Category Archives: landscaping

we shutta done this earlier

19th October 2012

Okay, was that pun just way too cheesy? I said to Dan last night that I was trying to come up with a title for this post and couldn’t stop thinking “just shut up, shut up” a la Black Eyed Peas, but that it didn’t really make sense. So this one was what popped into his head. Serious giggles, some singing/dancing to Black Eyed Peas, and more bad puns ensued.

Alright, let’s get down to business. This is our wee house early this spring. Please ignore the black (and later red-ish) squares over our house number. There is SO much we want to do to amp up our curb appeal, and we have sort of neglected it to date, other than planting a few things. We always get so busy in the summers with cottages and travel, that we aren’t often home to get outside things done. One easy upgrade that I have been wanting to do for a long time was install some shutters.

So when I saw these guys at Home Depot for $50, I scooped them up. They are a hard plastic, instead of the expensive custom wood ones, but look really good from afar and are paintable in any colour you choose.

We held them up to make sure they were the right size, and then promptly left them in the back of our garage for the past 2 months. Whoops. Told you we weren’t good at getting outdoor projects in the summer.

So I finally pulled them out and gave them a couple coats of black paint. I originally was going to use a can and paintbrush, but when I realized there were so many nooks and crannies in the shutters, spray paint seemed like the much more sane option. I used a high-quality outdoor/all-weather matte black spray paint and applied it in numerous thin coats. Definitely didn’t want any drippage on my pretty shutters.

Then it was time to install. These things are actually super simple. You hold them in place, drill holes in all 4 corners and 2 in the middle on either side, and then tap the plugs in. Here is the play-by-play.

Drill, using a hammer drill and masonry bit:

Tap, tap, tap:

Done! Be warned that the drilling is super loud. Definitely not something you want to do at 6am on a Sunday morning. Neighbours might get a little cranky.

Here is the after shot. The shutters definitely add a lot more depth and character to our little pad. I’m bummed we didn’t actually finish this project in the summer so that the house wouldn’t look quite so shleppy in the after photo. We clearly need to do a bit of raking and the plants in front are looking pretty sad. But the shutters are so much better, huh?

And of course, there is SO much we still need to do out here. Sigh. That ugly brown screen door next to our new black shutters totally makes me cringe.

Most are cosmetic, except for the whole roof re-shingling thing. It’s actually on the schedule for this weekend. Will let you know how it goes!

Have a good weekend, everyone! Got anything fun planned? Probably won’t be as exciting as our roof work (ha!)! And last week’s giveaway winner was announced – go check back to see if it was you! 

2 years + sunshine + a bit of rain

18th July 2012

Two summers ago (our first summer in our little pad), we dug up a big ugly bush in our front yard, built a garden box, and planted a few little plants. Remember this?

We didn’t really know what to plant, so we chose things that did reasonably well in medium sun (it can be pretty shady during certain parts of the day) and were budget friendly. That was the same summer as our basement renovation, so we were definitely pinching every penny we could. We ended up with a pink peony, two purple irises, three yellow lilies, two lavender plants, and a small pink flower bush whose name is escaping me right now. Anyway, they all looked pretty little and sad to begin with.

However, after two years of sunshine, rain and a bit of love, our wee garden bed is doing pretty well! We lost the lillies and one lavender plant (had some squirrel issues to deal with..!), but the rest have grown a ton.

We threw in a few pink annuals this summer and were also given a little buddha from my parents, who sits happily in the garden reminding us to relax and be grateful. Oh we also threw down a bunch of dark mulch to help keep in water and make the whole look look a little more polished.

This is that pink flower bush I can’t remember the name of. Can any green thumbs out there give me a hand here? (Update: A Potentilla!!! I can’t believe I forgot that one… Thanks Sarah K!!)

And since I took these photos after our irises and peonies bloomed, I just thought I’d throw in a peony pic from my phone that I snapped about a month ago. Love these pink beauties with all of their delicate layers.

We still have a long way to go in our landscaping and haven’t even touched the backyard yet, but it’s definitely encouraging to see these little guys grow. I’ve never been a gardener, but there is definitely something pretty satisfying and peaceful about it. I think I may be getting hooked.

What about you guys? Have any good before and afters of your own gardens? Have some good gardening tips? Do tell.

the inspiration files: backyard envy

13th July 2012

With this hot summer of ours, and the lack of air conditioning in our pad, DIY Dan and I have been spending more and more time outside in our backyard. We have been working on some updates to our front garden (more deets on those soon, I promise!), but we haven’t really had the time or money to do anything with our backyard yet. It’s just a big patch of grass, which means we’re starting with a blank canvas. We had hoped to build a deck this summer, but with very few free weekends and our garage roof to do, I’m not sure when we will really get to it. Even if it’s not until September, I’m hoping we can bang it out so that it’s all set to go for next summer.

In the meantime, while I wait, I’ve been doing my usual thing of gathering inspiration. Here’s what I have been pinning on Pinterest lately.

Source: via gemma on Pinterest

Source: via gemma on Pinterest

Source: via gemma on Pinterest

Source: via gemma on Pinterest

Source: via gemma on Pinterest

What do you guys think? I’m hoping to build a deck big enough to have a lounge space and a dining space. Do you guys have a backyard that works really well? Have any tips or tricks you want to share? Built a deck or patio recently? I’m all ears!

