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Yards of fun for everyone!

Happy Mother’s Day, everyone!  We are preparing for a family barbecue here at the “compound” later today.

Yesterday DH set up his new barbecue, connected directly to the natural gas line here at the laneway.  He tried it out on a couple of wonderful rib eye steaks — it works great!  This afternoon he will be creating his patented hamburgers with fixings — I won’t lift a finger as it is, after all, Mother’s Day — and the family will gather to enjoy.

DH also got out the brand new push mower and cut the grass in the back yard.  I then raked it.  It’s nice to have the push mower, DH enjoys the work out, and listening now to the annoying buzz of a neighbour’s power mower grinding through the window I appreciate the swoosh of the pusher mower even more.

I really enjoyed raking the back yard.  It’s a very small space, and took less than half an hour.  When I was a kid my day was made when my Dad got a power mower with a grass-catcher and my raking chore was made obsolete.  Funny how now it seems like fun and good exercise.

The yard is coming together nicely.  It has a slope, of course, the lot slopes so much that you can’t make a level space without creating boggy drainage problems.  But the sod has taken well and we will be able to set up lawn chairs and blankets and enjoy our dinner.

One feature I would like to see — if we only had the space — is a fire pit.  It would be like having an outdoor fireplace, a space where we could gather in the evening to watch the flames and make s’mores.

Fire pits can be big and fancy in the middle of a special patio.

Traditional Exterior by Greenville Design-Build Firms Resort Custom Homes
Professionally built by masons or landscapers
Contemporary Patio by San Luis Obispo Landscape Architects & Landscape Designers Jeffrey Gordon Smith Landscape Architecture
or put together as a DIY project.


Contemporary Landscape by Madison Media & Bloggers Erin Lang Norris
You can improvise with a galvanized tub,
With some mad metal-working skillz you could make one out of a old washing machine:
You could make one out of concrete (all by yourself!):
Or even use an existing planter or container:

This one has me intrigued because we already have lots of river rock on the property and we could put it together when we need it and take it apart in the fall — or anytime we didn’t want it around.


How does our garden grow?

Yesterday I went with DD to the store and bought my first pair of gardening gloves.  Plus a bag of potting soil.  Then, while she carefully delineated and planted her first sowing of vegetables in a narrow strip by the sidewalk, I planted eight little pots with herbs.

The promise of herbs to come

The promise of herbs to come

Yup, I gardened.

One thing that you should definitely know if you are planning to build a laneway house (and I hope you are!) is that landscaping is a very important part of the process. I’ve written about this before but it bears repeating, you have to have a plan.

In the regulations it says quite clearly

11.3.3 Except as provided for elsewhere in this section, the setback area shall be fully graded and
landscaped with trees, shrubs and lawn to the satisfaction of the Director of Planning.

11.3.4 The following may be permitted within the landscaped setback area by the Director of
(a) statuary, fountains and other objects of art;
(b) open ornamental fences if necessary for the protection and preservation of landscaping or
permitted objects of art;
(c) walks or driveways which in the opinion of the Director of Planning may be required to
provide direct access to any building or use on the site.

That’s bureaucrat for “you need some plants here, people”.

In the application for your building permit you must include

Landscape plan should include the following:
□ Plant/ Tree list (common & botanical name,
size, quantity)
□ Plant list symbols keyed to the plan
□ Indicate soft and hard landscaping

And not just any plants, either.  They want you to plant with five factors in mind:

1) low-maintenance,
2) drought-tolerance &
3) scale (all plants under 3ft
high not including vines &
4) availability, and
5) variety & interest

And in the Guide the City of Vancouver provides they even list some plants that take these factors into consideration.

With the help of our landscaper Amro and his team, we have fulfilled the promise of our original plan.  We have a plum tree

Which will look like this when it's all grown up

Which will look like this when it’s all grown up

And on the laneway, we have our tall grasses, our lavender, creeping thyme and our beauty berry plants


Also not at this luxurious stage as yet — but will be!

When you are planning your laneside plantings, you are not allowed to put in anything that will obscure the front.  We originally  wanted to put in some tall bamboo in a little hedge, but it was pointed out that would provide the perfect hiding place for someone who wanted to break into our place or who wanted to give us a little surprise when we came to the front door.

As well, because the occupants of the laneway, us, are family, we do not have to have a specially dedicated area of yard just for us — but if we ever want to rent the place out we will need to have a clearly defined area of yard just for the laneway tenants.

It’s also very important to remember that your landscaping should be substantially in place before final inspection is completed.  So unless there’s a foot of snow on the ground, it’s expected that your plants will all be planted and your land will be scaped.

When planning your walkways, sidewalks have to provide a hard surface from the street in front of the main house right to the lane and the laneway door — no meandering gravel walks — for emergency services to get to the laneway if they are needed.

When you are planning your laneway build keep all this in mind.  Just as with the design of the home itself the landscaping design has strict rules to follow, but you’ll end up with a space you really love.


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