All posts by Rebecca Keillor

The Home Front: Sorting out the patio for spring

Bar cart from HomeSense used to arrange plants at different height levels, which creates dimension and scale.

Mid-March is usually the time of year when people start taking a good hard look at their patios and balconies and dreaming up the possibilities for the months ahead. Being honest about what worked last spring, summer and fall, in terms of potted plants, furnishings and decor is usually a good place to start, says landscape designer Janis Matson, of Shoreline Landscape Design .

“I always start with a clean up and reorganization. Decide what looks good. Are there any stains or cracks to repair? Think about the design, do I want a little more privacy? Do I keep this umbrella? Do I even need this umbrella?” says Matson.

 Patio design by hardscape specialists Belgard.

Often at this time of the year Matson says she finds herself drifting into HomeSense and Winners to see if they have any “fun gardening stuff” like table centrepieces, beautiful bowls or character pieces like obelisks .

A common mistake people often make with their patios and balconies, says Matson, is lining up all their potted plants around the edge, like a border.

“It makes spaces feel smaller,” she says.

 Choosing wide shallow pots for permanent planting is the way to go says landscape designer Janis Matson.

From a planting perspective, you want some movement and air circulation around your pots, she says, so shoving them up against glass railings, fence lines or partitions  is the worst thing you can do for them.

From a visual perspective, she says, it makes the area feel boxed in, so you’re far better off creating some dimension and scale in this space by placing pots at different heights, and this clustered effect more closely resembles nature.

“Pick up a cheap little table that you like and put one of the containers on it, so it’s maybe two feet off the ground, and then you can put another bigger one on the ground beside it and a little one on the right hand side,” she says.

A lot of people try and screen off their patios, says Matson, to avoid looking at construction or busy streets, but there is a better way to do this that doesn’t involve a physical block, says Matson, and that’s by creating something visually appealing on your patio, which draws the eye to it and away from whatever you’re not wanting to look at.

 Floral photography by landscape designer Janis Matson, who says people definitely have “itchy fingers” at this time of the year, and are keen to begin planting.

“When I walk out onto a patio I consider: What’s my first view? Where’s my light coming from? Where am I naturally looking? Where would I rather look?” she says.

A beautiful hanging trellis, or an architectural piece can work wonders, she says.

One tip Matson always shares with her clients, she says, is make sure you choose a wide enough pot for permanent planting (for seasonal plants it doesn’t matter so much).

“A permanent container needs to be a minimum of 18 inches wide, because in containers — when we have these wicked winters that freeze the daylights out of us — soil is the key to root establishment, so the more volume we can have the more root establishment,” she says.

Typically plants only want about eight inches of depth, she says, so the “massive rectangular or square containers” (think tall and lean) that look great and are currently very popular are not the best for permanent planting, she says.

“Plants will never use the bottom two feet so go for shallow and wider,” says Matson.

Something people should also consider, she says, if using heavy pots on their patios, is the weight restrictions of their patios or balconies.

“Patios are engineered for a certain amount of weight, and if you put a very large ceramic container full of soil and plant you’re probably looking at 300 pounds for that one plant,” she says.

If your patio or balcony has part shade, some great options for plants in pots are: Hostas, Hakonechloa grass, Geranium macrorrhizum, Helleborus orientalis, Japanese maples – acer palmatum and Full moon maples, says Matson. And if you have a sunny patio or balcony, she recommends: Dwarf hinoki cypress, Blue star juniper, Munstead lavender, Oregano, Moonbeam coreopsis, May night salvia, Autumn joy sedum, Blueberries, Alpine strawberries and veggies.

“Blueberries do quite well in containers and there’s some really nice alpine strawberries,” she says.

Related

The Home Front: Now’s the time to start planning for spring planting

Master gardener Stephanie Rose, author of blog Garden Therapy and new book out Garden Alchemy.

