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Renovating my HouseWhite

My Landscape Project this Fall

By 08/31/2012July 25th, 201732 Comments


So this Fall, the plan is to excavate the front and back yard, we are taking out all the railway ties and old plants in the backyard, everything but the two trees there are being pulled out. We already unceremoniously ripped out all the old rosebushes when we first took possession.

We desperately need curves (below) here in the front, possible a stone walkway from the street to the front door. Also something needs to be done to take the attention away from the two small windows on the right side of the house that are not centred with the peak.


This is my nephew on the day we took possession!

The grass is full of clover and weeds, and of course there is this beautiful driveway here (above) that needs to be removed as well.

Here are some of my thoughts on what I’d like to see:


I would like a raised vegetable garden here (below) beside my studio. It’s the sunniest spot in the back yard.

 Photos by Maria Killam

You can’t even imagine how much it pains me to show how ugly it all is, but all I can say is, the after pictures will be well worth the wait!


I would like a stone pathway going from the house to my studio that is perhaps even more unstructured than this one.


I love Shasta Daisies, here in Yarrow, they are everywhere, especially growing along fences. I want some all along my back fence beside the garden shed.



 We also need a new gate on the left side of the house, the old one is long one!


I just love Hostas. My neighbour has a pile of them their front yard and I look longingly at them wondering if they’ll notice if I take a few. I love all the endless ways you can style inside with them. Here’s one idea just for starters:


Just one in a small vase looks so great and you could line them up on your mantle, they last and last!  


I adore boxwood and I’m thinking about planting only white flowers. Although I love Lavender too, so that might be the only exception.

So what do you think my lovelies? Is there hope for my yard? Landscaping is one area where I’m definitely not an expert so I’ll need lots of advice!

Thanks again to everyone who participated in my 37 Days of Learning Undertones Series I’ll introduce another series shortly!

My favourite comment was this one from Sarah:

“For 10 years, I have detested my family room, with it’s (pink beige) built in brick fireplace wall and greenish walls (chosen by an Ethan Allen interior designer). I repainted & replaced the furniture 3 times but could never get it right until I read your e-book on undertones. Now painted in Stone Hearth 984 with crisp white slip covered furniture – it is a BEAUTIFUL space!!! Thank you!!!”

Download my eBook, How to Choose Paint Colours: It’s All in the Undertones to learn how to get colour to do what you want.

Thanks Sarah, have a great long weekend everyone!

Related posts:

Cloverdale Paint Party on Elizabeth Avenue

When is White just Right?

 How to Create Drama with a Tiny Bunch of Flowers





  • Thzt is what I call potential! I’m sure you’ll have that landscape whipped into shape in no time. I’m sort of shocked to hear that you’re considering an all-white flower scheme, which becomes really all about the greens since you’re the color girl! If you decide to go that way, make sure you design around the texture because you will need that to make all that green work. But all-white gardens come into their own at night when they just glow, so if you think you’ll spend all your time out there in the evenings it could be lovely. Can’t wait to see it come together.

    • Avatar Maria Killam says:

      The reason why I’m thinking white is because of my pink beige house. . . we’ll see thanks for your comment! Maria

  • Avatar BillP says:

    What a wonderful palette to work with, Maria. My vote is for all white flowers- classic and beautiful- and you’ll find that the white flowers almost glow in the dark! The white flowers complement the white and green hostas. The yellow in the Shasta daisies is the only other color you’ll need!

  • It is going to look great! I even have a few hostas I can divide up for you if you want!

  • Avatar Lisa says:

    I am sure your yard will be wonderful with the plans that you have. I would be willing to bet that your neighbor would gladly share some of her hostas with you as they need to be divided every few years or so anyway. I love your e-book which I got right before you started the 37 days. So helpful, now I know why I didn’t like certain things together. I have accidentally gotten all yellow beige in most of my house with the exception of my master bathroom. The tile may be pink beige but I can’t tell with the lovely blue paint in there. Thank you for the 37 days.

  • Avatar Lisa says:

    Can’t wait to see your vision come to life. I’m a landscape designer (zone 7, Virginia).
    You’ll do a beautiful job. You’re a designer (just using a new medium).
    A primary goal when I’m designing a garden/landscape is to “put a house in a garden” not “a garden around a house”. (I’m paraphrasing Gordon Hayward rather poorly). Anyway – he articulated what I had not been able to – just as you help me articulate color “dilemmas” with my clients. Thank you! Thank you!

