After fleeing their formerly congested life on the lower mainland, a professional couple sought refuge on a wooded street in North Saanich. Originally from a dense neighbourhood, with houses confining them on all sides, the owners welcomed the peaceful change of a spacious tree-lined property. Content with their new home, the owners were bemused by their high-maintenance yard that rarely saw any activity.
From pooling water to bone-dry dead space, the couple knew that reviving their outdoor space would require a landscape expert with a broad range of skills. Enter Merle and Katie Kroeker from Pacific Ridge Landscapes. With xeriscaping at the heart of the design scheme, Kroeker points the way forward with a sustainable and serene sanctuary with distinct areas for laid-back island living.
“With only a small paving stone patio off the rear French doors and grass on either side, it was space that never saw any activity other than the usual yard maintenance. It suffered from dry areas and thinning grass on one side to mossy and weed infested areas on the other. We also encountered a drainage issue that caused water to pool along the back perimeter,” say the owners.
Kroeker states that “a thorough interview process during the consult ensures that our final design considers all of the client’s key points of influence — whether it is entertaining areas for a specific number of people or simply a problem with standing water in a particular area.” Presenting multiple sketches of the client’s vision before crafting the final design, Kroeker emphasizes that they remain fluid in their approach to allow for the evolution of ideas or a new request from the client to be accommodated.
The client’s wish list included: lawn removal, create areas to entertain, solve the pooling water issues and create colour throughout the year with native plants. The goal of the new design was to maintain the serenity of the natural setting while finding low-maintenance, water-wise solutions for the yard’s inherent problems.
Xeriscaping refers to landscapes that require very little irrigation, approximately two-thirds less water than regular lawns. “Xeriscaped areas need little or no water beyond what the natural climate provides. The most important environmental aspect of xeriscaping is choosing vegetation that is appropriate for the climate,” adds Kroeker.
He points out that xeriscape designs are a growing trend with increasingly hot and dry summers on Vancouver Island. Minimalist in nature and European in influence, xeriscaped areas repeat native plant choices (rather than clutter the area with a variety of plants) and utilize gravel for pathways and patios rather than traditional paving stones and wood decks.
Upcycled pavers from an unused area in the back create a welcoming walkway and small patio at the south-facing front of the house.
Organically curved, the crushed limestone pathway leads guests to a private seating area next to the house. Crushed limestone is affordable and favoured for its permeability, durability and easy maintenance. Boulders, native plants and grasses were added throughout the yard to knit the landscape with the home’s natural surroundings. Pre-existing irrigation was updated to establish the plants.
Kroeker adds that the idea for a dry creek bed originated from the standing water problem in their poorly graded back lawn. “I love solving drainage issues with natural and creative solutions. Not only does the dry creek serve as a visual point of interest but it also carries the vital role of keeping the property dry. We graded the yard so that excess water would flow into the dry creek and then dissipate away from the house and into key gathering areas.”
The plant scheme offers a seamless transition from the home’s verdant surroundings and provides a green and white colour palette with an emphasis on evergreens. Mount Veron Laurel is repeated as a spreading ground cover while skimmia, rhododendrons and liriope provide a myriad of lively green hues. Two top graft Laurel trees are illuminated to designate the private patio area.