I’ve been fortunate enough to work on some major acreage landscaping designs. I’ve been put in positions by other landscaping companies and some high-end clientele, including Home Builders, to foster creative acreage landscaping ideas.
I’m not going to lie – it’s not easy.
Coming up with acreage landscaping ideas can be a real challenge primarily because of the abundance of space that is available for me to work with.
One mistake many residential landscape designers in Calgary make is that they think that you have to “fill up” space.
But having worked on hundreds of landscape designs myself, I’ve come to realize that the famous architect Mies Van Der Rohe was definitely on to something.
Over the past several years, I’ve ledarned a lot when trying to create beautiful acreage landscaping designs. Hopefully, by the end of this article, you’ll be able to see your property in a new light.
Acreage Landscaping Ideas in the City of Calgary
Calgary is a prairie-dominated region resting in the southern part of the province of Alberta, where the Elbow and Bow Rivers meet.
Located on the foothills of the Grasslands and Parkland Natural Regions, Calgary is home to several acreage properties.
Owning a property with 5-gallon acres of land may sound impressive to homeowners. When it comes to landscaping, however, Calgary is one of those regions where proper planning is absolutely essential.
Vastness of Space
A rural landscape is very different from an urban or suburban landscape. While small yards with a limited variety of trees and shrubs are sufficient for the suburban market, rural acreage landscaping requires extra consideration. This is primarily due to its vastness of space, the open air and the exciting views.
“Space” is a big restraining factor in the suburban and city landscape. That’s why urban landscape design Calgary requires meticulous planning with a focus on utilizing even the smallest of space in a useful way.
However, in rural landscaping, there is often ample “space” which causes some owners to feel perplexed while designing their acreage landscaping projects.
It’s crucial that you can distinguish actual usable space in your yard. It is often the case that with large acreages, there are a lot of existing trees and even natural un-usable areas.
So in turn, the 3-acre landscape you thought you had to design really isn’t that much – because once you take into account your house, your driveway and the natural surrounding (trees / un-usable space), you’re left with very little around your home for landscaping.
Assess the Existing Landscape
In rural landscaping, the idea is to create consistency along your existing landscape, not chaos. Make sure that your newly-proposed design is based on the existing characteristics of the site.
Careful planning will help you build a secure yet beautiful landscape for your acreage property. You need to take into consideration how much space is to be allotted for outbuildings, gardens and windbreaks among other elements.
Creating acreage landscaping ideas that will be functional as well as aesthetically appealing can pose to be a daunting task for many. So, let’s dive into learning more about exciting acreage landscaping ideas that you can implement in your Calgary property.
Fundamentals of Acreage Landscaping Ideas
The crucial point is to ensure an overall sense of familiarity and intimacy across the acres of your plot. This can make you feel like the yard is simply an extension of the house, no matter what its size is.
Taking the project as a performing art will help you view it as a creative endeavour and not a dreadful chore.
Here are a few ideas that you can use for your acreage landscaping project:
Land Division: You might love owning a vast property, but sometimes it can be overwhelming.
However, if you divide the land and create individual ‘pockets’, you can create a more intimate space.
There are endless possibilities if you decide to divide your property. You can use screens like fencing and hedges and build physical barriers.
Solidify Destination Zones: Close to your house, you should create a space dedicated to “landscape engagement.” This is where you aim to spend most of your time.
This “Destination Zone” can fall under three different categories: cooking, dining, lounging and sometimes, play.
Play can be for kids or adults, even putting greens are a great feature on an acreage.
It is best to keep these spaces close to the house as it can give you a feeling of intimacy rather than the exposure you might currently have.
Curvilinear or Rectilinear Forms:
It’s wise to use the existing terrain to establish a conceptual form to your landscape.
Lines and sharp angles in the design will tend to make a landscape with sloping terrain appear odd and strange. It’s better to use curves rather than straight, hard lines to make the landscape design appear more natural.
For example, the paths need to be curved instead of pin straight for them to correlate with the landscape contours. Retaining walls should look smooth as it rolls with the terrain.
Designing rounded borders and beds rather than straight edges in the garden will also allow you to integrate curves in the overall landscape. The result can flow quite beautifully.
Outdoor Water Features
These can be interesting and exciting methods to a better acreage landscape.
If you want to add purpose and beauty to your Calgary acreage, consider excavating for natural water bodies in your land.
Ponds can retain water that can help you with waterfowl rearing and plant irrigation. Lands with clay soils can prove quite beneficial for ponds.
If your area is covered with rocky or sandy soil, you will need thick liners for retaining water in the ponds.
You can also improve the look of a pond by adding alluring vegetation like reed grasses and willows along the rim.
A flagstone path extending from the house right up to the pond will also enhance the aesthetic value of the landscape.
Importance of Windbreakers
In Calgary, wind can pose to be a huge problem, especially with the warm Chinook winds blowing all across southern Alberta.