  • Avatar Mary says:

    I suck at gardening. Between my brown thumb, the rabbits that eat my flowers, & the chipmunks that burrow holes in my beds, I’m about ready to plant silk flowers. Just kidding…(but I’ve thought about it.)

  • Avatar Ginger says:

    I think you are smart. Planting things you see growing well in yards nearby is the best way to start.

    If I were you, I would include spring blooming bulbs. Seeing my daffodils bloom at winter’s end is such a happiness boost.

  • There is so much potential, I can’t wait to see what you do with it! You might want to plant some type of deciduous tree in front of those windows on the right to draw the eye away (pretty far away from the house as trees can grow into the house quickly).. I love all of your ideas and inspiration photos!

  • Avatar Sharon says:

    Love all your source ideas. Perfect for the West Coast. Didn’t realize until I saw this blog that you are just down the road from me in Yarrow! Thank you for answering my design dilemma concerning kitchen cupboards. I am sure if you put all your color expertise to use in designing your landscaping it will turn out wonderful!

  • Avatar Marion says:

    In my experience, there are two ways to tackle landscaping. The first way is to go in layers – introduce hardscaping (paths, gates, walls), (which like in a house, are your main structural elements of walls, floors, cupboards) amend the soil, plant the trees/shrubs for garden structure (these are like the sofa and big elements in the room) and only when that is all in place, introduce the plants – perennials like hostas and shasta daisies and annuals (these are like the pillows and lamps, and usually also introduce the interesting colour and textures – like fabrics do.) The second way is to choose sections of the yard, and do just one section – see it through to completion. This approach is like trying to do just one room, vs the whole house of the first approach. So, design a small pottager next to your studio – and get the “look” you’re looking for – complete with a lovely place to sit perhaps. Then choose the next section. Both approaches do work, and you learn as you go.

    If you truly love and want only green and white – and it is classically beautiful and restrained and fresh – talk with a plants person, or check out some books. There are some gorgeous trees and shrubs with white blossoms (and only one I know of with white berries…!), and evergreens can be great for discrete fragrant clippings at Christmas time! There is the famous White Garden at Hidcote, which has been mimicked and copied many times – lots of inspiration.

    You’re going to need some height and variation over time. Gardens work best in lovely layers, or strict geometry, or mass plantings – each has it’s beauty.

    It is really very exciting to watch you create such a beautiful home, and I expect your garden is also going to be a delight. Hope you have a wonderful time with your autumn outdoor projects.

  • Avatar KJ says:

    I love hostas. And have tons of white flowers in my yard (I think our brick colors and roof color only look good with white and greens of all shades). Instead of putting in beds that scream “food garden in the front yard”, you could try curved beds packed with the same plants. Like in this link:

  • Avatar teresa says:

    Just wondering what is that lovely green plant in the 5th photo down on the right of the photo? It seems to be in your yard and looks like a thick leaved perennial. You are lucky your weather permits such a wide choice of beautiful plants. I can’t wait to see what you do.
    As in all things, a profession opinion may help at least to give you a plan which you could follow through at you own pace. In any case, please don’t make your front path straight up to your front door, thus bisecting the whole front yard. Perhaps start at the base of the drive and curve towards the door. It makes a huge difference.

  • Avatar Julie from Australia says:

    In my last home in Tasmania, Australia where it is a cool climate I had a white and green kind of symmetrical front garden. I loved it. And at night it looked beautiful too. I now live in the tropics (Darwin – top end of ‘downunder’) and its all green and a bit like a jungle!
    Go with the white garden, you will love it.

  • Avatar Debbiecz says:

    Do you have a landscape designer on board? If not, follow your own advice…getting help at the onset will save money down the road. But since you asked, here are my thoughts…bulbs, suggested above is a GREAT idea – buy daffodils that bloom at different times. That yellow color will be an intro to your dining room. Front walk to street – why? Where will visitors park? Where will they enter house/studio? Definitely no straight paths to the front. Will you have a front patio to sit and enjoy the evening? We have stamped & stained concrete…love it as no weeds between stones. Big bunny grasses hide the sitting area but allow us to see the street. The layered look of boxwoods with white hydrangeas and white or colored annuals are wonderful. Ok, trees: definitely one or two in front. I see a multi-stemmed crab or maple or service berry in the area where the 2nd drive is. A mult-stemmed tree would detract from the off center windows. Then something similiar or evergreen towards the drive but off center would help soften the approach/drive way. Here’s another must…a tall tree Behind your house. A landscape architect once had our garden club compare houses in photos. One vital component was a tree behind the house as it breaks up the “horizon” of your roof line. Otherwise your house will appear to be on a cliff top. And the cardinal sin afflicting many a garden fanatic…avoid the onesie twosie. This is when you go to the garden enter and buy one of this, two of that. No! You have a big yard, buy 12 of those gorgeous daisies and put them in a big mass for impact. Then do a second mass planting. Then a third. Sorry, restraint in gardening is not my strong point. Just remember to think…how will I use this space? How much maintenance do I want to do? What will the garden look like in 10 years? Have fun!

