Reply Tue 14 Jun, 2011 06:22 pm
Hello all. I'm knee deep in the beginning process of designing my yard. I used google sketch up and planned the entire yard plan. A new garage, front and back decks, shed, raised beds, new sidewalks (maybe) a new fence and a potting table. I'm not planning on doing this in a weekend, it will take most of the summer to complete half of all this stuff, but at least I now where all the pieces will go and how much more wood and so on I have to buy or scrounge up. I've already found 51 4x4 and 40ish 2x4s utility grade oak. I plan to use most of this stuff on the beds - I plan on raising them 18", and the fence and deck supports. I know I'll have to shell out the big bucks for the rest unless I find a deal that fell off the back of a truck. fingers crossed

Now to get to my real dilemma. I have no idea how to plan the actual plant part of the garden. My yard is dead flat and boring, thus the overly ambitious plans. When I bought the house, you couldn't see it for the trees, which were all planted wrong or dying and causing all manners of problems.
I've planted two twigs, an apple and an oak, both died. I want some trees, some bushes and flowers, yada yada yada
I'm unsure of what kind I should get and where I should plant them. So, I'm on the hunt for a cheap - preferably free programs that can help with the design.
Does anyone know of a good program or site a person could use?
Never having used such a program before I'm unsure if plant types are incorporated or not?
Any ideas, thoughts or shoves in the right direction would be greatly appreciated.

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Reply Tue 14 Jun, 2011 07:21 pm
Many people are naturally rather good an land design, and I think you might be one, Ceili.

Some of us have spent years designing for a living.
Well, I tried once or twice to try it lightly online but about sliced my neck off and won't do that again. Green Witch doesn't either, that I know of. She's smarter.

You want a snap program so you can whiff it out in your particular area, with your particular site, with its views to hide and views to foster and particular soil, your particular grading over its particular footage with its particular drainage in your very particular climate, with your specific native plants or others that can survive in your particular winds and ices? Give me a break.

First of all, go to the very best nursery around where you are, and then to the local arboretum, or whatever it is called, and talk to those people.

You are brighter than this. Remember what landscapes you like and make notes about them, wherever they are in the world - what is it you like about them that is transferrable to where you are.

On garden design, you may have some gardens you like in mind, scour those for what you like about them, and look for more.

I'll be glad to talk after get off your cheap and easy horse, the snap me an answer business, if I can - I'm not versed in canadian landscape. Mame may be a good source, as may Beth. I'm not the bitch I sound. I'll be glad to just talk if I even can, but just go out there and look.


Reply Tue 14 Jun, 2011 07:30 pm
What you are wanting to do is very sensible and can give you a head start for when you go to the nursery to talk to local experts. I've made use of several very helpful online sites for plant selection in various micro climate zones that I've lived. Give me an hour or so and I'll see if I can find them again for you. Am in the middle of fixing dinner so it may get delayed a bit.

There is also one that I used to design the layout for my vegetable gardens so I'd have all the compatible and incompatible veggies in their proper places. I'll have to look and see if they have an ornamental plant version of it.

Back in a bit.

Reply Tue 14 Jun, 2011 09:03 pm
Okay, here's what I've compiled so far from my gardening links:

The Better Homes and Garden site has a wealth of helpful design and selection tools. They have pre-set garden plan suggestions to help get your creativity started. Take time to explore the gardening section of the site. There is a lot of depth to it. It has a plant selection tool to help you find plants for your climate. It also has a lot of do-it-yourself plans for hardscape projects.


They have some free online garden planner software that is easy to use.


I found this to be an easy planner tool too:


Another great magazine site is the Sunset Magazine.

They have a plant finder tool, landscaping and design tools and lots of project ideas.


This was one of the sites I found helpful in New Mexico. You can enter specific parameters and it gives a list of suggested plants to meet them. Don't be fooled by the title, they have plant selections for a wide range of climate zones.


What you might want to do is focus on planning and installing your hardscape projects this summer and use your downtime to browse through plant and seed catalogs to learn about plants and rip out pages for those you like and will grow in your climate. Collect them all in a folder and use that as a basis for selecting the plants for your various flower beds. Another idea is to find a local university extension and agricultural website for your area. They'll have lists of plant variety suggestions based on proven local experience.

Here's a list of catalog sites I've browsed through in the past and receive catalogs from. Most of these ship only to the US. If they specifically ship to Canada too, I'll mention it. All these places will send you a free catalog upon request.

perennials, grasses, mums, herbs, ornamental shrubs, and bulbs. They have a plant finder tool.

They sell flower, vegetable, herbs, and organic seeds. Ships to Canada.

