Lasting Impressions

Lasting Impressions

By Christina McDonald

Take a walk or drive around any neighborhood and you’ll likely agree that the homes that leave a lasting impression are those with effective landscaping. Faced with a new home and a barren yard or even with an older home in need of an exterior facelift? If you’re feeling bewildered and daunted by the prospect, take a couple of moments and ask yourself the following questions.

What is my style?

All to often people pay too little attention to their style preferences and the architecture of their homes. Let’s face it, while you may love the idea of a romantic English cottage garden, it just won’t jive with your Spanish colonial home. Couple that design faux pas with a lack of knowledge and a personal schedule that doesn’t allow you to maintain that look and you’ve got an all around gardening disaster on your hands. Now take that same Spanish colonial, add a welcoming paved courtyard, some symmetrical plantings of drought hardy plants and a sculpted stone bench or small fountain and you’ve made that lasting impression.

How much can I spend and how quickly do I want the landscape completed?

These questions need to be addressed together as each affects the other greatly. You may have grand ideas and the financial where-with-all to execute and maintain them, but then you are in the minority. Most of us need to approach design in two ways—get it done right now within budget or break it up into as many years as it takes to finish, allocating funds accordingly project by project. There are a lot of opinions out there on what percentage of your home’s value should be spent on landscaping but they simply don’t take into account the
fact that most of us, after buying a home, may be slightly squeezed for cash. A better approach would be to take a hard look at your yard, wander around a garden centre to get a feel for prices and then set a realistic budget.

How much knowledge do I have and how much time do I have to maintain a particular style or design?

If you realistically don’t have the time or the desire to learn about a high maintenance garden style then don’t get in over your head. You’ll just be frustrated and in the end unsuccessful. Do you only have 1.5 hours per week to dedicate to the yard? Adjust your design ideas accordingly. Low maintenance does not mean commercial or dull.

Now you’ve acknowledged your abilities, style, budget, time frame and commitment. Put it all together and start designing your realistic landscape—one that leaves a lasting impression.

Two Simple Landscape Plans

Two Simple Landscape Plans

By Christina McDonald

Faced with the challenge of landscaping a new front yard? Maggie Clayton, professional Landscape Architectural Technologist, suggests two simple plans using hardy plants that are commonly available and easy to grow. These plans can easily be implemented in a fairly standard 35 x 15 m yard and acknowledge property lines and good neighbour policies by positioning the trees carefully. The plans allow for access to modern, narrow sidewalks and paved driveways and offer some privacy from the street.

Design Sense

A good design incorporates not only colour, texture and seasonal interest in a variety of forms, but also offers views from the interior of the home. “All too often people don’t realize that they can actually create their own views or correct a poor one,” Maggie says. Look out windows and note where a well-placed tree, shrub or entire planting could provide a point of interest to be enjoyed from outside and inside your home. Think of it as reverse curb appeal. The placement of outdoor lighting, statuary and water features can all be added with the same views in mind. Try adapting either of these plans to your back yard—just substitute the driveway for a patio, pool or deck.

A good design can also make quick and substantial improvements. Foundations can easily softened and linked to their surroundings by planting shrubs and perennials of differing heights in a slightly raised bed directly against the building. The use of hot and cool colours in these beds can visually pull or push the house toward or away from the street.

Plan One—Sun

The beauty of this perimeter scheme is that neighbours can plan and plant together to create stunning joined beds that make both properties look great. Designed for a sunny, south facing yard it creates a frame for the edge of the property that takes into account not just light conditions but also the amount of heat the area receives. Once established, the suggested shrubs and perennials are considered drought tolerant. “Amend your soil when planting to help hold what moisture there is and remember to mulch thickly,” Maggie advises. Installing a drip hose is another way to reduce moisture loss by providing water only where the plants need it most.

Plan Two—Shade

Try this landscape plan for north facing locations with somewhat moist soil. It offers good use of foliage from tried –and-true perennials and shrubs. The more shade tolerant plants are placed closer to the house, with the classic kidney- shaped bed highlighting those requiring more light. The focal tree, either an Amur maple or a hawthorn, can be pruned to an open form that allows maximum light through to the plants below.

