comfort zone

Keep your summer going all year, right in your own backyard!

The best thing I did this summer was to cancel a trip I’d planned to Lake Placid – the planning, the hours of travel, the cost of the hotel – I’d rather spend time in my backyard! I’ll spend my travel budget for travel in the winter, and spend the money I saved making my backyard into an oasis.

Canadians spend every minute of summer escaping to the outdoors – from the first coffee on the porch, to cocktails under the willow tree, dinner on the patio – and perhaps a nightcap under the moon.

Even if you “cottage” on the weekends, your backyard is where you dwell during the week – and as Oprah says, it “should rise up to greet you” when you come home.

Now is the ideal time to perfect your backyard oasis: you’ve just spent the summer outdoors, and you know exactly what kinds of activities you want to keep doing through the fall – and into next summer. Taking time to perfect your backyard oasis is the perfect fall project!

As the owner of a landscaping business for 45 years – I have refined my “secret garden” over the years as I have noticed what works best for clients with all kinds of properties – and you might find these few tips helpful whether you have a “country estate” or small, Manhattan-style garden.

comfort zone

Make the Most Convenient Part of Your Backyard into your “Comfort Zone”

The Comfort Zone is a place that’s easy to get to from the house and where you’ll spend most of your time.

Think about sun exposure and light in the morning and evening. You’ll always want the most comfortable temperature for this space, so pick a spot that has a good combination of shade and warmth, appealing at many times of day and through the seasons.

Tip: If the sun is too strong in your Comfort Zone, a good umbrella over the area can do the trick, not to mention adding a certain elegance and chic to your Comfort Zone.

Also think about privacy – you’ll want your backyard oasis to be a refuge, not a stage! I love my neighbors (sort of), but I don’t want them staring at me in my PJs having my morning coffee. I’m sure the feeling is mutual!


Expand the Charm of Your Home Right into Your Backyard

Your backyard is an extension of your home during the spring, summer and even fall– and should reflect the charm of the main interior rooms that you’ve worked so hard to create. While investing in curb appeal will give you a few moments of pride when you drive in – and definitely enhance the resale value of your home, the backyard is where you spend 80% of your time during half of the year – so invest in YOU and design for both relaxation and easy entertaining. When friends come over, I love to light up some candles and have a few pots of herbs scattered around. Fresh herbs enhance all summer recipes, and a jug of sangria doesn’t hurt either.


Make Your Comfort Zone … Comfortable!

Find some comfortable furniture that will accommodate the people that will be enjoying this space on a daily basis. This might just be you. This is your haven, your private spa!

TIP: Buy the best furniture that you can afford. Quality pieces last years and years.

Create the Perfect Mood

Creating the right mood with complimentary lighting and sound increases the value of your comfort zone, whether it’s to pump up a party or to mellow after a long day. I’m not talking about those cheap lighting sets that you can get from the dollar store, or just a portable radio.

The right ambience is EVERYTHING – again, candles, hurricane lamps, citronella torches can add that extra island spice to your oasis.


Tip: Speak to an expert for suggestions and to even do the work. Effective lighting, and practical, yet high quality, sound systems are affordable and easy to set up.

Finally, ask for help. Even if it’s for straight forward lawn maintenance and staging. Don’t make your backyard oasis into extra work. Treat yourself to a neat and tidy space that doesn’t require hours of upkeep every week. That’s where we can help!

Life is short – summer is shorter! Make the most of it!




The “Annual” annuals decision


Such a slow start to summer this year but it’s finally time to decide which annuals you want in your garden.  Maybe you’re talking to your landscaper, like us at Green Thumb, and getting some advice or researching this year’s annual choice on your own.

As the garden centres open and burst with so many varieties and colours of annuals, take some time to make a plan. Choices, choices, choices!

Before you rush out and buy up the garden centre, here’s the big question is “is the soil ready?”  Remember our tip from our Warm Winter blog:

“If it’s too cold to sit on the soil, its cold to plant in it”.  Just a little longer…keep your new plants in the garage if you must…some plants are hardier than others so it’s worth it to ask questions at the garden centre.