We often hear about the therapeutic benefits of gardening . That it gets you outdoors, into the fresh air, is meditative in practice, physical in nature and rewarding when you reap what you sow. Master gardener Stephanie Rose, author of blog Garden Therapy and her just released book Garden Alchemy goes one step further. Gardening saved her life, she says.

In 2006, Rose says she was struck with a debilitative illness that left her bedridden for over a year, with paralysis in her arms and legs. When she regained some movement she began reading books on gardening, borrowed from her local library, and contemplating her East Vancouver backyard.

 Herb planter

“I went outside and sat and looked at the plants, and looked at the soil and thought I’m going to recover out here,” she says.

Five minutes of gardening a week turned into five minutes a day and when she finally recovered from her illness — which took years — Rose says she realized she didn’t want to stop gardening or writing about it. She wanted to help others experience the same benefits she has.

“Even if someone is just feeling the winter blues, or having a bad day, or experiencing grief, loss or mental illness, it can be helped by playing with plants,” she says.

Rose is drawn to plants that have healing properties, she says, although she believes all plants are healing.

“Instead of planting ornamental perennial plants , trees and shrubs, I’m including plants that have either medicinal, culinary or skin care benefits, she says. So lots of different types of herbs, like four different types of calendulas, four different types of camomiles, and different types of stevia plants,” she says.

 Hydrangeas in the garden of Stephanie Rose.

February and March are the best months to start planning for spring planting, whether you have an acreage or patio to work with, says Janis Matson, of Shoreline Landscape Design.

You have to be careful not to rip into the soil while it’s still cold or saturated (from rainfall) as you can do root damage, but preparing the soil, by adding fertilizers or manure, can be done at any time, she says. And though many people are tempted to pull everything dead looking out of their gardens, and start over, it is actually worth waiting to see what plants will come back to life given a bit of time.

About 50 to 75 per cent of plants will come back to life, says Matson. “A lot of people see black leaves and think the plant is dead. I don’t want them to think that yet. Wait until April and see if any of that green comes back. The roots will be established.”

March is also a good time to visit the nursery.”Most of the nurseries start getting in their fresh stock by the end of March, beginning of April, so let’s say for example you want to create an English cottage garden, it’s an ideal time for selection. Fruit trees and small fruits like strawberries, blueberries, grapes, apples, they start coming in late March and April, so for selection it’s a good time,” she says.

 Potting soil tests

Though this is also the time people traditionally want to clean up their gardens, says Rose, by disposing of any fallen foliage, leaves or garden waste, it is actually better for your garden if you leave it; following a more “regenerative” model.

“Nature has intended these plants drop their leaves and compost in place to feed the soil so the next generation of plants can grow. If we learn to do it that way we’re going to garden with a lot less work and a lot more success and a lot less stress. It’ll cost less money, take  less time and we’ll also have much more beautiful gardens,” she says.

Related

The Home Front: Down-to-earth

Water feature by Alchemie Landscape Architecture.

When someone is described as down-to-earth, it usually sounds like a compliment—grounded, equally so. Up-in-the-air, or flighty… less so. There seems to be a bit of universal acceptance that connecting with the earth is a good thing, which is perhaps why people love entertaining outdoors, weather permitting.

People often love the smell of earth, says landscape designer and master gardener Janis Matson, of Shoreline Landscape Design, who also teaches horticulture at Kwantlen Polytechnic University. And, she says, she and her colleagues have noticed a real uptick in the number of people growing their vegetables in Vancouver during these COVID months.

“It’s huge, absolutely huge! Flowers have been secondary. I was touching base with a couple of my nursery friends, and it was just nuts. Absolutely everybody has their own little veggie garden this summer and are trying to create green spaces because they’re not able to travel,” she says.

 Water feature by Alchemie Landscape Architecture.

Something else Matson says she’s noticed, over the past few months, is an increase in bartering for seeds and plants, with people staying home and wanting to make their homes more interesting. Even in her strata, she says, they’ve swapped plants and got the children in the building involved in planting vegetables.

Containers are perfect for this, says Matson, and when it comes to growing things, the larger the container, the better — with one tomato requiring an 18-inch by 18-inch container to produce well.

