By Lindsay Bourque of Liminal Design.
When I introduce myself to folks in town and tell them what I do, the most common reaction is relief. “Revelstoke needs a lot help with its landscaping,” is the usual sentiment. It’s true. As Revelstoke continues to grow as a community, big decisions are being made about the future uses of Revelstoke’s relatively small landmass. However, my initial impressions from this growing season are of energy and creativity. Whether it is creating beautiful feature gardens, building patios out of reclaimed material or converting front lawns to grow food, people are investing time and energy into their residential landscape.
I do, however, get a lot of questions from people who feel overwhelmed, especially when working with a blank canvas. Many have moved from larger cities where landscape services and suppliers are more common and it can be difficult to know where to begin. Getting a rough plan down on paper really helps put things in perspective, focus on priorities and help plan future projects. Here is your quick and dirty guide to planning your landscape project:
Phase it out. Installing your landscape over a number of months or even years is a cost-effective way and allows for a more thoughtful approach. For example, if you need to hire a machine operator, you may be able to knock off a number of projects at once.
Identify the quirks of your lot. Does water collect in certain areas? What kind of sun does your property receive? Do you have an amazing view you want to preserve? Are there overhead wires? Is there noise from the street or neighbours? Where does the snow collect?
Check out your base. Revelstoke is famous (or infamous depending who you ask) for its varied geological composition. Dig a few test holes to get a sense of what you are working with as this can have a significant impact on your budget.
Hardscaping (walkways, patios, driveways). Machine work can do a number on existing hard and softscapes so try to get this installed first. Otherwise protect these with used/reclaimed plywood. There are a lot of options for hardscaping materials but remember that introducing permeable and even semi-permeable surfaces will affect where and how rapidly water drains. Ensure that all hard surfaces are installed with about a two per cent slope to help with drainage.
Keep it simple. It is easy to get carried away with mixing too many types of materials but this will make a small space feel chaotic and cramped. Search the Internet for images of materials you like to maintain design consistency.
Plan for shade. Planting shade trees reduces runoff, absorbs ozone and reduces the heating and cooling costs of your home. Choosing a deciduous tree (which loses its leaves seasonally) and planting it in front of a south west facing window will provide a much-needed screen from the summer sun but in winter will allow the warm rays into your home through the bare branches. When choosing a shade tree, think about the diversity of Revelstoke’s urban forest. Ecological functioning increases with diversity and while the red leafed Norway Maple (Acer platanoides var. ‘Crimson King’) is a striking tree, there are already plenty of them here.
Calculate the cost. Online tools such as landscapecalculator.com can be immensely helpful. Most local providers don’t have a pricelist online so checking out material and price lists of larger suppliers online can be a good reference when you call to enquire.
This article first appeared in the August issue of Revelstoke Mountaineer Magazine.