Environmentally friendly landscaping - Page 2

Landscaping with Douglas Fir Bark Mulch

January 12th, 2018

Douglas Fir is one of our most iconic BC trees. However, because of its tall height (it can get up to 300 ft) they are prone to being cut down for safety reasons in residential areas. By using Douglas Fir Bark Mulch, we can recycle resources, use local raw materials, and create low maintenance garden beds. It has been recommended as a premiere garden mulch for environmentally safe weed suppresion in gardens.

Douglas Fir Bark Mluch

6 yards of 1" Douglas Fir Bark Mulch

We implemented this material on a new garden site. Here is a before look at the property: The garden was overgrown and fraught with weeds. Using a small chainsaw and pickace to remove the trees, we cleared the top 2 inches of earth to prepare for the installation.

The front garden is overrun with weeds

Carleton Landscaping shrub and tree removal. The homeowner was sad that we had to remove the existing trees, but our new design included several new landscaping shrubs. These were selected to provide shelter, food and habitat for songbirds and greatly increase habitat.

Carleton Landscaping shrub and tree removal.

Half way done!

Carleton Landscaping shrub and tree removal.

Carleton Landscaping shrub and tree removal.

Finally the ground has been weeded, cultivated and tilled. We managed to complete the initial cleanup just as the sun was beginning to set.

Carleton Landscaping shrub and tree removal.

Once the ground has been prepped, we installed a double layer of cardboard as a lasagna sheet mulch to prevent any roots or seeds from sprouting back up. This layer will prevent weeds and then eventually decompose back into the soil. This is a natural way for weed control without the use of harmful herbicide or other chemical inputs. If you are resourceful, you can often find cardboard for free to save on costs, as we did!

Carleton Landscaping topsoil installation.

In addition to the bark mulch, we also used Topsoil for the berms. Bark mulch is great for weed suppression, but isn't a good planting medium because the nutrients are locked away in the bark, which is slow to break down. We selectively put topsoil where the plant groupings were going. The rest of the area is covered with the bark mulch, ensuring a double protection to suppress any weeds that manage to break through the cardboard barrier.

Hazel putting down the topsoil

Hazel putting down the topsoil for the planting area

The homeowner wanted something that has curb appeal, unique,and would lso be maintenance free. Full design control was given to us, so we propsed a bermed native plant design with focal shrubs on each of the 5 berm areas.

Carleton Landscaping Bark Mulch Installation

The existing Boxwoods, Windmill Palm Tree and Japanese Maples were kept.

Carleton Landscaping Bark Mulch Installation

Kevin mapping out the path

Carleton Landscaping Douglas Fir Bark Mulch Installation

The raised berms feature Japanese Maples, a Windmill Palm, Red flowering Currant, Mock Orange Oceanspray and Serviceberry shrubs as focal points. THe native berry producing shrubs were chosen to attract native songbirds.

Carleton Landscaping Douglas Fir Bark Mulch Installation complete

The completed installation features over 183 native plants, grasses, shrubs and trees as well as concrete stepping stones and a birdbath for wildlife.

California Poppies in the garden

California poppies blooming in the garden.

See a short timelapse of 6 yards of Douglas Fir Bark being dumped below!



Pondstruction - How to build a Native Frog Pond

January 10th, 2018

Carleton Landscaping was asked to build a pond for an existing client this Autumn. There are a couple of questions you should ask before any construction is to be done outdoors. Is it safe to dig? How will drainage be addressed? For this property, there were a couple of challenges for the build that had to be addressed before construction could begin. Currently, there were lots of weeds where the desired pond was to be built. Drainage away from the house in the event of overflow had to be put into the design, as the grade was naturally sloped toward the house. Anytime you dig, it is also important to check for below ground power, water, sewer, and gas lines. In BC, this means calling BC One Call to get maps of the Hydro, Power and gas lines of your property to ensure you don't hit a major gas line when you are excavating your site.

The proposed pond site - Before.

Landscape Designs

Because your current site may be difficult to visualize your future desired landscaping, having a Landscape design may be practical to have a place of reference. We produced both a site and concept design for this project because of both the drainage and graing issues. It was also important for us to be able to show the homeowner our concept so that they would have a realistic picture of what we were planning on building. A pond can come in many different shapes, materials and sizes, so this ensures proper understanding between both parties.

