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YardSmart transformations

The Calgary Horticultural Society in partnership with The City has been undertaking garden makeover projects to highlight the features of a YardSmart yard. The first yard makeover was completed in 2013, and others followed in 2014 and 2015.

Twenty volunteers worked and completed a front yard makeover in five hours, turning a yard composed entirely of lawn into the talk of the neighbourhood.

The happy homeowner will reap the benefits of having a garden designed with a variety of perennials and shrubs that are hardy, low maintenance, and once established require little watering.

Our rivers will also reap the benefits as this garden saves water and also slows down and soaks up rainwater, preventing it from picking up pollutants as it makes its way to our storm drains and ultimately to our rivers.

YardSmart Transformations 2015

Rebecca's story - A journey to a beautiful, productive yard

YardSmart Before Makeover


YardSmart After Makeover


"I love this garden!" says Rebecca the lucky recipient of a Calgary Horticultural Society Yard Smart makeover. "It is beautiful and we get so many compliments on it from the neighbours."

Rebecca's front yard was transformed from a yard made entirely of lawn to a well-designed garden with only a small portion of lawn left. Now, with less lawn, Rebecca is surprised by how much easier her new yard is to maintain.

"We don't worry about watering as much and it takes 30 seconds to mow the little bit of lawn that's left. So, we aren't missing the lawn at all."

In fact, after experiencing how much easier the garden has been than her lawn, she was inspired to add similar features of good soil, water-wise plants and mulch to her backyard.

"I'm happy knowing the garden is saving water and also helping keep water from going down the storm drain." But, Rebecca admits, "I'm really the most excited about the pretty, new view it's created out the kitchen window!"

A Treasured Haven



Autumn and Simon Front - After


Autumn and Simon, new residents of Mahogany, were one of the lucky winners of a yard makeover in the fall of 2015. This newer home had been finished with developer grade soil, sod and a tree in the front yard. Despite the homeowners attempt to add to it, they just didn't know what to do next.

Kath Smyth, expert Horticulturist and landscape designer at The Horticultural Society knew exactly what to do to help. See the landscape bubble drawing and plant list here.

In one day, 16 workshop participants and volunteers transformed this typical suburb yard into a stunning residential rain garden that moved water away from the foundation of the home and directly to where the tree and new shrubs and perennials could use it.

Autumn said, "My favorite part was probably just learning how to bring the whole project together. I understood little bits and pieces, but I definitely didn't understand how to put together a masterpiece. Kath explained why we were going to put plants at the front of the house or the back of the house, and how the water moves because we are on a slope. I never considered that water would flow down. I mean, obviously that is gravity, but I never thought about it in my yard.

I learned that I was actually over caring for my plants and spending too much time with them. Plants are super resilient. You go out to a forest and they are just thriving, there's no one out there gardening, they are just living. Eventually you get to a point where they will be totally fine on their own. Over caring for your plants is just as bad as not caring for them.

I feel fantastic about our new yard. I think it is beautiful and breathtaking. I love driving up to our house now. The comments from neighbours have been great. I am saying that this is a water wise yard and pushing rain barrels and what they can do to preserve water."

A unique garden path





Mary and Matthew, owners of this older home in Ramsey were so excited to have this awkward stretch of yard along the side of their house made over. In addition to the mature Spruce that sucked up all the water from the garden, Alberta One Call also highlights a gas line running directly through the yard perpendicular to the garden path. This presented an interesting challenge for landscape designer Kath Smyth.

After a full day of work, the garden was unrecognizable. All the sod was stripped and flipped over. Layers of cardboard and good soil were then laid on top. This lasagna gardening technique saves money while creating a great foundation for new perennials and shrubs. See the landscape bubble drawing and plant list here.

The garden was also terraced, to draw water from the upper part of the garden near the mature spruce to the lower areas toward the lilac. This technique allowed us to avoid the gas line entirely and to work with gravity to move water where it needed to go to create a low maintenance space.

Learn more in our YardSmart transformation videos