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May 01, 2018

A private paradise

A private paradise

Christina Loc

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After an interminable winter hijacking our spring months, and perhaps even our spirits, I’m sure we are all looking forward to the long summer days ahead. Paradise — originating from the ancient Persian “pairidaeza,” meaning garden or protected enclosure — beckons. Warmer climes are a signal to create your own little Garden of Eden, a place to offer sanctuary, sustenance, entertainment, or quite simply, a space to take in every ray of sunshine. Take the time to surround yourself in greenery, plants and the elements of nature.


Regardless the size or dimension of your outdoor space (or lack of), there are myriad ways to create gardens that harmonize both beauty and function. Mother Nature has provided all the goods and now it’s a matter of curating the right flowers, plants, furniture and accoutrements that will reflect your own green paradise. Consider the following as we prepare for a whole new season of outdoor living:

Extend your living area outside. a first instinct when barbecue season arrives. Invest in solid and tasteful patio furniture.

If you’re in a condo with a tiny balcony, a bistro table or a couple of lounging chairs are perfect. If you have a larger yard, invest in a patio table and comfy outdoor sofas, sectionals and chairs.

Carry the colour and theme from your indoor décor for consistency and harmony outdoors or do something completely different for a splash of fun. Accent with large cushions, potted plants, lanterns, trays and bowls that are habitually used when lounging outside or setting up a meal. In an instant, you’ve added an additional room to your home.

Consider a pergola or gazebo as an extension of your living space to offer some privacy, shading and protection from the elements while evoking a sense of sanctuary that your garden is meant to do.

Low-maintenance garden. Let’s be frank: spring in Calgary can induce anxiety in many a gardener as we rush to clean the buildup of silt and debris left by winter while debating on when and what to plant. Opt for rock gardens and natural prairie-style landscapes with resilient low-water or self-regulating perennial plants.

For rock gardens, sedum (commonly known as stonecrops) and sempervivum (or houseleeks) are great choices and evergreen shrubs like the globe blue spruce and Calgary carpet juniper look great all year round.

If leaning towards a natural prairie-style garden, flowering plants that thrive in our region include peony, bearberry and many varieties of lilacs. Adding ornamental grass like blue fescue, Karl Foerster feather reed or blue oat grass sway beautifully in the wind and will give your garden a wild look. Include deciduous trees like aspen, birch and maple plus evergreens like juniper, cedar, pine and spruce.

These methods of planting require little maintenance and look wonderful — perfect for the gardener who has little time. Whether you choose a landscape that is wild and natural or minimalist and serene, remember that less is often more. Place a chair or bench in a shaded area for meditation, reading, or a place to sit and admire the sights and sounds of your garden.

Edible gardens. Nothing is more satisfying than enjoying the fruits of your labor, both visually and literally. Fruit, vegetable and herb beds are wonderful to watch sprout and grow and add vitality to your garden. Tomato cages, planter boxes of kale, lettuce, herbs and baskets of strawberries can be used as ornaments. Raspberry bushes, apple and pear trees are an easy addition that are lasting and beautiful.

Create layers, interest and texture by using raised planter boxes and containers; not everything needs to be planted straight into from the earth. Change out your flowering planter boxes for various varieties of lettuce and kale. The textures and colours from these vegetable leaves will tastefully satisfy the eye and palate.

If you already have a patch of cultivated land, arrange your seeds in straight rows, groupings or patterns that are unique and reflect your taste, thereby creating interest.

Water Features. The soothing sound of water running through water fountains, waterfalls, ponds and bird baths can be added to all types of gardens. Upcycled water features are all the trend. Flex your creative muscles by digging up a glass table top, antique plumbing fixture, flower pots, buckets and barrels to repurpose into a water feature that not only makes a bold statement but will bring the relaxing effects of being by water. Nurseries like Blue Grass, Sunnyside and Golden Acres offer a wide selection of water fountain pieces that can be placed both indoors and out. Just plug one in, even if you’re in a condo, and it will deliver tranquility when you arrive home and delight little ones.

Surround yourself with greenery, indoors and out. Speaking of condos and townhomes, even if you have little or no outdoor space, surround yourself with houseplants to enjoy the proven benefits of natural greenery. Houseplants span hundreds of species and you can choose from a wide range to suit your space and desired level of maintenance. Make a vertical garden of Mason jars in your kitchen with edible herbs from basil to curry leaves that you can reach for when cooking. Indoor hanging gardens have become very popular and ones that fare well in low light are pothos houseplants, ivy and philodendron. Snake plants are hardy, require little light, purify the air and are ever trending. Plants bring energy and life into all spaces and are perfect for filling decorative and emotional voids. Something as simple as a self-regulating terrarium bring an instant touch nature to any room.

Heat. Summer days are not always followed by sultry nights in this corner of our world, but you can still prolong outdoor living into the late hours by adding heat in the form of a fireplace, fire pit, heat lamps, and a few scented outdoor or mosquito-repellant candles for good measure. Too often forgotten, investing in these essential pieces will make your nights cozier and allow you to extend your evenings outside into early fall. Light from the flames also provide a different lens through which to admire your carefully chosen garden and piece of living art.

Bringing these elements of nature together will automatically enhance your sense of wellness. Make the initial effort to create your own little paradise now, as we know all too well summer will disappear in a blink. A summer sanctuary awaits you in your own backyard.

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