Speaking of the outdoors, we’re planning on spending some good quality lake time this weekend! Hope you have some fun plans, too. Have a good one!

the inspiration files: window flower boxes

19th June 2012

This is the first summer in our pad that the hubby and I have actually had time to think about the landscaping and garden (our first summer here we spent renovating the basement and the second summer we were living in England). So we have been trying to tackle some outdoor projects to spruce up our curb appeal – details on those to come soon! One of the projects that I have had on my to-do list is to build a flower box to hang from our front window.

When we were living in London, since gardens/backyards were pretty hard to come by in the city, people seemed to really try and make the most of any outdoor space they had to add some greenery. Check out a few of these photos I snapped in our old ‘hood, Maida Vale.

Aren’t they pretty? I love the pop of colour and how welcoming they make the houses feel.

I went browsing around on Pinterest to see what other inspiration photos I could find.

Source: via gemma on Pinterest

Don’t you like the way the greenery crawls over the front of the box, like in the one above? I also love the mixture of plants in that box – some flowers, some shrubby things, some leafy things. Can’t you tell that I know a lot about plants and gardening? Ha!

Since we have added some colour to our front garden, I’m thinking either a black or natural wood box would be best. I’m also starting to picture some shutters. Too many ideas!

How about you folks? Been doing any gardening yet this summer or other landscaping projects? Ever added shutters or a window box to your pad? If so, got any tips? 

tiles for miles

12th January 2011

While in Spain over Christmas (you can read about that here), I fell in love with the colourful tiles that the Spanish use all over their houses (both outside & inside). They reminded me of the tiles I had seen in Portugal a few years ago, full of colour and intricate patterns.

The balconies were usually pretty exceptional – covered with tiles, potted plants, and sometimes even decorative plates. Check out this balcony from Granada. It has been officially voted the best balcony of Spain for something like 3 years running:

You can spot the tiles even on the underside of most balconies. Amazing, huh?

As you can guess I wanted to buy some tiles while we were there, but the ever-practical Dan reminded me about baggage weight limits and the fact that we are living in a London flat at the moment. Not the time, Gemma! However, when we are back at our Ottawa home and get around to building our backyard deck, I’m definitely going to try and incorporate some of this fun, Spanish flare.

What do you think? Is it colour and pattern overload for you, or are you loving it as much as I am?

smelling the roses (.. or lavender)

16th July 2010

If you’ve checked out the photos of the exterior of our house in the “our home” section of this blog, you will have noticed that there wasn’t much in terms of landscaping or gardening. The previous owner obviously liked the “minimalist” approach, which to us, left a little something to be desired. We have a fair bit of outdoor work on our house “to-do list” (build a deck, put up shutters, plant veggie and flower gardens, paint front door, etc.) but we didn’t plan on tackling any of it until next summer when our basement renovation would be finished. However, once summer hit, we just couldn’t resist buying a few of the lovely plants at our local home and garden store. We decided to spend just one weekend (and $200) on the front garden to spruce things up a little. Here’s a play-by-play of what we accomplished with two days and two hundred big ones.

Here’s what things looked like BEFORE (note the huge bush on the right that was taking over our front lawn)…

our abode, early fall (when we first put in the offer on the house)

our abode, early fall (when we first put in the offer on the house)

You can even see that big ugly bush in the middle of winter!



So first thing was first, get out the chainsaw and say goodbye to our not-so-little friend.

Daniel hard at work

Daniel hard at work

We also pulled out the old boards around the garden bed and got rid of a bunch of other junk that was filling up the area. Check out the big bald spot in the grass that we were left with (plus the second patchy area where we had already put down some earth and seeds)…

grass in need of TLC

grass in need of TLC

Once everything was cleared away, we headed on over to our local garden store. We picked up a stack of 3x5x12 wooden planks for the perimeter of the bed (which ate up about half of our budget). We also grabbed some earth and grass seed (again, eating up another portion of the budget). But then came the fun part — the plants! We spent ages strolling through the nice-smelling aisles, debating over various plants and drooling over some gorgeous (but expensive!) ones. We finally settled on half a dozen perennial plants that fit into our remaining budget: pink peonies, lavender, yellow lilies, purple irises and one other yellow-flowering bush that I can’t remember the name of anymore (whoops!). We brought our new little babies home with us and lovingly planted them in the newly-built bed (thank you, Dan!). Although it still looks quite sparse, we’re sure they will fill in by next year (and if not, hopefully we’ll be able to budget another couple of hundred bucks for some additional plants).

Here is the new bed with our happy new little plants. Also note the grass that has started to sprout in our once-bald patch:

the new garden

the new garden

We added a hanging basket for a bit of extra colour on the front doorstep:

new garden bed & hanging basket

new garden bed & hanging basket

the new leafy residents

the new leafy residents

And lastly, we tossed a planter of basil, parsley and rosemary on the stoop to enjoy throughout the summer season.

yummy herbs starting to come in!

yummy herbs starting to come in!

Et voila, our improved-but-not-yet-finished front garden!