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Homes and gardens alike require updating.  Donna Balzer, guest columnist offers  advice on keeping the garden relevant to the modern home.
Homes and gardens alike require updating. Donna Balzer, guest columnist offers advice on keeping the garden relevant to the modern home.

March 24, 2016 | Donna Balzer

What is your garden style?

Not everything is timeless when it comes to outdoor design
Do you have a high-end ultra-modern home with striking features that looks like it came out of a recent copy of Architectural Digest?

What about your yard? Does it look like it came from a Home and Garden magazine circa 1985?

This jarring contrast of cottage-style garden with modern home seems hard to understand until you think of the process. Homeowners do not design homes – builders and architects do. Yet homeowners are the ones often design their own gardens.

Take my "new" garden as an example. It had been divided into "rooms" because that was the style when it was landscaped 40 years ago. Like cabbage patch dolls and bell-bottoms, I expect this chopped-up style of dividing the garden into tiny chunks will come back in vogue someday. For now, I am removing blue and pink flooring indoors and taking down the "room" dividers outdoors.

The first garden room divider to go was a big hedge blocking the back door from the back parking area. This three-metre wide hedge took up a lot of space and cut off the otherwise sunny side of the yard. And because we already have parking for three cars in the front yard, we didn't need more in the back. So we installed a small greenhouse and sitting area where the parking pad and hedge had been.

Removing unnecessary dividers in our garden helped modernize our yard.

Next, we took out the fence beside the "formal" sitting area close to our dining room because the fence made sitting in that garden room feel like sitting in a playpen.

Finally, we removed large green shrubs that took up a third of the back yard and planted more ornamental materials.

Removing unnecessary dividers in our garden helped modernize our yard. Garden designs are largely about comfort. A home might have the latest black slate walls, but its garden might be stuck in the warm-and-fuzzy slipper era with features such as rustic furniture, gazing balls and gnomes.  The outside and inside just don't jive.

Our house is undergoing a few changes, but it was built in the 1950s and redecorated in the 1980s without feedback from an architect – so it's a work in progress. It is what it is.

Our garden, though, has started to open up with bigger views and vistas.  The indoor and outdoor spaces are starting to mesh with our personal style, and this makes me smile. The updated garden is comfortable for entertaining and the front yard is starting to reflect my style with a large watermelon patch in the sunniest part of our corner lot.

If your home is not reflecting your style, get out the pens and paper and start shaking it up a bit. Start with a photo of the front yard, print it out and scribble on the image until the two elements of home and garden start to mesh with your dream. Consult current architecture magazines, if in doubt.

Formal homes look better with formal landscaping – at least in the front yard. And believe me, it's cheaper to landscape than to move!

Clarification: In response to my last column on GMOs, reader Keith noted that wheat grown in North America and elsewhere in the world is not genetically modified, and all of it, including European wheat, contains gluten. "I think those readers opposed to GMOs will be relieved they can now continue eating their good tasting, gluten containing, bakery products." Thanks Keith!

Donna Balzer is an enthusiastic gardener and entertaining speaker. Sign up for her blog feeds at or follow her on Twitter @NoGuffGardener.

Tagged: Better Homes and Gardens | Calgary Community | Calgary Real Estate | City of Calgary | Community | Donna Balzer | Downtown Calgary | Feature | Gardening | Green Living | Green Living | Guest Column | Home and garden | Home Design | House and Home | landscaping | YYCRE

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