Front Yards Bring Us Together

By Jay Ladell

When people ask me why I enjoy creating living greenscapes, I tell them it is because of the connection I feel to the natural world.  I spent many days in the Gatineau Park as a boy. This park is a special place just beyond the city that is full of adventure and every visit seems to renew the soul. It was a place our family would often escape to for weekend camping, long hikes and relaxing afternoons at the beach.

Today, I bring the park’s essence to people’s yards. Ottawa’s urban yards can be flat as a pancake. By adding gentle slopes, natural stones and plants, along with water features, my clients get a piece of the Gatineau on their property.

Front_Yard_Living (2)I truly love the creative process of sculpting the landscape and have always enjoyed the concept of transforming ideas into reality. I began creating art as a teen, studying fine art and photography. Art and photography allowed me to play with texture and light so I could capture still-life images. In landscaping, these aspects become tangible and more dynamic. So it was a natural progression to create artistic landscapes that are to me, living art. Each element brings something different to the garden, plants bring life, stone anchors the landscape, wood brings texture and function and water add joyous sound. A well-designed outdoor space is rejuvenating, calming and brings people together with nature.

Old Ottawa South is a strong community that draws people and nature together. The neighbourhood has unparalleled natural elements: Windsor and Brewer parks, the Rideau River, the canal and the mature tree-lined streets.  It makes sense to incorporate these natural features into your front yard.

Front yards are becoming places where people interact. Adding semi-private sitting areas to your front yards can transform them into informal courtyards, places that link your home with the community.  More residents are spending time in the front of their homes. Some sit on their front porches, just as former residents did back when these homes were first built.  They chat with neighbours and greet folks passing by. Front yard courtyards provide visual interest, relaxation and mental stimulation.

Creating natural front courtyards is easy as long as you start with a good design plan. Even if your front yard is small, you can still add natural features. Just by placing a boulder and few plants, you transform how you relate to your yard.

Imagine how welcoming it would be if you added a garden bursting with life, in place of  the flat, typical lawn. Add plants with texture and colour, or a path with a sense of entry that invites visitors to your door. If space permits, you can build a hidden reading nook surrounded by plants. For those without front porches, try adding a bench shaded by flowering shrubs.

To do this it’s crucial to understand the needs of the plants and what’s going to work where. Plants change season to season, they grow, they bloom, they interact with their environment.

Take the serviceberry shrub. In spring, it blooms with a beautiful white cascade of flowers for two weeks. Edible red berries appear in summer, and small leaves give a dapple shade when the shrub matures. In fall, you get amazing orange and red leaf colour. This one shrub completely transforms its surroundings throughout the seasons.

When you enter a great garden, you can see people completely change. They go back into that early ancestral mind of ours, nurtured at a very fundamental level. And this can be done even in a public front yard.

You might think that it’s less work just to have lawn, but I have some clients who put in just an hour a month into their garden, maybe less. You can eliminate ninety percent of weeds by mulching.

Having a professional involved to do the back-end work can really make life easier, such as getting things set up right in the first place. This allows you to relax and enjoy your garden.

Summer has arrived; it’s time to create some beauty!


Article originally published in the O.S.C.A.R. newspaper

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