Carleton Landscaping Frog pond concept plan design.

Our concept plan is a natural character pond built from local sourced boulders, river rock and sand materials. There are a number of wetland native plant species, as well as a driftwood log and shallow rock recesses for shelter and wildlife habitat. There is no pump or filter, and relies on natural rainwater as an ephemeral pond, helping to prevent mosquito breeding.

Carleton Landscaping Frog pond site plan design.

Site plan with drainage sloped away from the house entrance and the neighbour's house. Important because Vancouver rains so much most of the year!

Collect Permits.

We also sent in a request to BC One Call to arrange for the proper digging permits. Any time you are excavating, it is proper protocol to inform them of your proposed dig, no more how small the job. At Carleton Landscaping, we take safety seriously and will get permitsfor even small dig sites such as this one. The consequences of not doing this could be the risk of cutting into an underground service with potential for loss of life, personal injury, damage to property, or disruption of a service.  It usually takes 3 business days for them to e-mail back with the property maps, as you will receive mail from BC Hydro, Fortis and your jurisdiction city (in this case, City of Burnaby). Once all members confirm the job you are given a ticket to operate, and you have 14 calendar days of placing your request to start excavation activity and your ticket will be valid for a maximum of 30 calendar days from the date your request was placed. It took us 4 days to get our tickets and permitting confirmations from all parties, and then we began site preparation.


Carleton Landscaping Pond site excavation

Pond excavation is done quick with a pick. We shaped our pond into a kidney bean shape, but it's up to you how you want to design yours.

Carleton Landscaping Excavation and tamping of pond.

Carleton Landscaping Pond Liner






Make sure that you tamp down the bottom of the pond as flat as you can. Use a tamper. This will help getting the liner down as smooth as possible. You can then add the liner. We use commercial grade 45mm EPDM liner, double layered if possible. Measure out the area of your pond, and add a couple extra feet to the measurement to account for the depth of the pond. Buying extra instead of too little will ensure that you have enough to cover the entire area of the pond. It is easiest to lay out the liner with two people because you want it as flat as possible to the dirt. By filling the liner with water, you can use it's weight to help smooth out any additional creases in the liner.

Carleton Landscaping sechelt sand base

Carleton Landscaping Boulders for pond

Once the liner is as smooth as possible, add your base. We chose a Sechelt sand base. After the base is applied, we hold the liner in place with smooth 9-12″ Cheekeye River rock. This height allows the rocks to set into the grade of the edge, as if the pond formed naturally from the rock.

Carleton Landscaping Pond Installation

Carleton Landscaping Cutting the Pond Liner

Finishing the design with a driftwood log helps critters exit the pond easily, as well as provide shelter for amphibians or other aquatic creatures. When you are happy with placement, cut along the edges of the liner with an exacto-knife, burying the excess liner underneath the soil to keep it in place. As it is a natural pond, there is no pump or filter, but will simply fill with water during the rainy season. This GREEN choice helps to save costs from having to supply energy to a pump or replace parts in breakdown, as well as save energy and be more sustainable.

Carleton Landscaping Pond Installation day

The finished installation.

We complemented the look by putting down a layer of 1-1 1/2″ landscaping pebbles long the bottom of the frog pond, as well as high polished charcoal stones for accent. A selection of native submergen and shoreline plants are planted in and around the pond for natural oxygen filtration. We also put in a wood Fibar Bark mulch path for easy access to the pond. The native plants species include Wapato, Cotton grass, Marsh violet, Tufted Hair grass and Lyngbei's Sedge.

Cat visits the garden pond

The very next day after install, we had our first visitor!

Carleton Landscaping cat visits the garden pond

The frog pond is ready for visitors, starting with the neighbour's cat!



A Solution in Cedar!

September 18th, 2017

One of our most rewarding parts of being in the industry is working with homeowners to redesign stale living spaces. Here is one problem a client had for us - a 10' high overgrown cedar hedge keeling over 4' from the harsh winter into the tiny backyard.


The answer? A Russian man with a chainsaw.

Carleton Landscaping Garden maintenance.

The Cedar hedge spanned 40', and altogether we removed almost 400 kg of yard waste.

Carleton Landscaping Waste Removal.