A Lasagna Garden for the Lazy Gardener

Last weekend I made a Lasagna Bed in my garden. No, this is not something to sleep in or eat, but you can certainly grow food in it!

A Lasagna Bed is actually the way for lazy gardeners to make a new garden bed. The best thing about it is that you don't even have to dig up the lawn!


The basic idea of a lasagna bed is to put down layers of carbon-rich materials (e.g. dried leaves, straw, cardboard, newspaper), alternated with layers of nitrogen-rich materials ( e.g. grass clippings, green material from your perennial beds and your vegetable garden, uncooked vegetable peels, coffee grinds, manure).

Combined with moisture, this carbon-nitrogen mix will feed the micro-organisms and fungi that decompose material and turn it into a nutrient-rich, growing medium.

The other bonus is that it allows you to make good use of the leaves that are all over your lawn right now and you'll also be able to use up all the green clippings you have from cutting down your perennials and mowing your lawn at the end of the year.

Here is the "recipe" I used for my lasagna bed this year:

  1. Wherever you'd like to start your garden bed, start with a thin layer of material high in nitrogen, to activate the decomposers (e.g. the fungi and micro-organisms). I used steer manure as my starter.  Then add water.
  2. Add a layer of overlapping cardboard or newspaper, to act as a carbon layer and as a weed/grass barrier, until the composting process is well on its way. Add water again!
  3. Add another thin layer of nitrogen rich material. I used clippings from my perennial beds and the green shells of the beans that I had grown this summer. Water!
  4. Add leaves. Water!
  5. More nitrogen, again. Here, I added the contents of my pots and planters. This is actually a mix of carbon (potting soil) and nitrogen (plants). Water!
  6. I still had more leaves to get rid of, so I did another layer. Plus more water!
  7. Finally, I finished things off with a layer of half-composted material from the compost pile I made last year.
  8. You can start the bed right on the lawn, but you should end up with a pile that is at least 1.5 to 2 feet high. As the material decomposes only a few inches will be left.

Now let the snow, winter, and the decomposers do their work.

In the spring, you can dig small trenches into your lasagna bed. By adding just a little bit of light potting soil for your transplants or seeds, you'll be able to plant your fruits, vegetables, and flowers right into these trenches and into your bed.

In such a rich growing medium, they'll grow amazingly!


Maria is a landscape designer trained and educated in the Netherlands. She owned a landscape design business for 10 years before moving to Edmonton in 2005 and joining the Hole's team. Book a landscaping design consultation with Maria Beers this fall and we will give you a FREE $25 gift certificate for our Glasshouse Bistro.

Growing Bulbs in Alberta and Picking the Right Bulbs for Your Garden

There is a myth that growing bulbs in Alberta is difficult.  

Well, I am Dutch, and I love bulbs, and I have successfully grown almost every type of bulb that I can lay my hands on, right here in Albertasometimes even growing tulips between my strawberries!

So growing bulbs in Alberta is definitely do-able and at Hole's, I get to choose from an amazing collection. My brother-in-law is the owner of one of the largest tulip growing businesses in the world and—while visiting Alberta from the Netherlands last year—he was so excited to find many of the world's rarest and most unique bulbs right here at Hole's Greenhouse.

But how to pick the right bulbs for your garden?

Well, I always have some early flowering crocuses planted near my front entrance, where I will see them every time I leave the house. As soon as the snow melts, the crocuses peep out of the ground with their delicate flowers, announcing the arrival of spring.

An added bonus is that crocusses will naturalize. That means that you only plant them once and they will come back every year with more.

Making it Pop

I find that bulbs have the biggest visual impact if you plant them in groups and in combination with another kind of bulb or with a perennial that flowers at the same time.

Power Combos

One of my favourite combinations for early colour is to plant the bright yellow dwarf narcissus along with the true blue star flowers of the Scillas. Both bulbs will naturalize and this combination works even in a shady garden.

Planted in between your hostas, they will put on a show before your hostas emerge and, later, the large leaves of the hostas will cover up the bulbs as the scillas and narcissus go dormant for the summer.

Timing is Key

Another trick is to find combinations of plants that flower at the same time. Sometimes that is just a matter of trial-and-error or sometimes it is just good luck.