When it comes to landscape design, people are as attracted to water as they are earth, says Matson.

Water elements have been huge for the past ten to fifteen years, easy. From the smallest recycling gurglers and bubblers to big water features, people love the naturalness and sound of water,” she says.

Matson says she’s a big fan of natural boulders from river rock, such as basalt from Pemberton, and driftwood.

“Anything that depicts a little bit of nature and brings it into the backyard, personally, I just find it soothing and enjoy it more than something that is manufactured,” she says.

Something people often don’t consider when installing water features is the maintenance involved, says Matson, such as regularly cleaning the pump, so it doesn’t clog up, and if you have a pond and small children, considering fencing.

 Connecting with the earth through indoor plants.

“A small child can drown in six inches of water,” she says.

Size matters when it comes to water features, says Matson, with people often opting for water features that are too small — because of price — that are dwarfed by other elements in the garden like fences.

Positioning also matters, she says. You don’t want to put a water feature right under a tree, or you’ll be forever cleaning out the leaves.

“It’s the same thing as the right plant for the right place, the water feature has to be the right feature for the right place,” she says.

Bringing some of that beloved earth element indoors is also good for the soul, says Heena Saini, Commercial PR specialist at Ikea . This year, Ikea released their air-purifying curtains, which they say “actively reduce air pollutants.”

“From a trends perspective, we’re seeing the plant styling has become super popular! The key tip here is to find a space where there’s ample lighting like a living room and curate the area from there. Use a blend of hanging planters, plant stands or even an empty mantle to create a focal point area. Again, adding plants will enhance the tranquillity and feel of the room right away!” says Saini.

The Home Front: Sorting out the patio for spring

Bar cart from HomeSense used to arrange plants at different height levels, which creates dimension and scale.

Mid-March is usually the time of year when people start taking a good hard look at their patios and balconies and dreaming up the possibilities for the months ahead. Being honest about what worked last spring, summer and fall, in terms of potted plants, furnishings and decor is usually a good place to start, says landscape designer Janis Matson, of Shoreline Landscape Design .

“I always start with a clean up and reorganization. Decide what looks good. Are there any stains or cracks to repair? Think about the design, do I want a little more privacy? Do I keep this umbrella? Do I even need this umbrella?” says Matson.

 Patio design by hardscape specialists Belgard.

Often at this time of the year Matson says she finds herself drifting into HomeSense and Winners to see if they have any “fun gardening stuff” like table centrepieces, beautiful bowls or character pieces like obelisks .

A common mistake people often make with their patios and balconies, says Matson, is lining up all their potted plants around the edge, like a border.

“It makes spaces feel smaller,” she says.

 Choosing wide shallow pots for permanent planting is the way to go says landscape designer Janis Matson.

From a planting perspective, you want some movement and air circulation around your pots, she says, so shoving them up against glass railings, fence lines or partitions  is the worst thing you can do for them.

From a visual perspective, she says, it makes the area feel boxed in, so you’re far better off creating some dimension and scale in this space by placing pots at different heights, and this clustered effect more closely resembles nature.

“Pick up a cheap little table that you like and put one of the containers on it, so it’s maybe two feet off the ground, and then you can put another bigger one on the ground beside it and a little one on the right hand side,” she says.

A lot of people try and screen off their patios, says Matson, to avoid looking at construction or busy streets, but there is a better way to do this that doesn’t involve a physical block, says Matson, and that’s by creating something visually appealing on your patio, which draws the eye to it and away from whatever you’re not wanting to look at.

 Floral photography by landscape designer Janis Matson, who says people definitely have “itchy fingers” at this time of the year, and are keen to begin planting.

“When I walk out onto a patio I consider: What’s my first view? Where’s my light coming from? Where am I naturally looking? Where would I rather look?” she says.

A beautiful hanging trellis, or an architectural piece can work wonders, she says.

One tip Matson always shares with her clients, she says, is make sure you choose a wide enough pot for permanent planting (for seasonal plants it doesn’t matter so much).

