Designed to capitalize on the property’s view looking across the strait to Salt Spring Island, Doug and Joanne’s home sits on a heavily treed, shaded and steeply sloped landscape. Competing with the cacophony of bird song at dusk on their North Saanich property, Doug describes his vision for hardscaping and long term plans for their expansive property. Living in the house for a year-and-a-half, the couple had yet to experience the full potential of the yard because of its steep cliffs and thick underbrush. “It wasn’t functional land which was tough considering how much we love gardening and really want to develop it into something more usable,” states Doug.
The couple knew how they wanted to use their land but required a landscape designer to help refine their ideas and discuss implementation. Their vision involved opening up the space to maximize light to create a future garden space for native plants and vegetables, build a yurt for guests and summer sleep-outs, and eventually create an art studio for Joanne.
Enter Merle Kroeker, from Pacific Ridge Landscapes. Finding PRL online, Doug and Joanne were impressed with Kroeker’s portfolio, “he just seemed to have a natural feel for the land,” says Doug. After the initial consults and a thorough analysis of the property, Kroeker designed and hardscaped the property while maintaining the west coast feel with rocks, terracing, and organic pathways. Joanne has always wanted a ‘cabin in the woods’ type workshop so our work with Pacific Ridge has brought us one step closer to this vision,” Doug explains.
As both a designer and contractor, Kroeker was able to bring changes and design ideas that the couple hadn’t considered. “Kroeker didn’t come in with set ideas but organically worked through the design with us after asking detailed questions and doing an analysis of the landscape. Kroeker introduced the two terrace idea which was much more functional and creative than our original one tier idea. As a designer, Kroeker was very knowledgeable at determining sun orientation and maximizing light for gardening and patios,” states Doug.
People are often intimidated by properties with steep grade changes, but Kroeker could immediately see the potential. “There is so much you can do with grade changes: multiple levels, terraces, patios, retaining walls, pathways, water features,” Kroeker says. Given the client’s wish list, Kroeker played with the grade and created two terraces for a patio area and retaining walls to create a more functional space. Within the terraces, Kroeker built natural staircases and pathways throughout the landscape to allow for exploration. “I wanted to design a space that creates a usable and operational landscape with their long-term goals in mind,” adds Kroeker.
With 30-foot drops on their property, the couple wasn’t sure how to deal with the steep grades. “Merle had some innovative ideas and had access to some solid granite from another site that he got here quickly,” Doug says. One of the first considerations Kroeker suggests for a project of this scale is property access for equipment. He adds that, “to get creative with a graded landscape, you will need a mini excavator which is approximately 6-7 feet wide. Other hardscaping considerations would be municipality restrictions, waterfront considerations, bank stability and rock and soil assessments.”
Their goal at Pacific Ridge is to keep the design as organic and natural as possible and to play with what nature has given you. Surprisingly harder to find than you would think, considering we live on an island made up of rock, Kroeker brought in 130 tons of rock for this project. “Sourcing materials really comes down to connections and I am fortunate to have great relationships with my suppliers,” states Kroeker.
Breaking from his typical full-service model, this was a unique project for Kroeker. Kroeker did the hardscaping, terracing, patios and irrigation and as passionate gardeners, the clients will continue with the planting themselves. Dependent on Kroeker’s workload, after an initial consult, a landscape design can take approximately one to two weeks. He adds that, “it is important for me to be as thorough as possible and go over all the different design scenarios. I want to come up with the best solutions for our clients.”