    • Avatar Maggie says:

      I agree with DEBBIECZ –get a landscape designer on board!! Even if you want (or need) to do the work your self having a plan will stop you from making many mistakes (just like Sarah and her family room).

      Another thing that is VERY important is how much time you want to spend on maintenance. Shrubs/trees and low care plants like hosta are the way to go.
      BTW there lots of interesting hostas that you can get –don’t stick with the same ones that you see every where.

      I also think a green and white garden with pops of yellow would look great with your house.

      All my gardens are designed by color and it can get very frustrating when the roses (or any plant) that are suppose to be red turn out to be more orange or magenta than I planned.
      I should have taken my own advice to think about maintenance 😉


    • Avatar Maria Killam says:

      Yes I have a Landscape designer on board! I’ll be posting the updates! THanks for all your great advice too! Maria

  • Avatar Beth says:

    “Our” deer love our hostas too. ; ) You’ll make it beautiful. Just one word: native. Most garden centers in the US sell many popular plants that are non-native and invasive. As a native plant nursery owner once told me, the only thing green for them is the money. There are wonderful native plants for any location. And what’s great is once they take hold, there’s so much less maintenance. We water religiously the first year, and the plants just do what nature intended on their own after that (unless there’s a drough the second year). You can even order native plants to be shipped – it’s ingeneous how they’re packed.

  • Hi Maria, it’s fun to see your house, and I agree that landscaping will really transform the look of the exterior of the house and the lot. Are you going to DIY, or hire an expert landscape designer to help?

    My husband and I feel as if the landscape architect was one of the most key parts of our project team – people are amazed that our house is new, it looks so grounded with the lot and the environment – that is due to a lot of factors, the most significant being the expertise of the landscape architect.

    Have a nice weekend!

  • Avatar Kay says:

    You have some really great advice from real gardeners above, so all I will offer is encouragement. First, when we moved into our first house twenty some years ago, I didn’t know a thing about gardening. The first spring I pulled up a lot of what looked like weeds in a border, only to find out that they were Oriental poppies. Over the years I learned a lot, and although I am far from a great gardener, I do a fairly creditable job. With your design genes, you will become a great gardener! Second, you have what is essentially a blank slate, along with a budget (evidently) that allows you to do something about it. We moved into a house with a mature garden. The back was a little wild but lovely, the front and one side hideous. We had no money until fairly recently to tackle the hideous front and side, which needed to be completely torn out (we’re talking very large yews and junipers and a number of trees). The structure of the back limited what we could do–e.g., I could never fit in the lilacs I badly wanted. It was too good to get rid of, and changes were slow. With the basically nothing you have, you have enormous freedom to create a garden that suits you, instead of living with one created to suit someone else. Just be patient–great gardens develop over time. Good luck!

  • The first thing you need to do is knock on your neighbour’s door and ask them to split some of their hostas. They will surely be happy to do it for you!! Your plan sounds wonderful and ambitious. Are you guys doing the work yourselves or hiring out?

  • Avatar Mia Staysko says:

    I love all of your ideas. From one ‘country’ girl to another though, white may not give you the impact you are looking for, unless you are going to plant (and maintain) scads and scads of flowers. The reason the daisies are so great is because there are usually millions of them. After years of living on a very large acreage lot I have discovered that yellow, orange and red give me the most bang for my visual buck. They were not previously my favorite, but they work to bring the flowers visually closer. (Too much white is also pretty ‘metal’, cool and unfriendly – though it looks great at night. It is considered to create less desirable Feng Shui)

    Out in BC you have different atmosphere and light so the effect of white may be different than here in Alberta. I’d drive around and see if it works for others before I went to the nursery. I do love the look.