By now, as you read this, the soil will soon be warm enough to start planting or at least to get ready.  Let the planning for planting begin.

Colour scheme?

I love a monochromatic garden of yellow.  Beautiful, lemon yellow  marigolds, transition through the colour palette to darker yellow, then burnt orange, to create warmth just by its bold colour.  Imagine all this colour coming together to create a marvelously stunning garden.  You’ll be the talk of your neighbourhood! I planted this grouping for a new restaurant a few years ago.  They had so many positive comments on it.  Marigolds are available in sizes from dwarf to giant so use the different heights to give dimension to your sea of sunshine.


As you’re putting together your garden plan, consider this important tip:

Plant shade-loving plants in the shade and sun lovers in the sun.  Sounds like common sense doesn’t it?  That’s where those little plant tags sticking out of the pots come in handy.  Just read them.  This will make care much easier.


I’ve got a favourites list for you.  It will help you get started:

Impatiens – Always a popular flower to brighten up those shady parts of your garden.  Lots of variety.  Lots of bold colour.   A staple in most Canadian garden centres.  Plant in blocks of colour to give punch.  Too many mixed colours look like the dog’s breakfast.


Petunias – Perfect for full sun patches of your garden.  Petunias are definitely a “go to” filler for many.  A good soaking once a week, fertilizer once a month,  along with the removal of dead flowers to prolong blooming, they are pretty low-maintenance.  When they get too “leggy” in late summer, tough love with a pair of shears will start them blooming all over again.


Snapdragons – Save room for these beauties.  Welcoming the sun, snapdragons provide you with about 10-15 blooms per stem.  They give your garden some height and some gorgeous flowers for bouquets to enjoy inside the house.


Asters – Well worth planting.  These later season bloomers love a rich, moist soil in the full sun.  The star shaped flowers don’t like to be crowded.  Let them soak in the sun, with space to breath.  Added bonus…butterflies love them!


Lobelia – A perfect border flower that will deal with the temperatures from mid-summer right up to the first frost.  Trailing lobelia is perfect for your hanging baskets and planters.  Blue or white.  Always a star!  Lobelia loves the full sun, but will tolerate some shade.


Border Plants (white and blue) – It’s important to plant your variety of border plants in the right light.  Remember, shade in shade and sun in sun.


Salvia – With the wide array of salvia from reds to purple, there is one for all areas of garden, sunny or shady.  They provide so much colour, but they don’t like the cool weather.  So make sure that we are well past any frost scares before you plant them.

Salvia-blue and red

As you take my annual suggestions into consideration, let me give you a few tips:

  • If you don’t want to do a lot of work, don’t plant geraniums if you don’t deadhead them constantly, you’ll have nothing.
  • Consider cutting back on annuals and start planting more perennials. Perennials will help reduce your dependence to have to start fresh every year. As they mature, they fill in.  You can even divide some of them to either share with another part of your garden…or a friend…such a nice idea!
  • There is no such thing as a maintenance free garden
  • Grasses are a bit easier and there are so many beautiful grasses that you can mix into your garden. They do tend to have a more casual look so not what you would plant in a more formal garden.


  • Visit your garden centre early and see what they have to suggest and what they’re selling this year. Some garden centres will let you order your plants and pick them up when the weather is ready for you to plant.  There are always new varieties  year to year.

We would love to see your garden as it comes together.  Share your pictures with us on social media.  Facebook and Twitter

For more great advice or simply great service that lets you relax and enjoy your outdoor space, contact Green Thumb Landscaping today. 

We will help you create a lasting landscape impression you will be proud of!


Your Garden and our Warm Winter…good news or bad?

Some of us have truly enjoyed this pleasantly mild ‘winter’.  Skiers, snowmobilers and cold weather lovers, not so much.

But for gardeners, the real question is, “how has my lawn and garden survived this winter?”  Well, the situation isn’t actually too bad.

Yes, we received less than half the moisture, (44 cm, when we usually get an average of 95cm of snow). But otherwise your landscape will have come out fairly well.

