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YardSmart transformations

The City of Calgary, in partnership with the Calgary Horticultural Society, has been undertaking garden makeover projects focused​ on highlighting the benefits of implementing a YardSmart yard. The first yard makeover was completed in 2013, and others have followed every year since.

Recipients of these makeovers were participants in the free "Beauty on a Budget" workshops put on by The City and the Horticultural Society. As part of the program volunteers work together to complete a front yard makeover in a day, turning a yard composed of mostly lawn into a beautifully sculpted, low maintenance, and water friendly garden.

The goal of the program is to create a beautiful yard that is perfectly suited to Calgary's unique climate and therefore easy to maintain.

YardSmart Transformations

Lisa's Labour of Love

Lisa before

Before

Lisa after

After

When was your makeover? Fall of 2014

Why did you attend Beauty on a Budget? I was aware of the program and was a "beginner gardener." I am actually a forester by training, so I could grow a million trees but focusing on perfecting one apple tree, for example, posed a much greater challenge!

What measures had you taken to be environmentally friendly and conserve water? We had one rain barrel and had positioned a downspout to run into it. I also had a small vegetable garden in my back yard.

What types of plants did you want in your garden? Kath asked me a lot of questions, so I had a lot of input into what went into the garden. So we planted a Juliet Cherry bush, Saskatoon berries and currants and a ton of flowering plants for the bees including Alliums, Sedum, Salvia, Liatris, Peony, Creeping Cotoneaster, and so many more. Now there is an incredible variety of plants and edibles which flower throughout the spring, summer and fall; flowers of every color and the bees love it!

See the landscape bubble drawing and plant list here.

What is the most innovative part of your garden? There are two; first is the dry creek bed which is an added feature that breaks the garden up into "rooms" and is really interesting for visitors passing by. The second innovation was Kath Smyth's "lasagne method"; Kath inverted sod in the low areas and covered with cardboard, soil and mulch. It improved the garden, but you don't notice it walking by.

What do you love most about your garden? I love how it changes every year. Sometimes I am just overwhelmed with the colours. And there are always so many bees working in the garden. I also love to weed! I find it really meditative.

How has the garden changed your life? Lots of people stop by to ask about the garden so we've gotten to meet many people in our neighbourhood. I enjoy giving the garden attention, but it is a labour of love for me. I never water it. Even during this hot dry summer we are having now, the garden is thriving without water.

What would you say to someone wanting to plant a similar garden? You should have an interest in gardening. It will be a lot of work but you will get to know your garden inside and out and it will become your pride and joy.

Lisa 3 years later

3 Years later

Lisa 3 years later

3 Years later

Mary's Marvelous Makeover

Mary before

Before

Mary after

After

When was your yard make over? September 2015

Why did you attend Beauty on a Budget? My husband and I had just recently bought our home and we wanted to put in a garden, so we went to the seminar for ideas.

What measures had you taken to conserve water and be environmentally conscious? We had already installed a rain barrel and compost bin.

What types of plants did you want in your garden? I asked Kath for fruit bearing plants and trees, so she planted a three-in-one espalier apple tree, three varieties of cherry trees, strawberry, raspberry, Saskatoon berry and red currant bushes.

See the landscape bubble drawing and plant list here.

What was the most innovative part of the garden for you? The fact that it has three tears to retain water, and the plants are strategically situated based on the amount of sunlight and water they need.

What do you love most about your garden? I love that it is low maintenance and the fruit is great.

How has it changed your life now? Our house was a bit run down when we bought it, so our neighbours often comment on how the property looks so much better. And it honestly is so easy to maintain. Having our own personal orchard is a big bonus too!

What would you say to someone wanting to plant a similar garden? Go for it! It's totally doable. Learn what type of plants grow well in our climate check out the City of Calgary's Website to create a plan.

Mary 2 years later

2 Years later

Mary 2 years later

2 Years later

Cathy's creative micro-climates

Cathy before

Before

Cathy after

After

When was your yard make over? Just this past June (2017).

Why did you attend Beauty on a Budget? I wanted to create a garden similar to this one because I wanted to expend my energy on more than just flowers.

What measures had you taken to conserve water and be environmentally conscious? We started composting last year and I am vigilant about recycling.

What types of plants did you want in your garden? Kath gave me a whole book from which to choose 30 plants. She helped by removing any plants that might be poisonous to my children and we went shopping together to choose a few additional plants. It was important for me to have a lot of flowers for visual interest and also to provide a little have for pollinators.

See the landscape bubble drawing and plant list here

What was the most innovative part of the garden for you? The most interesting thing about this garden for me, is how they built it with hills and valleys so that the water pools on the plants that need the most water, certain plants are in the shade and others get a lot of sunlight. They all have their own microclimate!

What do you love most about your garden? I love that I get to have roses! After hearing so much about how difficult they are to grow, it was such a delightful surprise to discover that I can grow a hardy Canadian rose. They are beautiful!

How has it changed your life now? This garden gave me the confidence and motivation to build two similar gardens in our front yard. It has also greatly enhanced my enjoyment of my home. Since I spend more time out front, I talk to my neighbours more often and am more aware of what is happening on my street.

What would you say to someone wanting to plant a similar garden? I would advise them to find out where their utility right of way line is, so that they don't build a beautiful garden on top of it, only to have it possibly pulled out if the city needs to work there. And I would tell them to use mulch! It is so valuable. After I watched this garden being built, I decided to add mulch around a plant in my back yard and it is thriving now.

Learn more in our YardSmart transformation videos