Sells vegetable seeds, mushroom kits, flowers, herbs, trees. Ships to Canada.

sell just about every bulb imaginable and they ship to Canada.

vegetables, flowers, perennials, herbs, and heirloom seeds and plants.
They have a really good gardening calendar tailored to each climate zone so you'll learn when to do what. This was very helpful to me when moving to the arid climate of ABQ.

This is a good one for learning about what bulbs will thrive in your climate.

certified organic vegetable, herb, flower, and cover crop seeds. They also have a large selection of heirloom seeds. They ship to Canada.

vegetable seeds, fruit plants, flower seeds, herbs, farm seeds - ships to Canada.

sells annual seeds along with bulbs, container plants, flowers, fruits, herbs, decor, and more. Ships to Canada

herb plants, seeds, books. They have greenhouses in Toronto.

organic flower and herb seeds. Ships to Canada.

Unusual plants, seeds, herbs, flowers, trees from around the world. Ships to Canada.

Reply Tue 14 Jun, 2011 09:06 pm
I can't remember where exactly in Canada that you live. If you want to PM me the location/zipcode, I can look for some helpful sites for your local area and climate zone.
Reply Tue 14 Jun, 2011 09:19 pm
Osso, I in no way think you are a bitch, and I don't blame you for being upset with my cheap take on landscaping. Sadly, I have no budget or cash. If I could post the design I made on sketch-up I would, I don't know if it's possible.
There are some excellent greenhouses near me, unfortunately, because I'm in school... I can only visit. The Enjoy Centre has just opened and I dying to go and see it. My mom and I have a date to check it out.
I have two dump trucks of pure black top soil, sitting behind my tiny one car garage, waiting for me. Our soil is some of the best in the world, my yard is about a metre deep with it, but since I'm raising all the beds, I need more. Plus when I cut down all the trees the land settled and the lawn needs to be topped up. Tomorrow I'm going to get a couple or five straw bales. My compost pile wont cut it, too small for all the dirt I'm going to be playing with. Hoping to get some manure as well.
I planted a bunch of seeds this year, no cash for live plants. Unless I can get some stuff for cheap, I won't be planting till next year, which is fine because then I'll be working and I'll have (hopefully) some disposable income to spend on the yard.
I used to rent out my basement to a guy studying landscape design and he was very talented but I've lost touch with him. However, I really want to do this and I know I can, and thank-you for saying so too. I just would like to get something on paper. And maybe that's what I'll do, draw it myself.

Reply Tue 14 Jun, 2011 09:23 pm
I could just hug you. Thank you so much for the list. I'm in Edmonton, which is zone 3, yup it's that cold here, but with raised, insulated beds and the 17 hours of summer sunshine we get, you can stretch the zone to a good solid 5 for many plants.
I'm going to read through your links toot sweet.
Thanks again.
I appreciate your help.
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Reply Tue 14 Jun, 2011 09:26 pm
Take advantage of cuttings and plant divisions from neighbors, family and friends. Most plants are very easy to root from cuttings and only take a few weeks before they are ready for the garden. You can volunteer to help your neighbor gardeners divide up plants in need of it, bulbs especially, and ask for one or two of the divisions as compensation. While you're working with them, ask questions and learn how to care for the plant.
Reply Tue 14 Jun, 2011 09:30 pm
You can also ask friends and neighbors to collect seed pods from their gardens for you. Store them in a cool, dark place until Spring and then sprinkle them around the gardens.

That's how I get some of my annuals. I'll see some dried out seed pods in a neighbor's yard and ask if I can pick a few to try out in my garden. If you buy some, at the end of the season, let them go to seed and collect the seeds for next year.
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Reply Tue 14 Jun, 2011 09:37 pm
There are a couple of elderly ladies in the hood and I've helped them before, but with school and all the other crap I have to do, I haven't been able to help this year. My dad grows a monster garden. He's a farmer, a vegetable guy at heart and with all the work I'm planning on doing this summer I didn't do veggies this year.
I'm going to go to a friends farm and get a few native plants, like wild rose and some ferns.
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Reply Tue 14 Jun, 2011 09:41 pm
You misread me if you think I am about money. Last thing on earth I give a **** about. I live sans. My interest, strongly, is about design.

Whatever, have fun.
Reply Tue 14 Jun, 2011 09:45 pm
I didn't mean it like that at all. I totally understand someone who has studied and toiled in a career and then have some upstart devalue their work thinking they can do it themselves. That what I meant. Sorry for the confusion.
Reply Tue 14 Jun, 2011 09:47 pm
Okay, here are some sites that came up in a search for seed catalogs for zone 3 in Canada:

Has a long list of gardening vendors based in Canada.

Take a look at the answers to this question: What Are Some Long-Flowering Perennials in Zone 3?


