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Dreams do come true | Landscaping Design

Mark Elliott September 1, 2008 Home & Garden No Comments

Ahh, it’s fall again and many Sudburians are rejoicing over a new season of Reality TV. So what does that have to do with fall landscaping in Sudbury?

Well, Reality TV has embraced a myriad of design and home improvement shows, such as Debbie Travis, and House & Home, that have enlightened and inspired so many homeowners to dream about transforming their homes and gardens into their own paradises.

Admittedly, professional designers have benefited by the public’s exposure to the power of good design and planning.

However, the reality of an impending winter and shorter building season makes the process of creating people’s dreams a reality feel more like The Amazing Race than Extreme Home Makeover.

Paradise is never built in seven days. Sudbury homeowners need to be aware of seasonal realities of landscape development and how to make the fall work for them.

The Sudbury area is geographically in one of the most beautiful places in the world. In design terms –we have great bones to start with.  Secondly, we have all the necessary design professionals, contractors and suppliers to make any dream a reality. If it can be done in California, it can be done here, but with a little more planning and patience.

The secret to a successful landscaping project is to start planning in the fall for a spring start.  The recent building boom in Sudbury has left professional designers and contractors in short supply. Waiting lists can be up to a year, so procrastinating to initiate a project until spring often means incompletion of the goal.

From a personal perspective, the landscape architectural component of a large residential project may take up to two or three months once it has been scheduled to start on a chronological basis. Following the completion of both preliminary and detailed phases of design, many permits and approvals can add weeks to months before construction can begin.

Recent changes to the Ontario Building Code and local bylaws mean permits and approvals are required for some retaining walls, pools, pool fences and even rock blasting. Some gazebos, sheds, cabanas and decks not only require a building permit but may also require the certification of an architect, engineers or BCIN certified professional.

Large landscaping jobs require weeks for a contractor to price and may not get started for months afterwards.

There is the misconception that permits to do work along a shoreline are difficult to get. This is not the case. The granting agencies of the City of Greater Sudbury and the Ministry of Natural Resources have an approval process that can take several weeks to several months for approval. Also consider that shoreline work may be limited during May, June and early July because of fish spawning times.

The typical landscaping season may begin as early as March and April for a limited number of  projects that have no frost and dry soil.

Fall installation of concrete footings for decks and structures or the installation of the gravel base for lockstone will allow for the earliest spring completion of these sort of projects.

The peak season for landscape work starts in mid-May and ends in October. Remembrance Day, Nov. 11, is my personal benchmark of when the last weeks of The Amazing Race are drawing near.

There is snow typically in the first week of November, but it always goes away and construction up to Christmas season is possible. However, this is bonus time for Amazing Racers. Don’t count on it.

So in order to be a winner in the Amazing Race, use your time this fall to dream big and start planning now. By doing so you will find pleasure in all parts of the process.

mark elliot is an award-winning landscape architect who has practised in Northern Ontario for 17 years. (

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