Great Ponds & Gardens

Garden landscape design and construction tips

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Splish splash, water in the garden

Water featureBig or small, a water feature works hard to refresh the senses. In landscape design, a water feature can include fountains, pools, hot tubs, ponds, waterfalls, and streams. Water gardens, aquatic gardens, and backyard ponds will transform your outdoor living space into a beautiful paradise to relax, unwind, and enjoy quality time with family and friends.

Spools – swim spa or compact pool?
Think your yard’s too small for a pool? Think again. Pool builders have created a new line of smaller, feature rich pools to address the trend for compactness and simplicity. A spool is much smaller than an in-ground swimming pool, but at least twice the length of the average spa. Built like a conventional pool, owners can select from a variety of finishes and accessories. A spool also comes with strong jets that create a swirling current against which to swim, ideal for exercise.
On the plus side a smaller pool means more space for other things in your backyard and is easier to integrate into an overall design. Lower construction costs leave extra money to account for premium deck and coping work, a gazebo or pergola, or even more elaborate landscaping to create your ideal outdoor space.

Is a spool right for you? The top reasons for choosing a spool include:

  1. You’re tight on space: a spool doesn’t take up loads of space. Even if you have a good-sized yard, you may not want to dedicate the space required for an in-ground swimming pool and deck
  2. Cost: you want to enjoy the benefits of a pool and a spa, but can’t afford both
  3. Versatility: a spool can be kept cool for swimming or warmed up and used with the jets for therapy
  4. A spool can be used year-round
  5. When not in use, a well-designed spool can look like an appealing water feature in a yard


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Time to refresh your patio?

In this patio refresh, several dwarf varieties provide color, texture and layers to the space surrounding a new water feature. Plantings from front to back: Golden Nugget Japanese Barberry – compact, slow growing border hedge that does well in sun; Shrub Rose; Dwarf Golden Threadleaf False Cypress; the Purpleleaf Sand Cherry (Standard) which has purple foliage all season and fragrant flowers in May; Maiden Grass (Miscanthus sinensis “Gracillimus”); Pine Topiary; and Anthony Waters Spirea

Quick updates to your patio
The quickest way to update your patio is with accessories. Like your home, a new tablecloth, pillows and/or can brighten up your space quickly and cost effectively. Or just bring some of your inside comforts to the outdoors. If you’re up for something bigger, a landscape contractor can help you incorporate water and/or features, freshen up overgrown foliage, and much more.

Ideas to get the most out of patio entertaining

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No sun, no problem

hostaPlanting for the Shade
What to do in your shady areas can be a challenge even for the most experienced gardener. Fortunately there are many shrubs, trees and perennials that will thrive in shady conditions. One of my favorites is the Hosta. Layered against garden accents, water features or amongst other shade-loving plants, the Hosta adds texture to your surround. As a general rule, gold and yellow varieties produce their best colour in slightly more sun. Blue varieties produce their most intense colour when grown in dappled shade. The top five Hostas include: Sagae, Sum and Substance, Great Expectations, Patriot, and Pauls Glory.

Your August Garden checklist

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Consider Fido in Your Garden Design


There’s a lot of interest these days in creating landscapes that are also functional for pets.
The first thing to consider is always safety, then comfort. Consider,

  1. pool and pond safety – be sure to teach your pet to swim and exit pool, enclose your pool area and use a pet-friendly cover;
  2. fencing and gates that are high and low enough to avoid escape;
  3. using pet-friendly materials: fertilizers, weed control and mulches (horticultural vinegar is a great way to remove weeds) and NEVER ever use cocoa shell mulch; and
  4. supervising small pets particularly in rural areas (to avoid run ins with local wildlife)

Your pampered pooch may also enjoy outdoor furniture designed for them, a heated/air conditioned dog-house or a doggy cabana with all the amenities. Cat cages allow cats to play outside within a safe and confined space.  See for yourself

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Tips for selecting a contractor for your garden landscape needs

Is it time for a garden touch up or perhaps, a complete overhaul? There are many advantages to turning over your footprint to a landscape expert. Before you do, here are six tips:

Landscape Contractor Checklist

  1. Do you know what you want? Like a carefully planned kitchen, it’s important to understand the functionality and look you expect from your garden; and are great resources to see what’s possible and to create your outdoor “ideabook”; a well-designed garden landscape will incorporate your expectations for functionality, colour and texture; the successful landscape contractor should spend a lot of time asking questions and listening to your needs before presenting solutions
  2. Hire locally – a resource in your area, like for Oakville and Halton, saves time and money by reducing transportation time
  3. Beware of startups – hire a credible, experienced contractor that has referrals and repeat business; your contractor should be knowledgeable about techniques, grading requirements, resources, local bylaws, local issues (such as dealing with clay soil in Oakville and southern Ontario) and plant species appropriate for your area
  4. Inspect previous landscaping work – specifically installations that are a few years old so you can see the quality of workmanship and how it stands up to our Southern Ontario temperatures
  5. Timing – you may have to wait to get the best landscape contractor for your needs; be sure to start early so you don’t have to compromise and to allow for ordering of special materials
  6. Respect the environment – ask about the landscape contractor’s disposal procedures to ensure they follow local bylaws