Environmentally friendly landscaping in Burnaby
Townhouse Property Maintenance in Burnaby
September 24th, 2018
Fall One time Cleanup of a commercial townhouse property in Burnaby, BC. Challenges here were invasive English Ivy that was overgrown throughout most of the complex. We had to be careful to remove roots by hand to not damage the exterior surface of the building where it had climbed up 2 stories. See a timelapse of the removal using a 21' Extendable Silky Pole Saw below.
Left photo: Invasive Himalayan Blackberry, Hazelnut, and English Ivy encroaching on staircase. Right photo: Landscape maintenance to clear a path for residents to easily access the lower level.
Left photo: English Ivy was a commonly planted landscaping groundcover because of it's attractive foliage, hardiness, and fast growing habit. Unfortunately, many years later we realize that this European native can be costly to remove. If left unchecked, it can grow into building surfaces and damage paint, wood and exteriors with thick roots, which can get as large as tree branches. Righ photo: You can see the damage left by the English Ivy roots that had grown into the siding. This should be sanded and then the whole wall repainted to completely remove the marks.
Left photo: English Ivy also tends to choke out native vegation, creating monocultures that are poor for biodiversity and wildlife habitat. Right photo: Landscaping maintenance removed English Ivy around Electric box up to BC Hydro standards, which is 8.25 feet of clearance in front of the doors and 3.3 feet of clearance for the other three sides.
In total, 455 kilograms of green waste was responsibly removed from the property.
May 31st, 2018
Spring cleanup of a property in Burnaby, BC. It is a good idea to trim cedar hedges at least once a year. Controlling their height at a reasonable level will save on maintenance costs in the future. Once they get taller than 25ft, it becomes much more expensive to hedge. We also removed all the leaves from the rock garden hardscape, and trimmed some tree branches encroaching on the neighbour's property. This was all done using battery powered electric power tools. Hurray for clean energy!
Left photo: The clean garden beds with leaves removed from the rocks. Right photo: Tree branches responsibly removed from property to be composted at Still Creek Yard works.
About a foot taken off the top of the cedar hedge around the front of the property, and the sides all trimmed back.
May 20th, 2018
Hardscaping can really give definition to your landscape. These permanent structures are the backbone of your garden, and when done right complement the softscaping features of the gardens, beds, and lawn areas. Here is a practical guide to installing landscaping paving stones. We chose square pavers for a pathway through a client's backyard in Burnaby.
Step 1: Remove the existing material. Edge out and peel back a minimum of 4" of turf with a straight edger in the dimensions of your paving stone.
Step 2: Smooth and level the base using a hand tamper and a level to get a flat surface (at this point some people put down landscape fabric-we don't because we don't use non-biodegradable plastic).
Step 3: Add a layer of fill where the hole is. Our choice is 3/4" clear crushed road base, which drains well because of the large sized aggregate.
Step 4: Tamp down with a tamper to set the material. Make sure you leave enough space for the paving stone so that it will sit flush with the surface.
Step 5: Put down the paving stone and set square with the ground. Be sure to sweep the area. Maintaining a clean line between the hardscape and the grass using a string trimmer during the growing season will keep the landscape looking clean and neat.
May 12th, 2018
New home landscaping design and build. Garden priority was low maintenance, native plants to attract hummingbirds and help other pollinators. Also privacy trees strategically planted. More than 1000 plants were installed for species diversity and all season interest.
Landscape Visual Garden design for the front yard.
Landscape Visual Garden design helps visually depict the mature garden planting using Adobe Photoshop.
The before and after installation. Numerous maidenhair fern, Camellia, and the Maple privacy row in the back, featuring Vine Maple, Armstrong Maple and a Japanese 'Burgandy Lace' Maple.
A YouTube timelapse of the garden installation.
The site plan for the installation. The top down view shows both the botanical names and color scheme in bloom.
April 19th, 2018
We were asked to remove an existing lawn that had been wrecked by chafer beetles and reseed. This was a big task because it was a 2500 square foot lawn.
You can see the damage from the chafer beetle, and the poor yellowing of the lawn area in general.
We needed a number of tools to do the job properly. Here is Kevin with a sod cutter loaded up in the back.
Using the sod cutter to peel away the existing grass, the waste was wheelbarrowed into a yard sod bin to be disposed of.
We then used a rototiller to cultivate the exposed soil. We always try to use green, fossil free methods when possible. Unfortunately, they don't have electric rototillers and sod cutters as far as we know, so we did use gas machines for this job.
Braden hard at work with the rake! Soil is leveled and raked with landscape rakes.
The lawn is prepped.
The lawn and garden beds weeded and cleaned, and new soil put down.
We also transplanted blueberry shrubs into the raised beds above the lawn. The weed barrier fabric is tamped down into the soil by 8 inch spiral nails.
The garden beds were cleaned and we used biodegradable cardboard sheet mulch for organic weed prevention.
The finished makeover. A native Red fescue seed was sown into the lawn area after it was leveled with a lawn water roller.
A YouTube timelapse of the lawn renovation.
March 31st, 2018
Following our previous lighting job in North Vancouver, the neighbour across the street asked us to help illuminate his new address sign and feature rock in his front yard. Again, we had to trench underneath side walk for the wiring. It is always better to plan out landscape lighting before the hardscape construction, and at the bare least install conduit underneath for easy access in the future! See our full installation video on YouTube below!
Four landscape lights were used to illuminate the property. The feature rock was lit up with two flood lights, and the sign was illuminated with two spot lights.
