Making this smoking area was a bit little like putting extra springs in the back end of a Chevy for rum running.  That was part of the fun.  The other amazing aspect about this commission was that it was a perfect opportunity to help bring people into nature; whether they were smokers or not.  

It may not look like much, it is a bit scraggy even as it needs a trimming, but it does fulfill everything asked of it.  In fact I call it a commission as it makes it sound more like a work of art I feel it is.  Proposal and quote do not reflect the same thing.

I show you here pictures of the finished product.  It has taken some years for the space and the atmosphere to mature to what it is today.  When doing art work with plants the canvas takes some time to dry and for the mood to set.

In the attached pictures there are some things to note that were designed into this project.

  • it is not square.  It was designed to fit the space
  • the cedar windbreaks work against the prevailing winds (except opinions)
  • the simplicity of the design lasted and has aged well.
  • It does not smell of smoke like some tin shed or bus shelter.
  • the spaciousness of it
  • the shade
  • the hiding spots

Note the hidden bench and the “Buttercup” Ashtrays.  It does need some pruning but the “long drapes” made it cool and private.


On this visit to the project I ventured in. I parted the Mulberry and found the sweetest world you can imagine.  It is a gem and it is a pity non smokers have not discovered it and scheduled themselves for a quiet time in this sanctuary instead of having to sit in full sun on concrete.

The cedar shrubs are almost ready for their first pruning. As they age they will cover the back completely.

You should note the easy to maintain “buttercup” ash trays we installed.  A smoker can remove it and have it beside them while they imbibe.  (yes we still have some in stock)

Please note.  The commission was to make a smoking area to fit this space.  It would be the same if we designed a reading area or a “let’s discuss this outside” board room.  

Please note.  Budget was important.  

Please note the bike parking area that got thrown in for no charge.

Please note.  I am bragging.  Sometimes I am that good.  




A hat your sister encourages you to buy (and wear), a deck built in the most unlikely place and a new concrete slab purposely flawed. What do all these have in common? They are all crazy ideas with just the right amount of tenacity and they all work.

There are times to branch out or go out on a limb and what better place than in your garden where trees can actually grow. Think about what is holding you back. What will people think, its too corny or it will never work are a few statements I have run into. There have been enough posts I have written about yards renovations and makeovers that are outside of the box that I will not bore you with another one. When you look at seed catalogues and dream about your yard do not exclude the odd ideas that many tend to put to the side. A garden is a forgiving place to express yourself after all. Our garden coaches/ consultants can help with sound advice and ears that listen carefully to what your goals are.

I am attaching one of the stories I wrote about in Holland. It should be noted that my aunt was shocked at how manicured the lawn are on North America and when visiting the different outlook held in Holland really came through. We are bound in many ways to what we envision and culture is a very powerful one. This story is one from my first book if anyone is interested.


Day 1 Our Host

It is one thirty in the morning and I sit on the logs provided for the sitting.  They are still fragrant from having just been cut and from not being hauled.  They have been placed perfectly on the patio and they are the best of companions to their elders in the driveway.  On those the potted plants thrive.

When we arrived yesterday everything was just as expected.  The lawn perfectly manicured; some having been cut last week, some this week.  Her hedge along the drive is trimmed but there are no other shaped hedges.  It is better to say that there is nothing unkempt, and that every single plant belongs and thrives together.  I consider weeding the drive edges and the undergrowth under the trees in the back but have this feeling of uncertainty of not knowing where to start or why I would.  So I sit in it, on a log, and write about it instead.