With the hedge controlled, construction can begin, starting with concrete foundations and wooden posts.

Carleton Landscaping Cedar Fence Construction


Below, Boss Ron (of RNET Artisans) hard at work constructing the panels.

Cedar Fence constructionStaining the fence



Three coats of stain were applied to the fence for protection from the elements.

Cedar Fence Installation

Nearly there!

Carleton Landscaping Cedar Fence installation.

The finished installation: 6.5' Stained 3 coat Premium cedar fence.


Light it up!

August 2nd, 2017

Here is one of our favourite projects from this year. Working with the client's needs to produce a 'visually striking, low maintenance' garden, here is some of the documentation of this project. It is always nice when you are given full control in the garden design, and everyone is happy with the way the house looks now, including the neighbours!


The original garden bed needed a cleanup. It also had some old landscape lighting that was no longer functioning.

Carleton Landscaping Garden maintenance.

Almost all of the previously installed plants, now completely overgrown, were taken out. Replacing with low maintenance native plants will save the homeowner time and money on annual cleanup.

Carleton Landscaping garden design.

The garden bed design also needed to be rethought out. The brick edging and plants had all been installed by the previous owner, and the eventual size of the palm trees hadn't been taken into account. The trees were simply too big for the garden bed, basically growing right against the edge of the brick. I simply extended the garden bed to achieve a cost-effective solution. As a design choice, I also relaid the brick using a gentle curve for softer corners, in contrast to the previous owner's right angles. Palm trees are playful, leave the 90 degree angles for traditional French gardens!

Carleton Landscaping Design Plans.

Landscape Visual Concept Plans.






Before starting on construction, we produced both Artist renderings and Visual Garden Designs for the client.

Western Bog Laurel, Kalmia polifolia

Prickly Pear Cactus, Opuntia fragilis

Western Bog Laurel and Prickly Pear Cactus are some of the native plants installed for both aesthetics and low maintenance.

20 Vista Outdoor Landscape Light fixtures

Time for the lights to go in!

Carleton Landscaping Installation day.

The finished installation, with Vista brass outdoor Landscape Light fixtures.

Installation at night with the satisfied homeowner.

Photo op of the night of installation, with the homeowner and the designers!


The backyard was also in need of a makeover. The homeowner didn't want something that required mowing and maintenance from the dreaded European Chafer beetle, which already had been destroying the lawn. Working together, we decided on a Succulent, beach themed garden with a Zen feel.

Prickly Pear Cactus, Opuntia fragilis

Let's get cleaning!

Rough concept plan for the backyard

A blank slate

Computer drawing of the Succulent plant design

We started with a number of concept designs which we walked the client through so that we had an understanding as to what the final product would look like. We chose 4 drought tolerant types of native succulent plants for the groundcover.

Raw landscaping materials: Sechelt sand and gravel

Carleton Landscaping Installing the landscape materials

One yard of Sechelt sand, half yard of Pea Gravel.

Carleton Landscaping Installation in progress

Black Anthracite Clayfibre planters

The black planters give the space much needed definition.

Black aluminum edging and High Polish Charcoal pebbles

Broadleaved Stonecrop, Sedum spathulifolium

Black Aluminum edging lined with high polish Charcoal pebbles. Broadleaved Stonecrop is one of the succulents that will thrive in Sechelt sand.

Carleton Landscaping Complete Design and Install Day

Carleton Landscaping Complete Design and Install Night.

The finishing touches placed 4 Aluminum pathlights into the planters, which are also filled with sand and planted with Junegrass to complete the look.

Black aluminum edging and High Polish Charcoal pebbles

Broadleaved Stonecrop, Sedum spathulifolium

Pathlights and the Junegrass seedheads

A Rhodo for Every Season

April 12th, 2017

For those of you waiting for big, pompous flowers, there is a place in British Columbia that is bursting with color. Featuring over 250 rhododendron species, this is one specialty nursery where you must visit. I had the pleasure of dropping by the nursery this Monday, in search of the perfect Western Azalea (Rhododendron occidentale) for a client's centerpiece. Here is a small documentation of my trip to Fearing's Farm Species Rhododendron and Azalea Nursery in Abbotsford, BC.

  • Fearings Farm species Rhododendron and Azalea Nursery.

