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

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Sod has its place. Sod is a wonder of our modern society and the ability to be able to cut 18″ wide swaths of sod, deliver and install it on another property is incredible. Instant grass placed on hills is better for erosion control and its use in developments is very important. There is even benefits for weed control by using sod. For all this I never promote sodding as a cure for a problem and will likely advise you against going this route.

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This year so far we have traded $6500.00 of potential revenue for $3000.00. Likely we have lost another $6500.00 from contracts given over to other companies. This is OK. Schepers Property Maintenance will quote on your sod job but we will always provide the alternative.
Let us take a look at the “loss” from one customer. The start will be the reason why they wanted to sod. Dogs had made a mess of their lawn. By letting the neighbour’s dog into their yard to play their frolicking tore up sections of lawn. This practice had stopped. There was a path in the lawn created by their own dog. Though the lawn did indeed look a mess their was an awful lot of grass that had survived. Some other important facts were that this lawn was under moderate shade, the area along the fence never grew grass and there was neither an infestation of weeds nor damage caused by grubs and other insects.
The key points that helped our customer choose seed were as follows.
  • We guaranteed success.
  • It meant less work from them watering
  • We used seed that would grow well in the conditions they had and that would match the existing grass (Bluegrass sod does not grow well in shade)
  • We would create a garden along the fence by transplanting those plants in their existing garden that would survive under a Walnut tree. (the grass did not grow well here anyway and needed a different detail)
  • We could transplant some of the plants from the front to fill the new garden.
  • We could solve the problem of the dog path, or at least minimize it.
  • We could mulch.
This work cost a third of what Sod cost and the yard is great looking. The seeding by itself, without the cost of mulch and the hours transplanting would have cost 10% of the sod. As she is already a customer we are there weekly anyway and can always put a dash of seed down here and there.
It is important to add that our gardening of this home has always been done under budget and over expectations. Weeding, transplanting and general garden care costs less than lawn care for the same square footage. Finally, grass is not asphalt, it is not exotic and in fact is easy to grow, why can’t it be done well by gardeners?
The other service Schepers Property Maintenance provides is garden consultations.  This customer was given options and clear pricing and she knew us well enough to know that we are OK with competitive quotes.  By being able to clearly define the scope of work and option (and expectations, and care requirements etc) the quotes are clearer and more easily compared.  A garden consult could save you hundreds of dollars and can be very inspiring.


Before going into the bragging section of this project it is necessary to admit to a few things. Though in the end this was a success it also was the worst one Schepers Property Maintenance did. Why? Simply because I was personally involved in the design AND the implementation and the latter took more time than any other projects. Why? Well, because I am no longer in charge of the quote and scheduling process. I should not have been in charge of this one either. If you have not heard Jami is our Operations Manager and she has batted 900 all year. By my being involved wrong with this project it was not finished on time….sorry.


This first picture is the original back yard. The story behind the original design, creation and care of this garden is a better one than I am now sharing. It is not mine to tell. I tell you this for one reason; this is not a bad design or a lousy garden in need of my rescue. In fact far from it. Things change though and this garden was due for some changes. There were several main goals. To get rid of the lawn, to eliminate unnecessary pathways and to make it more open. We also were to use only existing plants and materials.

Stephanie 1

Remember. Other than the recycled edging concrete and the screening all products were from the garden


Please note and take the time to see around you.  The edging details are not as important in a garden such as this.  The whole design will not only last but, when complete, will have the edges properly graced with plants.  Note the Hosta part way down the path.  The placement of the plantings is critical to a successful job.



Mike loves finding different building materials to make beautiful and creative gardens and outdoor spaces. We spent the morning looking at one of his favorite places to go to find these things. Here are some pictures from our “treasure hunt”