One year I found a great combination, when I planted early purple tulips between my "Fire Cracker" moss phlox  (a ground cover smothered in vibrant fuchsia-pink flowers) and in between my Blue Fescue grass with its fine blue leaves.

Check the Package 

I always look on the package of the bulbs if they are early, mid, or late spring flowering. I find the early and mid-spring flowering bulbs especially interesting, because they flower at a time when not much else does.


This fall I'm going to try a combination of soft yellow "Peach Melba" tulips with a pink trim and flashes of green. In between the tulips, I'm then going to place some with light blue Puschkinias with clusters of star-like light blue flowers. It looks like a marvellous combination to me.  I am not sure if the timing will be right, but it is exciting to try.

I will let you know how it worked out in spring. The beautiful thing about bulbs is that, even if a combination doesn't work out, they're easy to move around.


BONUS: Book a landscaping design consultation with Maria Beers this fall and we will give you a FREE $25 gift certificate for our Glasshouse Bistro. 

Fall Gardening: Moving Perennials and Planting Trees in the Fall


At this time of the year, I get asked everyday if this is still a good time to plant.

The fact is that for many plants fall it is actually THE BEST time to plant! It's also a great time to get deals on perennials, trees, and shrubs too!

Why is it the best time to plant? Well, with plants preparing for winter, there is no energy being used for new growth. Soon leaves will start to drop and the sap stream will stop. All the plant's energy will go to root development and the soil is still warm enough for plants to settle in.

That said, plants that you buy in a garden centre will probably be "root-bound" after growing in a pot for a whole season.  For this reason, it is really important to break up that rootball at planting time, to give the plant a chance to develop new roots. Massaging the rootball lightly will likely not be enough. If necessary, take a knife to loosen the roots and really roughen them up. Make sure you have watered the plant before you do this.

  • Fall is also a good time to plant, move, or split most perennials.You can still see what is growing where and it is easy to remember what was not working well.
  • Most perennials can be split and re-located in fall or spring, but for Peonies, Bearded Irises, and Lilies, fall is the very best time.
  • Tender perennials and grasses are better relocated in spring. Shrubs and most evergreens can be re-located till mid-October.
  • I would not plant or relocate cedars any later than the end of September. 
  • All other trees can be planted or transplanted for as long as the ground is soft.
  • If you have any hardy perennials or shrubs in a pot or planter that you would like to survive winter, then this is the time to plant them in the ground. In our harsh Alberta winters plants will almost never survive in a pot.

When transplanting, mix in some Sea Soil into the new hole that you've dug.Sea Soil is our best compost here at Hole’s. It is made from composted forest fibres and composted fish. It works well for just about any plant and I love the smell of it that reminds me of forest in fall.

Finally, remember to water your plants during fall and soak everything really well before the ground freezes, usually towards the end of October.

~Maria Beers


Maria is a landscape designer trained and educated in the Netherlands. She owned a landscape design business for 10 years before moving to Edmonton in 2005 and joining the Hole's team. Interested in booking a landscape consultation with Maria? Click here.

Landscape Design: 4 Ways to Create Cohesiveness

This garden uses a few large shrubs and trees and then repeats colours and shapes to create an interesting but still very cohesive look.

This garden uses a few large shrubs and trees and then repeats colours and shapes to create an interesting but still very cohesive look.

Last week we talked about how contrast can bring depth and levels to your yard’s landscape.

Another important part of landscaping design is cohesion: that is, every part of your garden feels as if it’s part of a larger vision and not just an unconnected jumble of plants.

This time of the year is always a fun time to go shopping for some amazing deals on plants. That said, keep these few things in mind, so that you don’t end up with an unconnected collection of interesting plants.

1.       Divide the space in your yard with large solitary forms.  A large shrub, an tall ornamental grass, a pond, a boulder, or the large leaves of ornamental rhubarb, will give it structure and will prevent a cluttered look.