This is a rare species called Rhododendron albiflorum. Though present in the subalpine zones of BC, it has yet to flourish in our cultivated gardens. This was the only surviving one at the nursery, and doesn't look very happy. Perhaps it needs constant moisture, or the blanket of snow throughout the winter, to keep it healthy. Supposedly, there is a lowland variety that can be found "at the 800 ft. level near Muchalat Inlet," penned by Lewis J. clark in Wild Flowers of the Pacific Northwest. However, this description covers a wide range, from Nootka Island to Gold River, and hasn't been verified, much to the dissapointment of gardeners hoping to plant this beauty. For now, we must observe in nature, what we can't yet accomplish in the garden.

  • Fearings Farm species Rhododendron and Azalea Nursery Rhododendron albiflorum.

Amazingly, the garden was full of color despite it being April.

  • Fearings Farm species Rhododendron and Azalea Nursery.

This is a very special rhododendron. When not in bloom, the evergreen leaves keep winter interest and privacy.

  • Fearings Farm species Rhododendron and Azalea Nursery.

The undersides of the leaf is where this Rhodie really shines. Fine hairs have a soft feel to the touch, quite like leather or a fine velvet. Truly, it is a texture I would never believe comes from a plant.

Buds soon to bloom. Proper plant selection can allow you something in flower all year long. That's where proper landscape design comes in handy.

  • Fearings Farm species Rhododendron and Azalea Nursery Rhododendron buds.

The puffball blooms of this Rhodie are uniquely bunched up together.

  • Fearings Farm species Rhododendron and Azalea Nursery Rhododendron buds.
Look! Hilary spotted a Pacific Tree Frog. Can you?
  • Pacific Tree Frog.

With Harold Fearing, master of the Nursery. Behind us is the growing tents where the For Sale rhodos are housed.

  • Fearings Farm species Rhododendron and Azalea Nursery.

Spring is Coming!

March 19th, 2017

Spring is almost here, and already you can start to see the new growth coming out from hibernation. Red Flowering currant is one of the first to bloom, with the drooping red hummingbird magnets revealed before the green leaves. I have already seen a couple of hummingbirds fly over my head, eagerly timing their return with the opening of these currant blossoms.

  • Ribes sanguineum bud.

Winter Palm Care

March 8th, 2017

Despite the snow, Carleton Landscaping is out on the job. Not quite used to the heavy snowfall, this Windmill Palm had some flattened lower leaves that were under duress from snow. By removing these lower leaves, a much more tidy look is achieved. As it grows, continue to remove the lowermost branches. This will give it that distinct Palm Tree look. Just remember not to top the tree, as removal of the growing point will actually kill this monocot.

  • Windmill Palm Tree Cleanup.
  • Windmill Palm Tree Cleanup.

Garden Design in Progress

March 2st, 2017

With spring in the air, it's time to start garden planning. However, rain in the next few weeks will allow few but the bravest of us to delve into the garden yet. In this time, sometimes the best plan is to get a garden design and start thinking of the placement of this year's plants. A little planning goes a long way!

  • Garden design.
  • Garden design before.

Here is a little taste for a plan that I am designing right now. Concept: Full season color and curb appeal Perennials.

Another satisfied costumer

March 1st, 2017
A quick cleanup was all that was needed to get the garden back to looking it's best.

Another satisfied customer for Landscape Maintenance.

Garden Bed Transformation

March 1st, 2017

A start to finish look at the transformation of a garden bed Dimensions: 240 square feet. Boulders and river rock are delivered to the build site..

  • Half man boulders.

    Half man boulders.

Here comes the topsoil! This is part of a larger project and so was 10.5 yards of native salvaged topsoil.

  • Landscape excavation.

    The before.

  • Garden maintenance.

    A quick weed removes most of the excess vegetation.

  • Lasagna sheet mulch with cardboard.

    A double layer of thick, biodegradable lasagna mulch is added.

  • Lasagna sheet mulch with cardboard and halfman boulders.

    The halfman boulders are added on top.

The rocks are organized by man power: 1 man boulders are rocks that a single man can lift, and so half man boulders are half that. They sure are heavy though - in total was around 7,000lbs. of rock for this project.


    What's inside the bags? Smooth 2-6 inch river rock.

  • Garden bed Installation.

    Ready to plant!