Design your landscape to suit your neighbourhood, yourself
During this time of year, most owners will turn their attention to the yard. My advice: please your neighbours in the front yard and please yourself in the back. Everything else is icing on your landscape cake.
Front Yard: Your front yard is not really yours, meaning it is no place to be cute or original. Your front landscape is part of the neighbourhood and should fit in. Every part of Calgary has its own culture and style, so pay attention to that when you buy your house. In Mount Royal, there is an unwritten contest to see who can create the most outrageously big flowerpots. In Vista Heights, I have clients with chickens.
If everyone else on your street is building a permaculture bed in his or her front yard, go for it. But if it’s upper-middle class or a new area, don’t do it. You will fit in faster if you sneak your edible plants into decorative sweeping beds or pots.
Edibles such as Romeo Cherry, Prairie Sensation Apple and perennial edible Asparagus feed your soul as well as your body, but using them in conservative beds works better if the neighbourhood is conservative.
Zucchini squash is a giant exotic edible in pots, and herbs such as Italian parsley blend with lush edible nasturtiums on the doorstep. Yet pot colours should complement the trim colour so everything in the front is pleasing at first glance.
The Big Back Yard: In the back yard, you can release your inner gardener. I suggested my free-spirited younger sister Delima build a rainbow of curved beds radiating out from the back of her house and patio. She loved it and plans to fill her radiating rows of beds with a range of edible shrubs such as haskaps and raspberries at the back, vegetables in the middle and herbs closer to her sitting area near the kitchen.
In the past, I have found structure of any kind makes gardens look better than casual mayhem. So she is using the structure of a rainbow and filling each curved row with a variety of edible plants. If you prefer squares to curves, imagine a design of sharp angles and place your plants within the shapes.
You may want a hot tub, clothesline, big shed, chickens or a trampoline in your back yard. Make a list. Chickens aren’t sanctioned in Calgary, but everything else is possible and doable. Just don’t forget to take out the swing set some time after the kids leave for college.
Donna Balzer is a garden writer and entertaining speaker. Check out her blog at www.gardenguru.net or follow her on twitter @NoGuffGardener.