Embrace Nature: Landscape Upgrades for Your Summer Home

Lakeside Cabin

Your summer home is where you escape for rest and relaxation. It’s also often a place where you reconnect with the outdoors and disengage from urban living. So while you likely appreciate the rustic elements (and low maintenance) of your summer home’s landscape, you may be looking to take your property to the next level. Here are five ways easy ways to embrace nature, enhance your landscape, and even increase safety.

1. Plant native vegetation. Select plants and vegetation that are native to the location. Not only will they require less maintenance to survive and flourish, but they’ll better preserve the surrounding habitat. Check out the Evergreen Native Plant Database, which offers species by region across Canada.

Think about adding transplants such as natural grasses or shrubs and trees that provide shade or break the wind for other plants. If you plant strategically, these additions will not only add layers of texture to your outdoor living space, they can help conserve water. Consider that a single large tree properly placed near your home can absorb a great deal of heat, lowering both the summer temperature of your cottage and your utility bill. Just be sure the branches on any trees and shrubs you plant around your home are properly pruned and maintained every year, as overgrowth can sometimes cause damage to windows and the roof. Also consider how the root system may grow over time before getting the shovel out.

2. Add steps and stones. Using stones, rocks, or other natural materials to build a walkway throughout your property can help create a nice transition between the indoors and the outdoors. Keep the design simple and organic to maintain a natural effect. If the destination of the path takes you to an interesting landscape feature, such as your boathouse, the dock, or a small studio, even better.

Steps with properly installed handrails can help provide stability to steep inclines and also allow access to areas that might otherwise be inaccessible. Rock features can also be designed to redirect water to drain away from your cottage, protecting your investment in an artistic way.

3. Light the way. While safety and security should be your prime considerations when installing outdoor lighting, you can do it in a way that’s also aesthetically pleasing. Illuminate your trees, shrubbery, gardens, and dock. Light your beautiful new pathway or any other interesting areas you enjoy. To make it easy, environmentally-friendly, and wallet-friendly too, use timers and install low-voltage or solar-lighting systems.

Living wall

4. Grow living walls. Not every summer home is blessed with privacy. Sure, you can always build a new fence, but why not consider a more natural option? Allow vines to crawl up an existing fence or shed. You may also consider growing tall flowers like sunflowers or thick laurel hedges. Flowering hedges like hydrangeas can also add colour.

Be sure to choose plants that are adapted to the environment when designing your wall. You’ll also need to take seasonal changes, light availability, and water sources into account.

5. Build a safe fire pit. No cottage or cabin experience is complete without a safe spot for evening fires. Campfires evoke memories of comfort, friends, and of course s’mores! Bylaws vary between locations, and they’ll impact where you can build your fire pit and when you can have a fire, so be sure to learn the rules in your region. Once you know the rules, find a place on your property that makes sense, has easy access for bringing water to douse fires, is safe, and offers something special. Consider choosing a space with an amazing view or a spot within earshot of a nearby gurgling river. Be sure to pay attention to local news outlets to monitor fire ban situations as well. While it’s lovely to enjoy a quiet night by the fire pit you’ve built, if conditions are too dry, it is not worth the risk!

If you’ll be using wood for fires and your landscape is natural, you might consider building your own fire pit with rocks from the beach. Another option might be a portable propane fire pit. These are available for purchase in a number of stylish and functional options. Just remember, a modern structural fire pit may look out of place in a rustic cottage landscape, so consider choosing one that suits your surroundings and enhances its natural beauty. Then break open the marshmallows.

Do you have a summer home? How have you made your home-away-from-home a sanctuary?