That is, with the exception of your parched evergreens, who are screaming for water at this point.

Evergreens over winterThe tree in the forefront is definitely suffering…you don’t want your evergreens to get to this point

Evergreens need to get moisture back into their foliage.  Just as winter winds and cold suck the moisture out of our skin, the same applies to the foliage of your evergreens.  So as soon as you turn your outside water back on, give them a good drink.  Turn your tap to about quarter strength, wrap the hose around the trunk of your tree and let the water soak in for a half hour or so.  Repeat again about once a week until we are into a steady rainy season.  Your evergreens will thank you for it!

Landscape Clean Up

With spring surely arriving early this year, take advantage and start your shrub revitalization.  Pruning from the inside out will give old shrubs a nicer shape.  And newer shrubs will expand their longevity with an annual trimming out of dead wood, over-grown or broken stalks.  Without all the foliage, you can get in there and cut out the stuff that needs to go.

There is a significant difference between restorative pruning and trimming/shearing.  Great for hedges and topiaries but once foliage is on your shrubs, it’s more about trimming/shearing than it is about pruning like we’re doing in the spring. (Think of trimming/shearing like going to the hair dresser for styling.)

Winter pruning example:pruning_heading-back_SMALL (1)
Shearing/trimming example:Sheared shrubs
Hopefully, your lawn doesn’t look like this right now. If you didn’t get a chance to clean up all the leaves in the fall, get them off your lawn now.  Those wet leaves can destroy your lawn. Leaves left on lawns over winter


And those leaves you decided to leave in your gardens in the fall, great, you can work those into the soil now.

Fertilizing – Feeding lawns, gardens and trees

Now that the clean-up is done and you’ve had a chance to look more closely at your landscape and garden, you will probably start to think about fertilizing and the best time to do it.

Great question.  Early spring is perfect for trees and shrubs.  They’ll suck up the fertilizer with the moisture in the soil.  There is no need to rush fertilizing your lawn though.

By the way, do you follow the best practice of putting down a good late fall fertilizer on your lawn?  If not, please consider this for the fall this year.  But let’s not think about fall just yet.  Just a little head’s up not to forget the most important feeding of the year.

This spring, apply your first fertilizer after the initial lawn green up has occurred.

 FACT: Your grass will start to grow when the daytime temperatures are over 12C.

 Applying fertilizer too early will result in surge growth.  That’s when your grass outgrows itself… and by early summer you’ll be a left with a dustbowl for a lawn.

 TIP:  Too much food too early and your lawn will outgrow itself

Surge growth

Yikes!  Weeds!

Weeds!  None of us want to talk about this, but it’s always on our minds; our enemy, weeds.  When will they be back and how do we deal with their visit?

Sadly, we’ve come to a time to learn that you’re just going to have to get used them   I know, you’re cringing at the thought and possibly you’re not ready to accept a crazy notion like that.  Sorry, but weeds are here to stay.  Pesticides have been banned in Ontario since 2009 and there has been consultation by the government since 2002.  It’s not new news.  Time flies.

A healthy lawn doesn’t mean its weed free.  We’ve embraced a healthier environment.  A weed-free lawn is not easy to attain while respecting the environment, especially if you have a large property.  Yes, I see people out with their dandelion diggers and those great tools that the hardware stores sell but if your neighbours have weeds, you have an almost impossible task to keep your lawn “weedless”.

You’re thinking, and saying to yourself, “I’m driving down the street, and I see that my neighbour’s lawn is so perfect?  How is that possible?”  Well, there’s a good possibility there are some cross border shoppers bringing home “lawn narcotics” that are no longer available here.  Sorry, in my professional opinion, that’s just not the way to go.

 TIP: You’ll go a long way competing with those weeds if you:

  • Fertilize
  • Aerate
  • Water properly

And now, here is my personal favourite suggestion; get outside and enjoy!

For more great advice or simply great service that lets you relax and enjoy your outdoor space, contact Green Thumb Landscaping today. 

 We create landscapes that leave a lasting impression..An impression you will be proud of!