  • Avatar susan says:

    Love idea of daffodils, too, and I have them in my garden. However, what you must consider is that after they bloom, their leaves should not be removed until they wither because they’re gathering energy for next spring’s bloom. So you might consider other plantings that hide the brown. . . I live in sunny, warm California, and some of those brownies are still hanging around, and they ain’t pretty! xo

  • Avatar SandyCGC says:

    Maria, totally agree with Heather about the hostas. If you haven’t met the neighbors yet, walk over right now – this is a perfect opportunity. I’m sure they’ll be delighted and will want to share their plants with you. Also agree that you should get some assistance from a landscape designer – just as you encourage people to consult with you on color which is your forte, you’ll benefit from the advice of someone whose strong suit it the outside of your house – and you control the degree of involvement – just a plan with advice for execution and maintenance, or having them do a section, or having them do the whole thing. The green and white with a touch of yellow (and maybe a lavender something) sounds so fresh and beautiful. And definitely a cuved walkway in front. And I love the stone paths along the sides of the houses in your pix, particularly the tree-lined one. I’m sure its ovoerwhelming to you right now and it’s a huge project, but with your ideas, your source books and some judicious assistance, you’ll pull it off and it will be stunning. Good luck, and, WOW, Fall is just around the corner.

  • Avatar GaBi says:

    Dear Maria,
    In these posts you can see how people love you and appreciate your free advice too. It is obviously mutual and loving energy between amateurs and professional designers.
    Regarding to your garden I don’t see the all picture, but it also should be considered the surroundings / neighborhood /to blend in. Definitely I would change the small windows just to be in scale with the size of the house and with the connection to other remaining windows. Just to camouflage the small window with the big tress is not going to make the job satisfy. As many post above mentioned about a layering in the Landscape design it is definitely same as the interior design. You have to be very careful with the hardscape. To create a look what you are looking for take a picture of your front yard for example and put a tracing paper on the top and you can do the sketch you are looking for. You shouldn’t use the straight lanes in the front because of the geometrical style of the house unless your desire is to have a very formal garden. Flipping our shiny magazines with the beautiful pictures doesn’t say anything about maintenance. To have a healthy looking garden maintenance is the key. How much time you would like to spend on the maintenance, ask yourself. Never plant giant trees around the small size house it looks very funny when the giant tree is looking down to the house and is making the house look dwarf. There are many beautiful trees for the residential gardens and they look exactly in scale with the house. There is no garden these days without own organic food garden even just a tiny small one, not just for the pleasure, but for most a good taste and freshness.
    White garden is definitely very elegant and glowing,/white garden doesn’t work very well in a big scale of the property I mean acres / but you have to consider lots of interesting foliage between and of course evergreens. Regarding to the Shasta daisy cut them down to about 10inches in the early spring around April /here around Lower Mainland / they will bloom a bit later, but they are going to have a very strong stems, they will be a bit shorter and they never going to fall to the ground.
    Some of the most beautiful Hostas are the “Fire and Ice” Hosta “Orange Marmelade” and many more to consider also the foliage.
    For the front yard think about the parking, unless you can park behind the house, overall look from the opposite side of the road, I would use curves, circles and wave movement with different hardscape elevation to create illusion for bigger property. I know you will be very successful with this project

  • Avatar Angela Taylor says:

    Great idea to go with a moonlit garden.
    Remember you can have flowers year round. Daffs Crocus etc. in spring, Phlox, Hostas, Alysum in summer and Helebores in winter to name a few.
    I change my small garden yearly. Evergreens are a good backdrop too:)
    Look forward to seeing the end result.

  • I love all of your ideas. The gate is fabulous. And the pavers with grass in between is sort of like a path to a secret garden. Regarding the two off center windows, if you don’t change them, I’m sure you have thought of shutters. You could even cheat the widths a bit to create an illusion of balance. Or install a fake window in between to connect the two.

  • Avatar Angela Taylor says:

    I forgot to mention that you can now get WHITE lavender! We can get in in the NW anyway:)

  • Avatar BillP says:

    Maria, I love the way that this post seems to have tapped into a whole new group of talented admirers! A bit of advice to the newer gardeners- don’t be afraid of the plants! A word of warning- it can become very time consuming but the rewards are worth it!

    Regarding your exterior design, don’t overlook the importance of a water feature. A large fountain in line with the big picture window would give you pleasure inside and out (and maybe provide a bit more privacy as well.)

  • Avatar mairi says:

    Late reply on boxwood FYI: I have three in urns and to obtain the ‘ball’ look you see in photos- it is quite a meticulous bit of ongoing clipping, otherwise they get wild and wooly looking. Piece of cake if you have a gardener however!

  • I would consider some hydrangeas. I”m in love with them these days, but I think they would add a lovely year round touch as their flowers dry into a lovely parchment colour. I think the Annabelle hydrangea would be a good choice as it starts off white and then the flowers turn pinky beige (which would go with your house) and then turn into the dried parchment colour. It would look gorgeous.

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