Landscape Essentials

People always ask me when I visit a garden whether I like it or not and my answer is “do you like it” because that is what ultimately matters.  You must live with your choices and design so make sure that it is to your tastes and requirements not someone else’s.

Here are 3 simple things to remember when planning a garden:


Patio BeginningsThe basic layout and “bones” of the garden include topography, major structures, architectural features and accessories. 

Think carefully as to what the yard will be used for and how things will flow.  The concept of garden rooms is a popular one these days as many are looking to expand their living areas outdoors for entertaining or just relaxing. 

So keep in mind where these areas are to be situated, you do not want your outdoor kitchen to be too far or awkwardly accessible from the house or your main entertaining area.  The garden should also be aesthetically pleasing with proper flow and good balance. 

Major features should be situated so as not to look “out-of-place”, everything should harmonize and flow nicely, so select your materials accordingly.  All major features and structures should be set in place first before any plantings.  This gives you time to assess the garden and get a feel as to its flow.  Then the real fun can begin- planting!


When the major features have been set in place it is time to plant your yard and as with other permanent elements some plants become part of the bones of the garden, these include trees, large conifers and shrubs.  Take care when placing these long-lived elements as they form a foundation for companion plantings and grow to become focal points and compliments to the hardscaping. 

Sitting AreaBe aware of views and vantage points and avoid placing trees or shrubs that will eventually obscure them.  Learn about your plants so that you can determine eventual size and properly place them in conjunction with your other features.  You do not want your feature tree to be so close to a foundation, etc that it becomes a problem down the road and needs to be removed.  Plan well in advance and avoid losing many years of development down the road.

Be adventurous with the use of foliage colour, green-on-green-on-green can get rather boring and here on the west coast we are green year round so spice it up with a bit of colour.  There is such a variety of material available in many different colour combinations and textures that there should be something for everyone.

Variegation can add interest and a punch of colour against a green backdrop and helps to brighten dull areas, yellows add a splash of sunshine directly in the garden.  As with anything plant in moderation and use colour to draw they eye down a path or to a focal point, play with colour to either compliment or contrast as to your tastes. 

Container ColourAs I tell people design with foliage first, play with texture and colour combinations.  Flowers are the icing on the cake and should not take first priority when designing a planting scheme.  Many flowering plants only have a very small window when they are at their peak and then you are left with the remnants so make sure your plantings are attractive and pleasing without any flowers.  Not to say that flowers are not important but do not rely on them as a main structural element… just a bonus!

Finally make sure your garden has some interest year-round, as a general rule you should have about 1/3 of the planting in evergreens (conifers or broadleaf).  This gives structure in the garden at all times of the year.  It is not very attractive to look at bare earth or stems for several months at a time.  Perennials, small shrubs and groundcovers round it all off and offer variety and diversity through the year.



Have Fun Finally have some fun and experiment, don’t be shy or afraid to mix it up a bit, create some interesting planters, change colour schemes try different annuals each year, throw in some veggies.  The choice is up to you but the possibilities are endless.  You are only limited by your imagination and creativity and remember a garden is not finished with the placement of the last stone that is just the beginning.

Tip:  If you need help do not be afraid to ask, the staff at Art's Nursery are a wealth of information, offering professional advice on plant selection and design and can offer recommendations for qualified landscape designers and contractors. 

Landscape Services

Art's Nursery offers a full suite of garden and landscape design services including in-store horticultural assistance, to garden design all the way to on-site installation. Call 604.882.1201 for more information

Lyle Courtice Lyle Courtice, A.H.
 Lyle is a certified Horticultural Technician (Niagara College), Landscape Designer, Nurseryman and the proprietor of HarkAway Botanicals.
Since 1980 Lyle has worked in both the retail and wholesale sectors of the horticultural trade; he operates his own wholesale nursery, which focuses on an eclectic mix of rare and choice plant material from Asia, Europe and North America.
Lyle has appeared on The Canadian Gardener and is a contributing author to A Grower’s Choice (Raincoast books 2001).  His horticultural expertise makes him sought after as a consultant, lecturer, photographer, instructor and writer.  An industry veteran, Lyle is esteemed within the horticultural community for his passionate and often humorous enthusiasm for plants.
Author: Lyle Courtice Source: HarkAway Botanicals


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8940 192nd Street,
Surrey, BC, Canada,
V4N 3W8

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