Garden design for your Squamish front yard

Consider styles, uses and how the garden blends into your neighbourhood

If you feel like work in the garden is coming to an end and that it will be a long wait until spring, remember that planning and design never go out of season. I had the good fortune recently to attend a seminar on design for small gardens at the ever-lovely Van Dusen botanical gardens, and my creative juices are flowing.

The seminar was led by Reinier van de Poll, whom I have had the good fortune of seeing on several occasions. Van de Poll has extensive experience working for horticulturalists and garden centres, and he is a graduate of the landscape design and horticultural program at BCIT, even studying under the inimitable John Brookes.

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For the past 10 years, he has run Van de Poll Garden Design; you can check out some of his work online. It’s always inspiring.

Whether they live in a house, townhouse, condo or trailer, gardeners are always looking for ways to enhance and update their gardens. 

The front garden can say so much about your residence, the people who live there and how it relates to the rest of the neighbourhood.

The first idea I want to reinforce is that 80 per cent of the time, we inherit some aspect of our gardens from previous owners or developers. You don’t have to be an unquestioning gardener. Consider it a challenge and opportunity to critically analyze the space you have. For example, just because you have a large lawn, it’s not set in stone that you must continue to keep it and look after it. Set yourselves free.

Look at different garden styles – everything from a formal low-maintenance look to something wild, cottage style or country, sleek and modern or indigenous; they all have a place and some resonate with people more than others.

Next, look at the space and ask yourself: How would you like to use it? Often a front yard is just a vehicle for welcoming people to the house. If your street is quiet and you want to sit out in your garden, consider more of an enclosed garden with a small fence or shrubs.

Most times, a front garden is a public space, and you do have to take into consideration how any garden plans you make will relate to those around you and the look or vibe of your community.

Front gardens also tend to be shared. Your neighbours can see it and usually the garden can be viewed on several sides. You need to consider the view from the street and your next-door neighbour’s place, as well from your home out to the garden. These are important sightlines to imagine before you make changes.

But take the pressure off yourself when it comes to a garden design. Rome wasn’t built in a day, and often gardens have an organic way of evolving. Start close to the house and work out over time, or make an entire plan for the space and work on a new part of the plan every season. 

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