6 easy shortcuts to a classic Canadian garden

Earlier this month I published a post (highly opinionated, of course) about gardening shortcuts for getting that traditional English country garden style. Since then, I’ve been thinking. The British garden look is popular for good reason, as are other well-known garden looks such as the Japanese-style garden or the American Southwest style (think lots of cactus, hard-scaping and no lawn). But hands up those who know the distinctive features of a good, old-fashioned Canadian garden? I have to admit it took me awhile before I could put my finger on any myself. Yes, it’s highly unlikely that there will ever be a best selling coffee-table book filled with garden porn photos of ravishing Canadian gardens. But, as I started to mull the idea over, I realized that a lot of Canadian gardens do have a lot in common and these pretty cool traits can be easily imported into any garden just about anywhere.

But before I launch into my take on classic Canadian garden attributes, I need to share my thoughts on where these distinctive Canadian garden characteristics may have originated. The original Canadians are the peoples of the First Nations, Metis and Inuit. I know nothing about the long ago gardening habits of Canada’s Aboriginals. However, I’m guessing that the majority of contemporary Canadian gardens are a reflection of the likes and dislikes of immigrants, particularly those from Europe and the U.K., who came to make Canada their home over the last 400 years or so.

With that in mind, here’s my thinking on how to get that wonderful Canadian garden look easily.

1. If you can avoid putting up a fence, do so.

Maybe it was leaving all those structured, formal gardens behind (particularly in France and England) that first inspired a lot of new Canadians to happily embrace the fence-less garden. Today, fences are needed for all kinds of reasons, of course, from needing more privacy to keeping kids and pets in check, and most Canadian suburban backyards are automatically hemmed in by a fence. But I find, if given the right circumstances, most Canadians will avoid putting up a fence if they can.

2. Contemplate the lawn

Lawns are an important element in a lot of Canadian gardens. In fact, while the number of households in Canada reached 14.7 million in 2020, according to another report, we have an estimated 6.2 million lawns. Regardless of the viewpoint, growing in popularity, that lawns are an outmoded status symbol that should be pulled up and replaced with more environmentally friendly options, it’s still a really big thing for a lot of Canadians. I have mixed feelings about lawns. I used to be adamant about promoting the lawn-less garden although I subsequently published an apology to lawns. Whatever your choice, you’re still guaranteed to perfect a classic Canadian garden look if you also…

3. Add really comfortable outdoor furniture

I’ve been to a lot of British and European gardens in my day and I have to admit that they may have a lot of terrific qualities but, at the end of each tour, I’m craving our big, cushy outdoor furnishings back home. My British in-laws had a wonderful garden but goodness-forbid you try to find something to sit back in and prop your feet up on.

4. And make that seating area into a really big deal

We Canadians love sitting outside so much (short summers are partly to blame) that we’ll often take our big, cushy outdoor furnishings and set them off in a dramatic way. Decks, patios, gazebos, funky umbrella situations, you name it, seating often takes pride of place in the Canadian garden.

5. Cook and eat in the garden in style

According to a 2020 State Of The Barbecue Industry report (yes, there is such a thing), 72% of all Canadian adults own a grill or a smoker. And another, older survey that covers that all important question about when Canadian barbecuing season officially begins, a whopping 39% of respondents said “Barbecue season never ends.” That was back in 2003. If what I’m personally witnessing these days is any indication of a national trend I figure the pandemic has pushed that number way higher. But whether we’re cooking and eating in early spring, the height of summer or the depths of fall, we’ll most likely to be doing it in style.

6. Make sure there’s a spot for a fire

A real fire pit (dug into the ground) or a propane fire pit, pot or table helps extend our garden’s season, of course, but there’s also that basic allure of sitting around a warming flame any time of year.

What makes your garden a quintessential garden for your country? I’d love to know.

2 thoughts on “6 easy shortcuts to a classic Canadian garden

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