Monday, December 21, 2009

What Inspires - part 8

Well the first day of winter is finally upon us and we are starting to feel it in the North East. December 21st is the Winter Solstice which signifies the official start of winter.

I was just talking with my Uncle in Florida last night and he told me it is cold there! In fact, he has stockpiled firewood in preparation for cold weather this winter. One tends to wonder about the effects of Global Warming when you need a wood burning stove in Florida to keep you warm!

Anyway, as we head into the Holiday season, I am wrapping up some old projects and starting on some new ones...I can't help but think about the Summer Solstice! It is six months away from now and it was six months ago!!! My one consolation that comes with the marking of this date is that the days will start getting longer by 2 minutes each day until June 21st...

The above photo was taken back in the summer of 2009 around the time of the Summer Solstice... this is the same place I wrote about in a previous article from 2 years ago. It will always continue to amaze me at how Nature can recover a landscape after it has been disturbed by man. It amazes me even more that it can do it in such a beautiful and graceful manner...

Friday, December 18, 2009

A unique looking bulb...

If you are into the spring bulb scene and are looking for something a bit more in the wow factor than planting various colors of tulips in your garden...try the Crown Imperial Lily! otherwise known as the Fritillaria imperalis Aurora.

I fist stumbled upon this stately looking plant while visiting someone's home last spring. In my years of gardening I had never seen this one before and wanted to find out more about it.

They will grow in climate zones 5 to 8 and reach a height of about 36" to 39" (inches). The bloom time is in spring just before everything leafs out...about the same time as the tulips come up. I have also seen this flower in a yellow color as well. So if you are looking for something to make people stop and enjoy your garden with a sense of wonder... try popping a few of these bulbs in the garden.

Wednesday, November 25, 2009

The evolution of a front yard landscape

This project is still underway... the electrician is scheduled to come in and wire things up and then the garden beds will be prep'd with soil, then covered with mulch for the winter. The final stage of the project will be planting the garden beds in Spring time.

The end result of the carefully planned out stone work...

I am still amazed at how sharp this project ended up looking. My clients did a lot of research on stone materials and worked closely with me on the colors and patterns that would be displayed in the design. The new front entrance to the home has enhanced the look and feel of the space. I can't wait to see it finished with the planting.

(Natural stone used in this project: Indiana Limestone coping for the steps, walls and boarder of the patio/walkway. Indiana Limestone wall stone for the planter wall and free standing riser faces in the steps. The dark infill of flagstone is one of my new favorites...Imperial Black Banas Flagstone)

Saturday, October 31, 2009

Landscape masonry edicate...

As I have always mentioned before... Landscape Architecture is about using materials from an existing structure to bring into the landscape and tie things together. This particular project was about just that...

The homeowner was very fun to work with from the start. When I first arrived on his project he asked me to drive up and down his street and pay attention to all the homes on his street....look at all the landscape ideas they have done....then come back and show him something different!!! (I like a challenge!)

I did exactly that and came up with the walls and pillars matching the stonework on the home. I decided to go with squares and rectangles as the paving shapes for the pathway rather than sweeping curved lines.

In the end, the client was very pleased and the look of the landscape was said to bring a bit of the old Forest Hill in Toronto look... into the Suburbs of the G.T.A. (Greater Toronto Area).

Thursday, October 01, 2009

New Toronto Pool Bylaw

This past year I have had a few questions posed to me about a new Bylaw in effect for the City of Toronto in regards to pools. The questions are about pools being fenced in from all 4 sides of the yard by an enclosure between the house wall and the pool itself. Basically, in my previous article I outlined my adventure on trying to find what the bylaws are for the City of Toronto. Not a very fun adventure!

So, for this article I decided to display a couple of diagrams to help illustrate the new bylaw....

Under the old bylaws, the above diagram displays what was acceptable (bylaw compliant) as a typical pool layout for the City of Toronto and is still acceptable for most areas outside of Toronto. The diagram shows the pool location in relation to the property line and must meet certain setbacks (the minimum distance allowed for a pool to be built from the property line). In Toronto the setback is 4 feet from the property line and in other areas of the GTA the pool must be 5 feet from the property line.

There must also be a fence enclosure set in all around your backyard with self-closing/self-locking gates. The fence itself must be built at a regulated height... which for a Toronto single residential property is 1.2 meters or 4 feet high. Any door leading from the home to the enclosed pool area in the yard must have child safety locks installed as well (no longer acceptable in Toronto). Garage doors leading into the enclosed pool area must also comply with child safety locks and a self-closing device.

The new City of Toronto pool bylaw explained...