2.       Use repetition to tie the picture together.

  • Repetition in colour: For example, a maple or cherry tree with burgundy leaves, repeated in other areas in the form of a Purple Leaf Sand cherry and a group of burgundy Coral Bells. 
  • Repetition in form:  In between the burgundy forms you could plant a blue upright Juniper on the one side and a Columnar Blue Spruce on the other side. You could also add different sizes of globe shaped shrubs dotted throughout your yard. Dwarf Korean Lilacs, many Spireas, Globe Cedars, and Globe Spruces all have a naturally round growth habit.

3.       Fill in the spaces between the larger forms with ground cover, perennials, and smaller shrubs.

4.       Plant multiples when you use smaller plants.  Mass planting perennials or smaller shrubs creates a greater impact than many different individuals.  


With our 30% OFF outdoor clear-out sale on this week, now is a great time to pick up some amazing shrubs and perennials and get a great deal on them at the same time.


Maria is a landscape designer trained and educated in the Netherlands. She owned a landscape design business for 10 years before moving to Edmonton in 2005 and joining the Hole's team. Book a landscaping design consultation with Maria Beers this fall and we will give you a FREE $25 gift certificate for our Glasshouse Bistro

5 Ways to Create Contrast In Your Garden

Black eyed Susans against a backdrop of grasses.

Black eyed Susans against a backdrop of grasses.


Contrast is essential for any successful landscape design. Contrast helps the eye to spot different shapes and levels, and can be the key to adding dimension to your yard. Without contrast, your landscaping can look flat and dull or perhaps so cluttered that it is just overwhelming.

So what are some of the different ways to create contrast?

There are many ways, to create contrast and you may already be using many of these without even realizing it:

Plant textures:  Silver Mound Artemisia has a soft, matte, grey texture that makes it a great contrast to the shiny mound of large burgundy leaves of the Coral Bells.

Plant shapes: The rounded broccoli-like flower heads of the tall Purple Stonecrop stand out against the pointy, upright spikes of the Spiky Speedwell or Blue Sage. Round Globe Cedars also look great up against, the grassy spilling leaves of Daylilies.

Leaf variety: Leaf contrast is often used in shade borders. The big round leaves of Hostas contrast well against the tiny leaves of groundcovers like Bearberry or Creeping Jenny.

Mass: Big, bold, top heavy coneflowers like Black Eyed Susans or Echinacea look great growing against a backdrop of airy feathery  grasses. This combination is great for late summer and fall interest.

Colour: Burgundy Purple Leaf Sand Cherries are complemented by the tiny golden leaves of Goldmound Spirea.  Bold orange Asiatic Lilies also look great growing above the delicate small blue flowers of Brookside Cranesbill.       


With our 30% OFF outdoor clear-out sale starting this Friday, now is a great time to pick up some of these amazing shrubs and perennials and get a great deal on them at the same time.


Maria is a landscape designer trained and educated in the Netherlands. She owned a landscape design business for 10 years before moving to Edmonton in 2005 and joining the Hole's team. Book a landscaping design consultation with Maria Beers

Tips on choosing a tree for your front yard


Choosing the right tree for your front yard is an important landscaping decision.  Maybe you've just bought a brand new house and are trying to figure out what to do with your landscaping? Or perhaps you just took down a 50-year-old birch tree and need to replace it with something?

Whatever your situation, here's how to find the right tree for your yard.

Firstly, there are a few factors to take into consideration: 

  • The size of your lot 
  • The shape of your house 
  • The colour of your siding
  • What type of trees are planted nearby

Next, here's a designer’s trick I use when helping people plan their landscaping:

  • Stand on the opposite side of your street, and take a photo of your front yard, including your house.
  • Get a piece of transparent tracing paper and put it over your photo. With a pencil and an eraser you can experiment with different shapes of trees, different sizes of trees, and even different placements.
  • Once you have found your favourite shape and size of tree, take good note of the location you would like to plant it in. How many hours of sun would the tree get there?  How exposed will it be to cold northwest winds? And how is the drainage in that particular spot?

By completing these easy steps, you'll have gathered all the necessary information to go tree shopping. The only thing missing is to visit us, let us know what you're looking for, and we'll help you find a tree that matches those needs.


Maria is a landscape designer trained and educated in the Netherlands. She owned a landscape design business for 10 years before moving to Edmonton in 2005 and joining the Hole's team. Book a landscaping design consultation with Maria Beers