“A permanent container needs to be a minimum of 18 inches wide, because in containers — when we have these wicked winters that freeze the daylights out of us — soil is the key to root establishment, so the more volume we can have the more root establishment,” she says.

Typically plants only want about eight inches of depth, she says, so the “massive rectangular or square containers” (think tall and lean) that look great and are currently very popular are not the best for permanent planting, she says.

“Plants will never use the bottom two feet so go for shallow and wider,” says Matson.

Something people should also consider, she says, if using heavy pots on their patios, is the weight restrictions of their patios or balconies.

“Patios are engineered for a certain amount of weight, and if you put a very large ceramic container full of soil and plant you’re probably looking at 300 pounds for that one plant,” she says.

If your patio or balcony has part shade, some great options for plants in pots are: Hostas, Hakonechloa grass, Geranium macrorrhizum, Helleborus orientalis, Japanese maples – acer palmatum and Full moon maples, says Matson. And if you have a sunny patio or balcony, she recommends: Dwarf hinoki cypress, Blue star juniper, Munstead lavender, Oregano, Moonbeam coreopsis, May night salvia, Autumn joy sedum, Blueberries, Alpine strawberries and veggies.

“Blueberries do quite well in containers and there’s some really nice alpine strawberries,” she says.

Related

The Home Front: Sorting out the patio for spring

Bar cart from HomeSense used to arrange plants at different height levels, which creates dimension and scale.

Mid-March is usually the time of year when people start taking a good hard look at their patios and balconies and dreaming up the possibilities for the months ahead. Being honest about what worked last spring, summer and fall, in terms of potted plants, furnishings and decor is usually a good place to start, says landscape designer Janis Matson, of Shoreline Landscape Design .

“I always start with a clean up and reorganization. Decide what looks good. Are there any stains or cracks to repair? Think about the design, do I want a little more privacy? Do I keep this umbrella? Do I even need this umbrella?” says Matson.

 Patio design by hardscape specialists Belgard.

Often at this time of the year Matson says she finds herself drifting into HomeSense and Winners to see if they have any “fun gardening stuff” like table centrepieces, beautiful bowls or character pieces like obelisks .

A common mistake people often make with their patios and balconies, says Matson, is lining up all their potted plants around the edge, like a border.

“It makes spaces feel smaller,” she says.

 Choosing wide shallow pots for permanent planting is the way to go says landscape designer Janis Matson.

From a planting perspective, you want some movement and air circulation around your pots, she says, so shoving them up against glass railings, fence lines or partitions  is the worst thing you can do for them.

From a visual perspective, she says, it makes the area feel boxed in, so you’re far better off creating some dimension and scale in this space by placing pots at different heights, and this clustered effect more closely resembles nature.

“Pick up a cheap little table that you like and put one of the containers on it, so it’s maybe two feet off the ground, and then you can put another bigger one on the ground beside it and a little one on the right hand side,” she says.

A lot of people try and screen off their patios, says Matson, to avoid looking at construction or busy streets, but there is a better way to do this that doesn’t involve a physical block, says Matson, and that’s by creating something visually appealing on your patio, which draws the eye to it and away from whatever you’re not wanting to look at.

 Floral photography by landscape designer Janis Matson, who says people definitely have “itchy fingers” at this time of the year, and are keen to begin planting.

“When I walk out onto a patio I consider: What’s my first view? Where’s my light coming from? Where am I naturally looking? Where would I rather look?” she says.

A beautiful hanging trellis, or an architectural piece can work wonders, she says.

One tip Matson always shares with her clients, she says, is make sure you choose a wide enough pot for permanent planting (for seasonal plants it doesn’t matter so much).

“A permanent container needs to be a minimum of 18 inches wide, because in containers — when we have these wicked winters that freeze the daylights out of us — soil is the key to root establishment, so the more volume we can have the more root establishment,” she says.

Typically plants only want about eight inches of depth, she says, so the “massive rectangular or square containers” (think tall and lean) that look great and are currently very popular are not the best for permanent planting, she says.