Basically, the above diagram displays what all the hype is about... as it was previously acceptable for you to have a pool enclosed on 3 sides of your yard by a fence and self closing gates with the home acting as your fourth side to the enclosure... you now have to incorporate an enclosure (fence with self-closing gate) that stands between the pool area and the back wall of your home...connected to the other fence enclosures to form a complete square. The only way to get around this bylaw is to simply not have a door that opens or allows you access from your house into your backyard within the enclosed pool area.

For that matter... windows that open into the enclosed area must also have locks that prevent the window from being opened more than 10 cm or 4 inches.

So...where does that leave you? If bricking in sliding glass doors that lead into your yard is not an option... then you must come up with a way to provide a 1.2 meter high...or 4 foot high barrier between your home and your pool! My diagram displays a simple layout to provide a solution to the bylaw. But what if you don't want the yard divided like that?

There are in some ways, ideas that can address the bylaw and still keep your entertaining space open. Playing with deck levels and elevation changes in your yard could help you to disguise a fence with a gate. But there are the unfortunate circumstances for some backyard layouts where you are simply stuck with the great wall of China going through your backyard!!!

Monday, September 21, 2009

City of Toronto pool By-laws

A great mystery is about to be revealed! So if you live within the City of Toronto boundaries and are considering putting a pool in your yard...where would you find the bylaws that regulate pool construction online?

As a landscape designer, I asked this question myself...and did an extensive Google search for such bylaws that would regulate the construction of a pool in the City of Toronto...and came up with absolutely nothing!

Now I know that the City of Toronto website posts all or most of their bylaws online in PDF format. This is done so that we can quickly look them up and pretend to be a lawyer in understanding the legal terms and language used to write these that we can know if we are breaking a bylaw rule...or conforming to it.

In order to figure out where the pool bylaws are hidden you have to look in the City of Toronto Fence enclosure bylaws under the Toronto Municipal Code ... yes folks...almost everything you wanted to know about putting a pool in your backyard is there under section 447-3...Swimming Pool Enclosures... and can only be found by searching with the keywords "Toronto Fence bylaws"!...and not the logical keywords... "Toronto Pool bylaws". The only thing I could not seem to find online is the pool setbacks from the property line. I guess that question is better answered by a quick phone call into the bylaw office...instead of hopelessly trying to find it online.

Anyway, the original purpose of this article was set out to talk about a new "Toronto Pool bylaw" in which you are now required to install 4 sided pool fence enclosures instead of the traditional 3 sided enclosures that incorporated the use of your house wall as the 4 th side to enclose your pool....but this will be discussed in the next article...

follow I am still bugged by the fact I cannot find pool bylaws online...I decided to investigate this further by calling into the City (Access Toronto 416-338-0338) and spoke with a service rep for a few minutes. He was very helpful in terms of trying to figure things out...but he was stumped because he could not find any information on his data base. So I got redirected to another number...had to give my home address in order to talk to a zoning examiner for my area...

...but then I was told I no longer lived in the Former North York is now the West District(???) ...somehow my property got shifted out of North York and slotted into Etobicoke... Anyway, I said I am making a general inquiry for Pool Bylaws in Toronto! I was then is different for different districts of Toronto (???????) and I would have to call another number for my area. So I told the lady...basically I have to pretend I am putting a pool in at my home in order to find out information on pool bylaws? She said...I should not be doing that!!!

By this point I was having a good morning laugh... I told her... this is part of my job, I need to know this information because I like to be informed when potential clients call me up and ask me questions... she said...I understand that sir, but you need to give a specific address for where the pool is being built. So I said...okay, I want to put one in at my location! ...I figured I would get somewhere that way.... she gave me a new number to call for the "West District" and I got someone's voice mail box that was already full and I could not leave a message.

I just called another number for the Etobicoke/"York" an automated response which then directed me to another voice mail...I could either leave a message or go in person to make inquiries! I'm still laughing here...

So........... all in all....pool setbacks remain just as elusive on the City of Toronto phone network as they do online. So I guess my best suggestion would be to find out what district you live in for the City of Toronto....and pay them a visit in person!

Let me know what you find out!

Monday, August 10, 2009

The Man's Outdoor Kitchen!

Yep, this one was fun... now I just drew in a counter space for my client and suggested where the kitchen area should be in his yard. What came out after was mostly my client's design ideas for his kitchen.

It was completed with:

-A pizza oven that one will become popular with the neighbors, friends and family as you can open your own private backyard pizzeria!!!

-A stainless steel counter top for EASY CLEANING!

-A large BBQ cook-top for grilling top quality meats.

