When you’re building a new house, you might think that you can wait until after the house is built to begin planning the landscaping or hiring a landscaping contractor. But landscaping shouldn’t be an afterthought. Bringing your landscape designer or landscape contractor in on the job should be one of the first things you think about.
“You might think of landscaping as the beautiful finished outdoor living areas and vistas,” says Mark Higginson, of Natural Stonescapes Landscaping. “It is that, but a very large portion of a landscaping design-build project is boring practical work – drainage and grading and compaction – so the finished landscape will last a long, long time. And where we live, features such as retaining walls are more than decoration.”
With the Niagara Escarpment winding its way around Collingwood, Thornbury, Meaford and the Blue Mountains, proper drainage and retaining walls can be as important as your home’s foundation. And that usually requires heavy machines – excavators, forklifts and large trucks – which need access to the site.
When the builder of this beautiful French-country-style stone home, at the foot of the Blue Mountains near Collingwood, called in Natural Stonescapes to begin planning the stone landscaping, Mark realized it was going to be challenging job.
Mark grew up in Meaford, and lives in the hills above town today. Just looking at a site, he can predict the drainage and grading solutions you need to avoid surprises. In this case, the home was being built directly at the bottom of a steep slope below a local ski club.
The hill required some major retaining and drainage work. Unfortunately, while the builder knew some retaining was necessary, he’d already started work on the house.
“That made for tight quarters,” says Mark. “We needed to seriously excavate the slope, remove the material, bring in truckloads and truckloads of gravel and armour stone, and then bring the material back in. All with a house being framed right next to the slope. And it rained the whole time we were at it.
“But,” he adds with a laugh, “we like a challenge.”
The finished landscaping job created a secluded patio area enclosed protectively by two tiers of quarry-cut stone, carving out a series of outdoor spaces and nooks for small terraced planting beds, stone benches and entertaining areas. At the same time, the retaining walls were doing their workmanlike job of protecting the home from water flowing down the slope.
Until the following spring. In the intervening months, the ski club had cut and graded new trails above the development – without installing the required drainage. “It was a really wet May, and it was like a waterfall coming over those walls,” says Mark. “All of the homes along this road had the same problem.”
Natural Stonescapes came to the rescue again, installing a third tier of retaining wall, which fixed the problem even before the ski club responded and added their own drainage.
Today, the house and yard remain dry year-round, and there’s no sign of the challenging work that went into turning a potential disaster into beautiful landscaping.