“Plants will never use the bottom two feet so go for shallow and wider,” says Matson.

Something people should also consider, she says, if using heavy pots on their patios, is the weight restrictions of their patios or balconies.

“Patios are engineered for a certain amount of weight, and if you put a very large ceramic container full of soil and plant you’re probably looking at 300 pounds for that one plant,” she says.

If your patio or balcony has part shade, some great options for plants in pots are: Hostas, Hakonechloa grass, Geranium macrorrhizum, Helleborus orientalis, Japanese maples – acer palmatum and Full moon maples, says Matson. And if you have a sunny patio or balcony, she recommends: Dwarf hinoki cypress, Blue star juniper, Munstead lavender, Oregano, Moonbeam coreopsis, May night salvia, Autumn joy sedum, Blueberries, Alpine strawberries and veggies.

“Blueberries do quite well in containers and there’s some really nice alpine strawberries,” she says.

Related

The Home Front: Now’s the time to start planning for spring planting

Master gardener Stephanie Rose, author of blog Garden Therapy and new book out Garden Alchemy.

We often hear about the therapeutic benefits of gardening . That it gets you outdoors, into the fresh air, is meditative in practice, physical in nature and rewarding when you reap what you sow. Master gardener Stephanie Rose, author of blog Garden Therapy and her just released book Garden Alchemy goes one step further. Gardening saved her life, she says.

In 2006, Rose says she was struck with a debilitative illness that left her bedridden for over a year, with paralysis in her arms and legs. When she regained some movement she began reading books on gardening, borrowed from her local library, and contemplating her East Vancouver backyard.

 Herb planter

“I went outside and sat and looked at the plants, and looked at the soil and thought I’m going to recover out here,” she says.

Five minutes of gardening a week turned into five minutes a day and when she finally recovered from her illness — which took years — Rose says she realized she didn’t want to stop gardening or writing about it. She wanted to help others experience the same benefits she has.

“Even if someone is just feeling the winter blues, or having a bad day, or experiencing grief, loss or mental illness, it can be helped by playing with plants,” she says.

Rose is drawn to plants that have healing properties, she says, although she believes all plants are healing.

“Instead of planting ornamental perennial plants , trees and shrubs, I’m including plants that have either medicinal, culinary or skin care benefits, she says. So lots of different types of herbs, like four different types of calendulas, four different types of camomiles, and different types of stevia plants,” she says.

 Hydrangeas in the garden of Stephanie Rose.

February and March are the best months to start planning for spring planting, whether you have an acreage or patio to work with, says Janis Matson, of Shoreline Landscape Design.

You have to be careful not to rip into the soil while it’s still cold or saturated (from rainfall) as you can do root damage, but preparing the soil, by adding fertilizers or manure, can be done at any time, she says. And though many people are tempted to pull everything dead looking out of their gardens, and start over, it is actually worth waiting to see what plants will come back to life given a bit of time.

About 50 to 75 per cent of plants will come back to life, says Matson. “A lot of people see black leaves and think the plant is dead. I don’t want them to think that yet. Wait until April and see if any of that green comes back. The roots will be established.”

March is also a good time to visit the nursery.”Most of the nurseries start getting in their fresh stock by the end of March, beginning of April, so let’s say for example you want to create an English cottage garden, it’s an ideal time for selection. Fruit trees and small fruits like strawberries, blueberries, grapes, apples, they start coming in late March and April, so for selection it’s a good time,” she says.

 Potting soil tests

Though this is also the time people traditionally want to clean up their gardens, says Rose, by disposing of any fallen foliage, leaves or garden waste, it is actually better for your garden if you leave it; following a more “regenerative” model.

“Nature has intended these plants drop their leaves and compost in place to feed the soil so the next generation of plants can grow. If we learn to do it that way we’re going to garden with a lot less work and a lot more success and a lot less stress. It’ll cost less money, take  less time and we’ll also have much more beautiful gardens,” she says.

Related