Before and After Yard Interview
Jon and Pat Brehaut, Sherwood Park – Winner 2014
1. How long have you been working on your masterpiece?
We began a serious overhaul of our garden in 1996, starting with the back pond and patio area. The front was redeveloped in 2005. We have been working on improvements each year since.
2. Did you have a master vision of what it would look like in the “end” or did everything take shape as you went along?
The answer is both! We knew generally what we wanted the garden to look like—we had a vision and general design, but issues of light and proportion led to many changes such as removal of trees, the building of a pergola and some lattices, and moving or replacing plants for changes in lighting. We also redesigned the pond, patio and terracing to get better balance. There always seems to be more one can do!
3. When do you start prepping for the Spring?
We start as early as Mother Nature allows and sometimes that involves early watering, tidying of work areas, etc. We are reluctant to get too early a start on debris removal in case early May turns unusually cold and also it awakens our ladybugs a little too soon. But depending on the year we have started in April. We occasionally start seeds or say canna lilies inside.
4. What are your big plans for this year?
We are getting older (well, a little older!). We have a reasonably large garden with no lawn front or back so we are beginning to look more seriously at replacing some perennials with shrubs to cut down a bit on maintenance. This year we will add some shrubs (hardy roses probably) to one back bed. We will also remove a rock border along our driveway (it is seriously tedious to keep free of debris) and add some ground covers and small shrubs.
5. Where do you get your gardening supplies and plants? And why?
Naturally, Salisbury is one of our first stops. We like the opportunity to save money by buying gift cards at discounts and attending the growers’ evenings. Salisbury also carries some of our favorite annuals for pots and planters at good prices. As our garden has become more mature, we are not buying as many plants. We tend to look for specific varieties now. So we shop most local garden centres, large and small. Some specialize in specifics such as tomatoes, shrubs and trees. Not everyone carries the same varieties.
6. Where do you find most of your design inspiration?
Local garden tours such as the Strathcona County Library Tour and Edmonton Horticultural Society Tour are great sources of inspirations. We also visit many public and private gardens here and as we travel to get ideas we can adapt. Joining garden clubs and learning from other gardeners has also been valuable as have gardening magazines and books like Rob’s and others.
7. Do you have friends and family inviting themselves over to enjoy all your hard work?
Yes we do get requests and it is fun to share the garden. We love entertaining and sitting in our garden and do so as much as possible each season. Once we had a group of friends here for lunch on the patio and they were thrilled by a visit from a hummingbird (especially fun as we live in Hummingbird Court). We often get passers-by stopping to chat. The children in the area love to stop, look and enjoy our ornaments. Recently even a plumber installing our dishwasher commented on the garden as has the letter carrier.
8. What advice do you have for someone who is just getting ready to dig up his or her yard?
Consider your life-style and how much time/energy you have and will have for maintenance as you plan and design.
Consider a variety of seating area so that you can sit in sun or shade at different times of day and enjoy different aspects of your garden.
Take out trees that are old and no longer look their best or are shading area in which you prefer sun. Look for new trees that will not outgrow your house or the area in which you wish to plant them. There are lots of new varieties available. Take care not to plant trees to close to your house or other permanent structures.
Take care of your soil. When adding soil use a good garden mix. Add compost regularly and keep your soil loose.
Buy plants that are suited to the amount of sunlight, soil conditions and heat/cold they will get where you wish to plant them. Read plant tags and ask the experts at garden centres. Don’t be afraid to experiment though and move plants around. Be prepared to lose some now and then to pests, harsh winters, etc.
Water well in spring and fall, especially trees and shrubs. Use rain barrels. Mulch to help prevent moisture loss.
Be prepared to weed, weed, weed. If weeds are not growing, neither are your plants!
Consider going lawn-less (especially if you don’t have children who need some play space.) Dry stream beds, ponds, seating areas, and paths can fill spaces around planting beds just as nicely as lawn and are generally lower maintenance. Filling your yard with rock, however, will just make more work as debris fills in around the rocks and weeds grow.
Join a garden club such as the Strathcona Garden Club or the Edmonton Horticultural Society to learn from speakers, newsletters, and local gardeners. Subscribe to locally oriented garden magazines.
Get the children or grandchildren involved, learning and appreciating gardening whether it is veggies or flowers. We should pass on our love of and the value of gardening at every opportunity .
9. How do you scratch that gardening itch in the off-season?
We buy seasonal indoor plants to keep us going: poinsettia, cyclamen, spring bulbs, orchids, succulents. Salisbury usually has a great selection at good prices. Each December we prepare greenery planters for our front deck. In the fall we adorn the deck with mums and fall décor and by April, usually pansies.
We visit garden centres year-round to dream and plan. Sometimes it is easier to ask questions of their experts in the off season when they are not as busy.
We plan for changes, what we might start from seed, get the grandchildren starting seeds.
We travel and visit gardens elsewhere.
We attend Edmonton Horticultural Society speaker evenings and chat with friends about gardening at every opportunity. We do a lot of garden-related volunteering. There are also some great web sites if you really need a gardening fix!
And, of course, Jon pores over his garden photographs from the last season!
Do you think your yard is brag-worthy? Find out how you can enter this years Salisbury Yards contest.