described as follows on the Millcreek Nursery website:
Flame Grass features bold plumes of coral-pink flowers rising above the foliage in late summer. It’s grassy leaves are green in colour. As an added bonus, the foliage turns a gorgeous coppery-bronze in the fall. The silver seed heads are carried on showy plumes displayed in abundance from early fall right through to late winter. The brick red stems are very effective and add winter interest.
Moorflame Moor Grass’s leaves emerge chartreuse in spring, turning green in colour. As an added bonus, the foliage turns a gorgeous coppery-bronze in the fall. It features dainty spikes of tan flowers rising above the foliage from mid to late summer. The coppery-bronze seed heads are carried on showy plumes displayed in abundance from early to late fall. Moorflame Moor Grass is an open herbaceous ornamental grass with a mounded form. It brings an extremely fine and delicate texture to the garden composition and should be used to full effect.
To conclude, the best way to be pleased about your yard is to begin with research! Through research you will be able to figure out first of all, what you love, and second but of equal importance, what will work in your yard and hardiness zone. I may love Coconut Palm trees, but something tells me they just wouldn’t be fans of the weather here. To avoid disaster and ensure success, find plants that grow well here and decide the extent of your commitment to caring for your outdoor space.
A beautiful yard in all seasons is within reach of any budget, and any level of experience. Having a green thumb is not something you’re born with. It comes through trial and error, learning from your mistakes and the advice of experts, and having fun with your gardening! Oh yes, and one other thing… you guessed it, RESEARCH!
Have a blast in the dirt!
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