Creating Outdoor Spaces You Can Enjoy When It Gets ChillyReading time: 8 minutes
Canada’s brutal winters make it hard for homeowners to enjoy their outdoor spaces when cold weather hits. But don’t cross the backyard off your list of places to “chill” this season. Here are some cool winter landscaping ideas to revamp your space so you can still use it as the temperatures drop. Plus, find out where you can learn more about winter lawn care.
Install a Fire Pit or Patio Heater
If you plan on spending any time outside this winter, you'll want to address the heating issue as soon as possible.
The winter temperature in western Canada generally drops to −29°C in the southern sections and −34°C in the northern sections, although temperatures can go down to −48 to −51°C too! According to the Government of Canada, the country has "one of the most severe winter climates of any country in the world.” So, ensuring a heat source will be paramount to creating an enjoyable outdoor space.
A fire pit is a popular way to heat your space and create a cozy ambiance. Not only do they make the space more comfortable by providing warmth, but they’re also aesthetically pleasing and look great in a backyard, no matter the weather.
A patio heater is more practical, offering the maximum heat to keep warm even people far away from the heater. While some of these are attractive, other models are designed with function in mind and may not be as visually appealing.
However, patio heaters are generally better to heat large spaces. Some models are even created with heat sources at the top that are angled down to provide warmth from above.
Add Outdoor Lighting
Few things are as charming as the glow of warm lighting to offset the cold winter months. You can easily transform your outdoor space by incorporating different types of light fixtures throughout your area. Here are some fun ideas to try:
- String lights. String lights are a fun, romantic way to add lighting to your outdoor spaces without making significant changes. They’re usually relatively inexpensive compared to other lighting methods and look great when strung from tree to tree or draped around the roof of your porch.
- Solar lanterns. Solar lanterns are another affordable lighting method and are free to operate once you buy them. They come in various styles and have a small solar panel on the top that collects and stores energy until night arrives. You can put these on tables, hang them from trees, or even use them to illuminate a walking path for a magical-feeling atmosphere.
- LED lighting. Professional lighting creates a beautifully illuminated outdoor space for you, gives your home more curb appeal and increases its resale value.
- Layered lighting. Layered lighting is a strategy that uses multiple forms of lighting to create a custom ambiance. It can include string lights, solar lights, torches, lanterns, professional lighting, and nearly anything else to offer the perfect amount of light for whatever you’re using your space for.
Plant Cold-Weather Trees and Shrubs
Planting cold, hardy varieties of trees and shrubs can help your yard maintain its beautiful colour, even when temperatures drop. Look for tree varieties that retain their foliage throughout the winter or winter bloomers that reach their peak and flower between December and March.
Here are a few varieties to consider:
Wintergreen boxwood is a landscaping staple, with small waxy leaves that can be pruned tightly for an ultra-clean look. This variety can also survive temps down to -7 degrees Celsius, making them a good option for the southwest areas of Alberta and British Columbia. However, these plants have shallow roots, so be sure to protect them from ice and snow with a layer of mulch.
Japanese maple trees produce vibrant red leaves not unlike the traditional Canadian maple and can tolerate temperatures as low as -10 degrees Celsius without losing their beautiful crimson colour.
Dwarf birch is a smaller member of the birch family, displaying bold shades of green and gold year-round. Dwarf birch can withstand between 25-30℃ on the higher end and -15℃ on the lower end. This makes it an excellent choice for northern regions of Western Canada.
Create Cozy Seating
Your seating area is another critically important feature of your outdoor space, and if there aren’t comfortable places to sit, the space is much less likely to be used. Here are some things to pay attention to when picking out patio furniture:
- Chairs and tables should be easy to clean snow and ice off of
- The material the furniture is made from should be resistant to cold, wet conditions (steel, iron, and wicker products are less ideal than teak or plastic materials)
- Cushions should be completely waterproof if you plan to leave them outside
- Consider fabrics that are also resistant to UV rays, mould, mildew, and stains
- Heated seating can make hanging out outside much more comfy in the winter, but you'll want to ensure that whatever you get is still waterproof, so there's no risk of electrical problems.
Cover the Area
Covering the area you want to make into an enjoyable outdoor space is a great way to keep snow and ice from getting onto your patio furniture and prevent your get-togethers from being ruined by precipitation. Here are some of the most common ways to cover your outdoor area:
Gazebos. A gazebo can provide just about everything you need for a great outdoor space, including seating, shelter, and enough space for a heater in the center.
Portable garages. A portable garage is much more affordable to install than a gazebo but typically doesn't have any kind of seating or as much aesthetic appeal. They can pull double duty in the summer to protect your car from the hot sun.
Tents. Event tents might be the way to go if you want the convenience of a portable garage but don’t need the garage feature. They’re a great choice when you need maximum space and want more shelter around the sides of your space than a canopy can provide.
Canopies. A canopy is a cost-effective and easy-to-put-up solution that provides minimal protection from precipitation unless you add side walls. If you’re not too worried about wind or ice coming in from the sides, this may be enough to shield you or your furniture from falling snow. This option is generally best for temporary outdoor spaces you plan to take down.
Carports. A carport is essentially a more durable canopy with the same open sides, but instead of a canvas or tarp top, the roof is aluminum. This makes it sturdier and more resistant to wind and heavy piles of snow.
Screened-in porches. If you have the money to invest in your outdoor space, a screened-in porch is a great choice. Not only will you be able to enjoy this area in the winter with a patio heater, it will provide excellent protection from mosquitoes and UV rays in the summer.
Pergolas aren’t as helpful when protecting your space from the weather. The open-design lattice at the top that allows plants to vine through also lets rain and snow in, providing no shelter to the people or objects underneath.
Put in Hardscape
"Hardscape" refers to landscaping features made from hard materials, like pathways, garden beds, walls, fire pits, water features, etc. These features not only look good, they often provide an extra layer of functionality. For example, a stone pathway gives people somewhere to walk other than on your grass, which helps protect your lawn from damage during one of the most critical times of the year.
Maintain Your Lawn
Good lawn maintenance is another important part of making a winter hangout outside your home. An overgrown, dried-out, or dog-spotted lawn takes away from the vibe you’re trying to create and makes your home look uncared for.
Here are some quick best practices to follow:
- Implement robust fall lawn care to prepare ahead of time since there’s not much you can do for your grass when the ground is frozen hard in the winter.
- Prevent any ice melters you use on your sidewalks, porch, or driveway away from your lawn. This includes any runoff from melting snow that has ice melter in it.
Learn More from the Lawn Maintenance Experts at Green Drop
At Green Drop, we’re experts in lawn care services across western Canada. We believe knowledge is power, and we’re here to provide the information you need to take great care of your lawn and trees.
If you’re looking for snow removal services when your yard is covered in a thick blanket of white frost, you’re in luck! Green Drop will get your lawn on track and your property free from snow.
This service includes:
- 24 Hour Guarantee
- Flat Rate, Monthly Payments
- Unlimited Visits
- Snow Fully Cleared to the Pavement (with IceMelt Add On)
- Monthly IceMelt Add On
Keep your outdoor space beautiful, year-round. Transform your winter wonderland with our expert snow and holiday lighting services for a festive and dazzling season!