-A large outdoor refrigerator for holding many a beer, meats waiting to be grilled and pizza dough plus toppings.

Now all of this is designed with the idea that once you are done making a mess and partying around the bar area, you can take a garden hose or power washer and hose down everything to clean up! Ready for next weekend's party....

The outdoor fireplace

A lot of times I am asked by clients if I can incorporate an outdoor fireplace in my designs for them. It is usually the thought of having a lovely open log burning fireplace with a beautiful stone hearth and elaborate mantle piece to create some cozy little corner in the yard that brings in this request.
Unfortunately in some urban areas, the fire code bylaws prevent open flame burning in this manner...check with your local bylaw office on regulations in this regard. Now, having said that...there is nothing against having an outdoor gas fireplace...provided that it is installed by a certified installer! When you consider this option, the possibilities are endless in terms of the outdoor living room you can create..... the particular fireplace in the above picture is a gas unit made to look like a wood burning installation....perfectly safe and bylaw compliant!

The Toronto Fire Bylaw says that open air burning is not permitted unless used for cooking purposes... click here to read more

Thursday, July 23, 2009

Small urban backyard turned into Garden Room

The following article is a continuation of the "Gated Security" article. This small backyard is located in the Greater Toronto area. On average a 30 by 20 foot in size backyard will present some difficult options when planning a garden space. To add to that difficulty is a 12 x 8 foot deck that comes off the second floor kitchen which can sometimes create the feel of a dark and gloomy space underneath it.

Last year I was presented with a challenge to come up with an idea for a usable space that would address the poor drainage issues in this backyard. Below was the first stage of the project... a small platform deck. It is well below 20 inches from the ground level and is not attached to anything in terms of a structure, so no permit was needed. The deck allowed the homeowners to at least entertain guests in their yard for the remainder of the 2008 summer season.

Earlier this summer, the project came under way to the next phase of the design. All of the grass was eliminated and replaced with 3/4"-clear gravel to allow for excellent drainage of the yard. The soil here was heavily compacted by construction equipment during the subdivision construction and was never fine-graded to allow rain water to leave the yard properly. The effects of that did not allow for the soil to absorb water and so a drain pipe was put in place under the stone patio to help take water away.

The end result was a living room space....

Followed by a future dining room and BBQ area... the natural stone patio you see in these photos is a natural stone material known as Banas stone. It is brought in from India and sells for about $6.50 to $8.00 a square foot. This particular color of the natural stone is "Imperial Black"

All the plant material and decking came from a local Home improvement store. Although the plantings look thin and small, they will mature in the years to come and fill in to create a very lush looking space. The entire space was designed and created by a vision that kept things simple. Keeping a low budget in mind and the fact that free "family and friends" labor was provided... the yard was able to come to a complete state for around $5000 (Not including the furniture). Armed with a simple landscape design plan and the proper "do-it-yourself" knowledge, a 20 by 30 space can become a very pleasant garden room which acts as an extension of your house.

Wednesday, July 01, 2009

Gated security

A few years ago, a very good friend of mine had his fence built on contract. The Contractor was installing the fence for the whole neighbourhood and wanted to charge $300.00 for a gate. That cost is about the going rate for gates, but when I saw the span he wanted to build it for, I knew it was not going to be the right type of gate construction.

So, I advised my friend not to have the gate built and save his money. A few weeks ago I was tasked to complete the gate for him. While my day job is designing and consulting for my many clients... I do have a background in construction and woodworking. So I fired up the old tools and got busy....

The original contractor plan was a gate that was well over 4 feet wide. The issue was the width of that gate was not needed and would almost certainly fail in a few years. Any type of gate constructed over 42 inches wide would require metal brackets for the corners and a beefed up structural design. I knew for the price quoted he would not get that... so we shortened the area by putting in an extra post and I built a beefed up gate anyway...

Double fence board construction...sandwiched a 2 x 4 frame that included metal braces to give the gate extra strength. 10 inch hinges were used to hang this heavy door up. Yes, the construction is solid enough to lose the term standard outdoor gate...and call it an outdoor ...door!

The gate does not bounce or twist as you open it... it swings nicely on the hinges and locks up securely from the inside of the yard which provides added security to the yard as it cannot be opened from the outside. That was a request made to me by the homeowner!

Thursday, April 09, 2009

Spring 2009... time to start the landscape season!

Well...after a long and drawn out winter season and a bit of a relapse in the beginning of April, I think we are on the upswing now for Spring weather!

I am glad because it means that we can now get projects that were started last year...underway in terms of construction. I am also glad because I can get out to see my new clients and measure up their properties without treading through snow!