In fact, Chinook winds can be as powerful as a hurricane, with a case of Chinook gusting (171 km/h or 106 mph) the Lethbridge in November 1962. These winds can derail trains and blow snow across the roadways in winter. It can even increase the temperature in the summertime.
Chinooks are common in Calgary, a natural wind tunnelling city.
Consider berms with large Colorado spruce trees to give you wind protection all year round. I’ve been on acreage properties both south of the city (Priddis) or north of the city (Bearspaw). They have winds so strong that they end up killing off most newly-planted shrubs.
Mass tree plantation can also prevent damages due to water erosion in low-lying areas. Aspens and spruces are among the quick-growing tree varieties that can protect you from windbreaks. They are very hardy for our climate and will give you sustained protection throughout the year.
Calgary Planting for Acreage Properties
The crucial thing to consider is that acreage landscapes provide excellent scope for planting trees, shrubs and perennials or grasses.
You may consider starting your own vineyard or apple orchard in a part of your property, or even a complete vegetable garden. However, plants and lawns require proper maintenance.
Native plants don’t require much weeding or additional water for maintenance. Moreover, they offer a more natural look to the landscape, thus welcoming wildlife to the property.
Top Tips for Planting on Acreages:
For the most part, you’ll want the most mature trees. Choose high caliper trees (over 80 mm minimum) on deciduous trees. For coniferous trees over three meters is the minimum.
Anything smaller on acreages looks off the scale. It could take a while before it really stars to grow in and fit in on your land fully.
Most landscapers will try to sell you on 5 gallon shrubs – stick to two gallons.
Yes, I know they’re smaller, but the 5 gallon shrubs are already established and given the harsher climate (more wind) on acreages; it’sbest to stick to younger shrubs.
Creativity Within Your Acreage Landscape
Acreages also have the best chance to get creative given the ample amount of space there is to play with.
But think outside the box.
Stop hiring landscaping companies or landscape designers that give you the same boring patio, fire pit and pergola package.
Push the envelope, and I say that with caution because I know everyone has a high budget. However, creativity is not expensive. At least, it doesn’t have to be.
“Out of the Box” Acreage Landscape Design Ideas to Consider
These are also called green roofs and are planted on an existing or new roof structure with the help of specialized, solid membrane that protects the building.
It has been proven through studies that rooftop gardens can increase the lifespan of any standard roofing system two-fold.
Green roofs are also highly cost-effective in the long run. Having a rooftop garden will increase your property’s value, especially if you invest in an intensive green roof.
Furthermore, let’s face it. The future is landscape sustainability so why not bring something unique and environmentally-friendly to your property?
Outdoor Living Walls:
Living walls are great for growing plants both on the exterior and interior of any house.
Installing a living wall around a retaining wall or gazebo can really give your space a major pop.
Nature-Scape: Be all Natural
Natural landscapes are in vogue these days, and they offer an informal and relaxing look by implementing winding paths and curvy lines rather than harsh geometrically straight lines.
They’re also great if you are having to landscape several acres of land, as the “unmaintained” areas can blend into the overall concept of the design quite easily.
Wildflowers, rustic elements, native plants and natural building materials provide a warm and inviting look to the landscape.
Imperfections like twigs and logs, salvaged wood, bark chippings, natural stone and unfinished surfaces make your acreage property landscaping more charming and eco-friendly.
Natural Stone Retaining Walls:
The use of natural rocks and boulders in acreage landscape design is also quite reasonable. Thus, incorporating natural stone retaining walls for your acreage property will not only enhance the aesthetic appeal of the land but is also highly beneficial from a functional standpoint. This is especially the case if you have many large slopes on your acreage property.
Moving large, natural boulders to create terraces (levels) in sloped yards will cause the soil to cut back and create a flat surface, or ledge.
The natural boulders settle in the terraces to hold the soil back, creating retaining walls along your landscape.
Moreover, you can dry set, nestle, and stack the natural boulders together without having to worry about it looking “perfect”. This adds to a rustic, natural theme.
Natural Water Features and Ponds:
Yes, this may be expensive but it really can bring your whole yard to life.
Water is something that really strikes people as it plays on the human senses of sight and sound. By incorporating large water features and ponds, you can create tranquil scenes in your yard.
The natural boulders are a great compliment to the lot, especially if it is in sync with the natural retaining walls.
You can also do creative things with water features such as wrapping the stream around your patio to give an island feel or have waterfalls cascading from different elevations.
Finally, it is important to remember that designing a landscape in Calgary or any other province, requires patience, especially if it is your first time.
Trying to come up with landscaping ideas for acreages isn’t easy and different landscapers, and landscaping companies will steer you towards the direction they want you to go.
But if you’re well informed and understand the underlying concept of what you’re trying to achieve in your yard, it’s just a matter of finding the right landscape designer to turn that vision into a reality.