Landscaping completes a Parry Sound cottage masterpiece

PARRY SOUND SIDEROADS AND SHORELINES — Every masterpiece needs the perfect frame, and a cottage is no different. No matter how stunning the build, it’s the surrounding landscaping that completes the picture.

But Parry Sound isn’t like the landscapes we see gracing the pages of gardening and home décor magazines. It’s a unique setting, memorable in its own right, but also a far different canvas from which to work. 

“The rugged and rocky terrain produces some of the most beautiful and natural looking landscapes, but it has challenges in terms of landscaping,” explains Nick Bowman of Bowman Landscaping and Excavating. “On a flat terrain, you start with a blank canvas to build your masterpiece, but most times in this area, you start with a half-finished canvas, and you need to manipulate it and add to it in order to perfect it without ruining its natural beauty. It requires an eye and a talent, and lots of experience.” 

As a result, any large landscaping project requires careful planning and coordination. The first step is to assess the existing property, envision every stage of the project, and plan accordingly. With proper planning, just about anything a client has in mind is a possibility. Without it, projects can be fraught with setbacks, climbing costs, and even disappointment.

“Each situation is different. Some property owners have an idea of what they want while others haven’t thought about it. We discuss the possibilities together and explore what would work best for their desires while taking into consideration the landscape we are working with. It’s all about communication, and a little trust,” explains Bowman. 

Just as each individual property owner is unique, so too is every property. The uniquely rugged topography of Parry Sound sees to that. A beautiful set of rock stairs or a pathway is always breathtaking, but sometimes it isn’t always possible – at least without blasting and the resulting higher costs that entails. 

“Rock is always a challenge to work with,” explains Peter Olyschlager, owner of Schlager Excavating in Parry Sound. “You have to have the right equipment to work with rock and on top of rock to get the job done, and there is often lots of drilling and pinning to rock to keep things secure.”

In addition to the ever-present rock, any landscaping project needs to consider existing trees and focus on ways to preserve them. Sometimes a tree simply has to come down – to open up a path that traffic can navigate through in order to save another stand of trees or an old specimen tree – but it’s always best to leave as many existing trees as possible.  In addition, you have to be mindful of roots because some trees, notably hemlock and birch, hate to have their roots contracted. If heavy machinery drives over the roots, the tree is liable to die. To protect them, ask to have the landscaper lay down a thick blanket of mulch for equipment to drive over. 

There are other challenges to landscaping in the region that lay people may not consider. They see stunning designs in magazines and instantly envision the same for themselves. In most cases, they have little idea of what went into making that picture-perfect cottage landscape. Sometimes, the effort and costs involved can be surprising.

The short summer season impacts any project. Landscaping on islands or water-only access properties see costs climb, and sometimes bylaws impose restrictions that make it impossible to fully realize one’s dreams. “Municipal bylaws for setbacks that affect working closely to water are always an important consideration,” explains Olyschlager.  

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