Not much here other than just a list of plant names, but it is a list of Perennials hardy to -40F / -40C (USDA Zone 3):


Here's a site to learn about which rose plant varieties are best for zone 3 in Canada:


Here's a more comprehensive list from the University of Minnesota Extension Service:


Here's a link to UMN's gardening section with plant variety recommendations, gardening tips, pests and diseases for your cold climate and short growing season:


This reminds me. When making your plant selections be sure to select plants that will thrive a notch or two above and below your climate zone so you don't lose your investment and hard work in a freak cold or heat wave. For instance, we're in zone 7 and I look for plants that thrive in the zone 5 to zone 9 range and avoid plants that say they are only for zone 7.
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Reply Tue 14 Jun, 2011 10:00 pm
Some good local advice for you in this article:


Plant hardiness zones in Alberta
Story by Dorothy Dobbie

Alberta gardeners live mainly in 3, according to the Canada Plant Hardiness Zone Map although the Alberta map ranges all the way from Zone 0 (the harshest) to zone 4a around Lethbridge.

The plant hardiness zone map was actually developed to support the movement of woody plants such as trees and shrubs and not for perennials so it is, at best, only a guide. Small variables such as altitude, wind, snow cover and even proximity to a large body of water can make a significant difference. So can the subtle climate conditions in your own back yard. Soil composition, light, moisture and humidity affect ratings. It is not unusual for zone 3 gardeners to successfully overwinter a zone 4 or 5 perennial.

Changes in temperature creating freezethaw conditions are far more damaging than steady cold. Generally, the more snow cover, the better the chances for survival of a plant. The snow acts as an insulator. Covering a tender plant with leaves, flax straw, wood chips or peat moss keeps out early spring heat as well as the cold, preventing the freezing of tender emerging buds with a late frost after an early thaw.

Planting near a foundation also favourably affects survival chances as long as the plant is not subjected to the freeze-thaw cycle. A south-facing yard is warmer than a north facing one. Having wind shelter changes the micro-climate, and in rural locations, planting over the septic tank can boost the zones a couple of notches.

Remember that zone ratings are only a guide, not only because the Canada map was created for trees, but because many plants are labelled with American zones in mind. Not only is the American zone map slightly different from the Canadian one, but other information is based on local conditions. Light ratings can vary, for example. A plant grown in Wisconsin, where it is fairly cloudy, may ask for full sun, but the same plant placed in the blazing Edmonton or Calgary sun might fry. You have to apply your powers of observation and adjust what you’re doing to meet the circumstances. Disney World has impatiens growing in full sun – but they’re in floating baskets on ponds and the additional moisture in the root zone boosts their heat tolerance.

We have a similar lighting problem here at the high elevation of Albuquerque. Not all zone 7 plants will thrive in our zone 7 location. The hot sun fries the leaves on the more delicate plants.
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Reply Tue 14 Jun, 2011 10:24 pm
I don't take it as you.
Butryfly is good at what she is good at, so I can't argue with that.

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cicerone imposter
Reply Tue 14 Jun, 2011 10:42 pm
I think another good idea would be to visit your local nursery, and ask which native plants should be used for your garden.
Reply Tue 14 Jun, 2011 10:54 pm
@cicerone imposter,
another good idea? do you ever read back, CI?

Reply Tue 14 Jun, 2011 10:57 pm
ok, I'm over it.
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Reply Wed 15 Jun, 2011 12:09 am
@cicerone imposter,
They often lie or mislead you because they're into sales. I've heard that from several gardeners here. THe best thing to do is to use sites which Butrflynet provided or go around your neighbourhood and see what's out there. That's what I do. I came from BC where plants can start flowering as early as February and now I'm in Calgary where we have a short summer - sigh. It's disappointing, but do-able. My garden is coming along nicely. Pics later, after we've had some sun. I love daisies (Shasta) so I've planted a bunch, but baby's breath, columbine, hostas, irises, all do well here, Ceili, for a start. Also echinecea, yarrow, and some clematis and honeysuckle varieties. Just check out your neighbourhood for ideas.
Reply Wed 15 Jun, 2011 05:47 am
I workfor a landscape service. We are at the CD stage - construction design stage, but i get to see concept drawings and master plans from landscape architects. (we work from the construction design - the actual blueprint)

some of the new 'trends" I see are:

people want to create edible gardens, in a strolling atmosphere. they want to be able to grab an apple off a tree or pick strawberries while sautering through their flower garden.

respecting the current land curves or water sources, or creating new slopes and different heights in the yard.

creation of accessibile gardens, not only for the garden but for the gardener. flower beds are contoured and raised so that someone in a wheelchair can work their garden. Paths are accessible.

native plantings and sustainability of all plantings.

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