Well, let me tell you the story...
There are countless gardening web sites on the Internet today, with "expert" advice, chats and forums, many trying to sell you things, and just a mountain of information. So why this site called Northscaping? Why a specific focus on northern landscaping and gardening?
The answer begins a few years ago, back when I was faced with the exciting, or so I thought, prospect of building a new landscape from the ground up. You see, I had just moved in to a new custom designed house, built in a brand new suburban neighborhood development. The house itself was beautiful, everything I had ever dreamed of in my first home. The unforgettable scent of new flooring, oak wood finish, spacious rooms. New homes are like that; you wait for a few months, albeit a little impatiently, and then you move into your new castle, ready to go.
But the yard was another story - it was everything the house wasn't. Picture this; a rough grade of mud, a mucky and monotonous blend of black earth and a rather sickly pure clay, "hardpan" excavated from the basement (you see, I chose to live in a flat prairie in the Province of Manitoba, Canada, an old flood plain, where mucky clay and alkaline soils are all one has to work with). There wasn't a tree or shrub anywhere on the property, or anywhere in sight, for that matter. This was an extension of a recent development in this suburban agricultural town, so the nearest trees, in the most recent phase of the development, were quite young, only a few feet tall, and the nearest forested land was literally miles away. I remember standing on the driveway, staring out across this vast emptiness and wondering, My God, how could something like this ever become beautiful? For the life of me, I couldn't visualize a finished landscape emerging from this bleak scene.
The interesting part is that this was not the most daunting aspect of the new landscape for me. No, what worried me far more was the realization that there was a great deal more to it than simply putting a few pretty trees in the right places, just like the pictures in the books. When you live in Manitoba, with seven good months of winter, and a short few summer months of blazing heat, you appreciate that the plants are almost doing you a favor if they decide to grow in this climate. How does one deal with the already frightening prospect of turning this patch of mud into a beautiful landscape, one that will not only survive, but thrive in this rather challenging part of the world?
So, being an avid reader and never one to shy away from a challenge, I began with a search for information. Simply put, I wanted to learn how to build an attractive, low maintenance, from-the-ground-up landscape for my new home, one that would survive and thrive in the rigors of a northern climate. I pored over the book stores, the nurseries, the library. Sure enough, there was no shortage of good books that told me how to landscape my home, how to do it myself. There were books about gardening, about plant care and maintenance, books with ravishing pictures and unbelievable plans. I also scanned the Internet, supposedly being "computer savvy" and all, and again, I found a wealth of information.
Something was missing, however. I simply couldn't find any resource that was created specifically for a northerner. Enough books told me that a shrub garden with camellias planted in between the azaleas was a beautiful sight, that a cutleaf Japanese maple makes quite an accent, that nothing beats the exquisite majesty of a purple weeping European beech tree. A little more reading, though, showed me that none of these would ever dream of surviving in a zone 3 environment. In fact, of the really good web sites, those that recognized that people do exist (and rather happily I might add) in the four-season world of the north, most only mentioned in passing a good tree or two with zone 4 or 3 hardiness, almost telling one that the northern landscaper has about three choices from which to select his or her landscape plants.
Eventually I came to realize an underlying question. How can a web site created by some landscaping guru while sunbathing on the patio of his hacienda in Southern California in the middle of December possibly tell me how to landscape my new property in a land where only the toughest of trees dare to grow? How could such a resource possibly tell me anything that I could relate to, information that I could really use for my personal landscaping situation?
This web site is the answer, for myself and for all of you who enjoy the pleasure of living in the great North, and who dare to try and create an outdoor paradise that will compete hands down with any of those you have seen in your trips to Georgia or California, or any of those in the pictures you simply drool over. I have spent countless hours of thorough research putting together the real facts about northern gardening and landscaping, sorting through the mass of information to tell you the real story in a simple manner that you can use. The result is a compilation of principled techniques, hints and downright specific information for the northern gardener and landscaper, all rolled together into a single source.
To me, landscaping and gardening are inseparable. Putting it simply, landscaping is the one-time art of creating an outdoor living space, while gardening is the continuing art of the same. That is why this site is devoted to both landscaping and gardening; to me they are the same, different angles of the same love for Nature and appreciation of the outdoors as an extension of our living spaces.
I have approached landscaping and gardening as forms of art, each as a medium for personal expression, which they really are. After you are fully equipped with all the right design tools, after you understand the principles, once you are ready to begin the creative process with confidence, what you are really doing is letting your talents flow and creating a form of art, unique to you. I mean, that's what landscaping is really all about. The difference is that here you will learn how to work your magic in a manner that is successful in the northern climate, so that your creation will thrive, and will blossom to become everything you have dreamt it to be.
Above all, this web site is fully based in the knowledge that you are a northern gardener, and as such, you have specific concerns and needs. This is the Internet resource that dares to go where the California sites fear to tread. And the good news is, once you begin to appreciate the art of northern gardening and landscaping, it will really seem so simple to you.
Now, take this basic premise that Northscaping is the ultimate internet resource for northern gardeners and landscapers, and build a community around it. That is the fascination of the Internet; unlike a book or software program which essentially passes information in one direction (at a cost to you, I might add…), the Internet allows for true two-way dialogue, the ability to build a virtual community. That is the heart of the Northscaping concept; this common bond of carving out our world in the true North is what unites us, makes us a part of a bigger whole. This is the Northscaping community, a place where information is exchanged, where people share their joys and commiserate together under one roof.
Make yourself at home here, because that's what Northscaping is for. Use the resources, chat with others, share information. Be a part of this community; you are welcome here.
Happy landscaping and happy gardening!