Although it certainly didn’t feel like it this past week, we’re not far away from spring in Calgary. If you have been dreaming of a landscaping revamp, now is a great time to start asking questions and looking at your options. While you do, we recommend giving thought to sustainable landscaping choices that allow you to upgrade the look of your property without requiring a great deal of resources to maintain.
Sustainable landscaping combines a number of landscape design techniques to result in healthy and functional environments that work with, not against, the environment. It may seem as though all landscaping must be beneficial to its surrounds, but that is not necessarily the case.
Non-sustainable landscapes are those that:
- Need a lot of fertilizers and pesticides to grow and blossom.
- Require a lot of water to stay alive.
- Produce rainwater runoff, and therefore polluted groundwater.
- Offer no habitat for wildlife.
- Are difficult and time-consuming to maintain.
- Do not help increase energy-efficiency.
Signs of sustainable landscapes are:
- Very little or no fertilizers or pesticides required.
- The ability to conserve water.
- Very little to no rainwater runoff.
- Habitat for beneficial wildlife.
- Those that promote energy efficiency.
- Low maintenance.
Use plants native to the area
More and more Alberta greenhouses are bringing in plants native to the province, which greatly supports sustainable landscaping. In fact, some are completely dedicated to the cause. Native plants do not need nearly as much care and attention as tropicals, are drought resistant, and can survive through (most of) what our wild weather has to throw at us.
Yarrow is a common Alberta wildflower that horticulturalists have hybridized in order to provide an array of colours in addition to its natural white. The rugged blanket flower is from the same family as sunflowers and work well in exposed areas that receive a lot of sun. Giant hyssop grows nice and tall and attracts oh-so-important pollinators to your garden. Bees are pivotal for a successful food chain, and attracting them is another aspect of sustainable landscaping.
Local Saskatoon berry, raspberry, blueberry, and cranberry bushes provide fresh fruit for munching on and baking your favourite treats, and the red branches of the dogwood offer a hint of colour in the winter. Trees such as the lodgepole pine, white spruce, and aspen poplar are attractive and hardy choices.
Put in a rain station
Place a rain barrel underneath a downspout and be surprised just how much water you can collect … and how easily. You can then use the water for your gardens and flower pots. Be sure to purchase a rain barrel that comes with a hose connection.
Install underground irrigation
Water conservation is eco-friendly, and that is exactly what underground irrigation helps do. Only 2.5% of the Earth’s water if freshwater, which literally every living thing on the planet needs to live. Its preservation is pivotal to the planet’s survival.
Because of inefficient watering, utility bills in the Calgary area tend to increase substantially in the summer. Nobody wants to waste water. An underground irrigation system delivers water more efficiently, meaning your property will look great for less time, effort and cash.
Modern sprinkler systems are installed with sophisticated control units that can be programmed to deliver a set amount of water at a specific time in the ideal amount for the needs of your garden or lawn. Systems can be installed with a number of zones that use different sprinklers that effectively deliver water to exactly where it needs to be. Sensors will also turn off your system if there has been enough natural moisture, so you never have to worry about wasting water.
The best part is that along with our landscape design and maintenance services, we at Mirage also install underground irrigation systems. We will walk you through the care and maintenance of your system, help you set your control panel for a number of different watering options, and be there for you every fall when it comes time to blow out your system before winter.
Increase your home’s energy efficiency
As a lot of us Calgarians are struggling with the soaring cost of energy bills, it makes sense to try to be as energy efficient as possible. Landscapes can be designed to keep your home cooler in the winter and warmer in the summer.
Sustainable landscaping requires the smart location of trees and plants. Just one or two strategically planted deciduous trees can lower your cooling bills by up to 25%. Most mature shade trees will easily grow high enough to shade the roof of a single-level home or shade the entire front of a two-storey home in the summer. Shade provided by a tree can be up to 10 degrees Celsius cooler than the air exposed to full daylight, so shade trees can make a big difference in the overall temperature of your home. Deciduous trees should be planted on the east, southeast, south, southwest, and west sides of your home to help reduce summer heat.
In the winter, coniferous (or evergreen) trees planted in the north and west sides of your home can help block nasty cold winds.
If you have south-facing windows, let the winter sun in to help warm up your home.
Xeriscaping is a form of sustainable landscaping designed to need less water and less maintenance. Xeriscaped yards are almost always completely mulched in, or else covered with decorative rocks, which provides a protective cover for the soil and the roots of plants and helps reduce the total amount of water needed. Water seeps slowly into the soil rather than running off quickly, and because of the insulation will also last longer, not evaporate off into the atmosphere as it does when it lies on the surface. The spaces between the rocks also provides cozy protection for plants from winter winds and cold.
Contact Mirage to begin the conversation
With over three generations of experience landscaping in Calgary, our commitment to both the environment and our customers has made us a leader in our industry. Our talented staff of loyal landscaping and maintenance professionals are able to provide their years of expertise to any sort of commercial or residential landscape construction or maintenance project. View our portfolio here, and contact us for a quote on your next outdoor project.