I would be amiss if I did not tell you of the real beauty of her garden.  It blooms while we are conversing on the patio set in the drive, my sister, my aunt and I.  The petals sharply defined and soft as fluff, all perfectly spaced.  There are no forced blooms here and no bag of dead heads exist.  There is such a fragrance that it follows us as we bike and as we dine together that evening.  I play with names for the fragrance like “tweed and loafers” or “wool and enamel”  but I am at a loss.  Perhaps “chopped onions and coffee”?  I think “smiles on a breeze” is the best though.

amongst those

2015-09-12 10.55.39 2015-09-12 10.55.45 2015-09-12 10.57.55


Today we are preparing a quote for a potential customer. The call came in at 9:00am this Sunday morning. If you remember the morning of Sunday September 21st, 2014 you will know it RAINED. In fact the post on Facebook was “If it snows this winter like it rained this summer….” It is not surprising then that our initial contact with this person was to do with water control. (we received several calls actually. It was bad)

These odd requests are what we are here for. It is not possible for us to solve all of them. In fact more often then not problems are dealt with by giving referrals to other businesses in Guelph. Excavating, electrical, plumbing, eaves troughs and countless other jobs are all referred on where it is cost effective to do so. In some cases (well in many cases) jobs are done better by other contractors and or they have the licenses and insurance to perform. Where we can help is by introducing you to these people and can let you know what to expect. We can also help define the jobs so that you get the most bang for your buck.

In the case of the customer who phoned on Sunday we can solve his problem. In fact we can solve numerous problems for him. Following are some of the many minor repairs that need to be done before winter. I have included a rough estimate of on site time ( OST) to repair. These times to not include supplying materials, gathering tools and preparing for the work. The latter can be the most difficult part of the jobs we do.

  1. Parge the stone entrance steps
    1. 45 minutes OST
    2. supply Portland and sand
  2. Cold patch (detail) the damaged driveway. Holes were made to install gates but detail work not done
    1. 20 minutes OST
    2. supply cold patch mix
  3. Repair a 3 foot section of eaves trough (low roof)
    1. 45 minutes OST
    2. supply AND MATCH eaves trough section and hangers
    3. (suggest washing down eaves and siding, not included)
  4. Repair the stairs from the deck to the rear yard
    1. 1 hour OST
    2. supply wood and screws
  5. Reattach and properly prune the Hydrangea Vine against house.
    1. 1.5 hours OST
    2. supply proper anchors
  6. Remove vine from eaves and windows
    1. 10 hours OST (and haulage, there is a lot)
    2. no supplies but will need proper ladders and etc.

There are windows that can be cleaned, siding to wash, decks to stain and numerous repairs to the garden. Schepers Property Maintenance is the best at this type of work and would love to show you how we can handle these types of jobs. We of course are also quoting the lawn and regular garden maintenance AND….snow removal. (519 820 6507)

Yes we do have an easy solution for the water problem.

Oh, and an update. We have scheduled for this week an extra yard cleanup for a customer. The seasonal rate quoted was too high based on actual work soooo while she is gone we are sprucing things up even more.  (pruning and weeding which she usually does herself)

Damaged Eaves

Damaged Eaves

Wooden Stairs to Repair

Wooden Stairs to Repair

Quote a better drain system for Runoff

Quote a better drain system for Runoff

Detail work around new fence posts

Detail work around new fence posts

Parge stone steps to prevent further damage

Parge stone steps to prevent further damage





Stuart Deck


Stuart Deck After

A customer was considering moving and was reviewing her property with the resale value in mind.  The rear deck was one of the items where she felt she needed to make improvements.  She requested a quote for the work of repairing all of the worst boards, staining and sealing.





My advice was to get her to talk to a realtor (or two…) and ask them also.  They will have a better sense of what work should be done.  So often people over assess what is needed.  Washing the eaves troughs and downspouts, mulching the garden and pruning are examples of jobs that can cost less and increase value more.

It was decided in the end not to replace any of the boards.  They were not a liability and could wait.  It was also decided that because the colour of the deck was inconsistent a pressure wash and a sealer would be a good idea.  Replacing the boards would have been one of those jobs where you really do not know where to begin and where to end.  This makes the quote/ work hard to manage and any extra money spent would have been a waste.  Besides.  New owners may want to completely reconfigure the deck.