Feb 21st, 2018
This was our first big job of the year, and it was a challenge for a number of reasons, but we're so happy with the results. Although we generally like to keep the actual installation of landscape lights down to one day, the initial planning, fixture selection and site preparation must be considered beforehand. In this job, initial measurements of lighting cables were inaccurate. As a result, we needed to create another connection in the system. The correct cable length would've enabled us to have a more efficient system. Our installation was completed in 2 days, though I believe we could get it done in one day if we had a similiar job in the future.
The completed property, nightscape
The first challenge was the navigation of the client's hardscape features. In order to get lights to all the focal points of the property, we had to run cables up two retaining walls. The homeowner requirement was that the wire be flush to the surface of the stone walls in order to be as unobtrusive as possible. I had to figure out how to make that work. The solution was to rent a Rotary Hammer drill and Impact drill which allows you to make clean holes into concrete and then mount brackets into it. I rented one off of Ron of RNET Artisans (regular they sell for close to 400.00$!), a good friend and fellow contractor whom I go to for advice. He generously spent an afternoon teaching me how to use it, and even went to the supply store and showed me which tools and bits I needed to properly do the job.
Mounting the transformer to the stucco on the house
The house had a stucco finish, and was a little more difficult to drill into because of the uneven texture. If there was a foot of concrete coming from the ground up, you could assume the walls were of wood and could use a regular drill. The stucco was coming up about 4" from the base, which meant the walls were made of concrete and needed special tools. Both the Rotary Hammer drill for the hole, and an Impact drill for the screws were needed to mount the transfomer to the house.
Mounting onto Hardscape
Here the landscape lighting cable is mounted onto the concrete retaining wall. As long as you find a smooth surface, the Rotary hammer drill is able to make clean core drills into the concrete. We were able to get the wire flush with the 4' wall with 2 brackets, one at the top and one at the bottom, to keep the wire snug. The conduit at the top is protecting the wire as it runs underneath a boxwood shrub that is regularly shaped and hedged with a hedge trimmer.
How to run Landscape Lighting Wiring underneath concrete
Now here was another challenge. We needed to light symetrical features on both sides of a concrete pathway. The challenge was getting the wire across to the other side while keeping it hidden. There was also an arbor over the pathway that we thought about running the landscape cable up and over. However, after talking to fellow contractors, we decided the best solution would to be to go underground. The thing to check for was if the foundation of the walkway would be OK after excavation. We had to first figure out if it was thick enough. 4" and higher and we would be able to go under. Also, we had to check ridgelines. These are put into concrete to prevent cracking or random breaking over time. The deeper these ridgelines, the more confident we can be that it was poured correctly and we wouldn't be causing future maintenance problems by digging underneath. Although the ridgeline wasn't extremely deep (only about 1/2") we decided that based on the thickness of the slab (4") it would be Okay. The photo below is actually after we ran the conduit and wiring under the slab. You can't even tell the difference, right?
Running conduit underneath sidewalk
We made it to the other side (4.5' width) after 4 man-hours of digging at each end. We used a tunneling shovel, crowbar and hand trowel for most of the work. It was difficult because of the depth of the pathway made it hard to see where we were digging. This kind of excavation has to be done by hand, as machines would be too obtrusive and would threaten the stability of the walkway. Even thought the conduit only needs a 1/2" diameter to get through, we still had to dig out a diameter of about a foot, and about 2' deep, to make it through, because of the difficulty of digging underneath the grade. You can see the conduit sticking out on both ends of the walkway. We bury the the landscape lighting cable underneath the river rocks, and then stick it through the conduit to come out to the other side. We then backfill with 3/4" clear crushed road base.
The landscape lighting cable is buried directly beneath the grass to a minimum depth of 6" using a tunneling shovel or edger. We do straight lines and give the client a map of the wiring, transformers and lighting fixtures upon each completed project. This project required 190 feet of low voltage underground landscape lighting cable. Wire is also buried under soil or landscaping rock to a depth of at least 4".
January 31st, 2018
This is my start to finish process of a subcontracting commission for a home in White Rock, BC. I had free control to design the space, and was only asked to keep the Japanese garden theme. The original space had lots of pots, Japanese garden Zen garden artifacts and other random objects, so I removed most of the items for a minimalized look. Many gardeners seem to have this habit of adding as many items into their landscape as possible, be it plants, objects or anything else, but this can actually lead to an overcrowded look. Right now, minimalism is in trend. This decluttered look helps to redefine the space. I also spent some time on Youtube learning how to do Architectural lighting drawings so that I could show off the landscape lighting at night.
Outline sketch of the property
This is my sketch of the property, which is drawn using Adobe Photoshop. I sketched out the main outline of the property, excluding the extra objects. This meant that all the planters, garden landscaping, and wierd Japanese zen features (Lanterns, rock obelisks, bonsai in pots; everything stereotypical you could imagine, was there) were removed.
Once the coloring was done, I began to redesign the space.
ReDesign of Hardscape Paths
I like the idea of flagstone paths, so I replaced the brick with the irregular shaped hardscaping. These stone paths are easy to walk on, and look great after a glistening rain shower, shiny and dark.
Japanese Garden Redesign
Here is the garden with a simple featureset: A couple of water features, moss covered sculpted rock, landscape lighting, bamboo fencing, a pond in the corner, and very simple landscaping: boxwoods, Japanese bloodgrass, cottongrass and Iris. We may do a couple of revisions after we show the client, and if so we have already agreed that there will be additional compensation for any more work to be done.
Japanese Garden Redesign, Night
Although not required, I decided to go one extra step to render the design at night. After searching on Youtube on How to do Landscape Lighting, I found a video I liked and spent another 2 hours rendering the nighttime lighting effects to my image. This was my first time doing the lighting effects, so I believe next time I will be much faster doing this. Total time spent was probably around 8 hours from start to finish. I love the way that this Nighttime shot turned out, and will definitely add lighting effects to my drawings in the future to sell landscape lights!