Outdoor design expert Carson Arthur in Ottawa

Outdoor design expert Carson Arthur doesn’t want you messing up your exterior spaces. That’s why his presentations at the Ottawa Home & Garden Show on March 22 and 23 are titled, with a touch of rhyme, Top 10 No-Nos for Outdoor Renos.

Arthur is well-known as the gardening guru on hit HGTV shows Home to Win and Home to Win 2 and for his popular newspaper and magazine columns and sold-out book Garden Designs for Outdoor Living.

He’s also a regular on the home show circuit and spoke enthusiastically – does he ever do otherwise? – about urban farming and allied topics at last year’s spring show in Ottawa.


In advance of his upcoming appearance in Ottawa, Arthur gave All Things Home a sneak peek into three of his 10 non-starters for outdoor renos.

#1: You love your kids, but …

“Never design a backyard space for children,” he says. “I know this sounds a little backwards as we want our kids to play outside as much as possible.”

The idea, he continues, is not to keep your children out of the backyard, but rather to avoid making permanent decisions based on the needs of a six-year-old. “When we put in large permanent structures like jungle gyms and play structures that are cemented into the ground, we limit the use of the yard once the kids have outgrown it.


“Think about how your yard looks to potential buyers that may not have kids or have children that are older. (If) it doesn’t meet their needs … (it’s a) negative to buying your home.”

He suggests instead small patios or gardens specifically designated for the young ones and which can be changed to meet their needs as they grow.

#2: The privacy factor

Create privacy close to the home instead of at the rear of the yard, says Arthur.


“Our go-to solution for privacy in urban centres is a tree in each corner at the back of the yard and a cedar hedge on each side. When we rely on Mother Nature to fill the gaps, we end up being disappointed when things don’t grow the way we want them to.”

He suggests working with lattice panels, decorative metal details and pergolas to create privacy right where you need it.

“By putting a visual focal point between you and your neighbours, you can create more privacy in a shorter length of time than trying to plant a shrub to do the work.”


#3: Money, money, money

Start out with a reasonable budget, says Arthur.

“We know that landscaping done properly can improve a home’s value by up to 28 per cent, according to several online sources.

“Many homeowners, however, have decided to invest heavily in backyard renovations even though the value of their homes won’t support the investment with a return.”


He tells clients to stay under 20 per cent of their home’s value when doing outdoor improvements. That way, there will be a return on investment in the improvement when the home is sold.

More at this spring’s show

Along with Carson Arthur, the main stage is bustling with other presenters. They include Chris Palmer from HGTV’s Canada’s Handyman Challenge, Backyard Builds and other shows. On Saturday, he’ll be tackling budget-friendly DIY projects.

All Things Home is hosting a main stage panel on planning and maximizing your gardens and other outdoor spaces. Saturday afternoon, ATH’s Anita Murray will welcome local gardening and landscaping experts Mary-Anne Schmitz, Ed Hansen and Cindy Cluett for a lively discussion about design, low-maintenance gardening and more.


This spring’s show also features over 275 exhibitors, from renovation and energy experts to pool, deck and other companies.

Back again are local design and other personalities re-purposing household items for Planted! The friendly competition is a fundraiser for Habitat for Humanity.

Also returning is Living Landscapes. Big enough to require its own hall, the indoor garden display includes a beer garden and an opportunity to vote in the People’s Choice Award for best garden.


The Ottawa Home & Garden Show runs March 22-25 at the EY Centre, 4899 Uplands Dr.
Hours: Thursday & Friday, noon-9 p.m.; Saturday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m.; Sunday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m.
Tickets: $9-$13 depending on age. Parking: $8.
Information: 613-667-0509, website


Carson Arthur on urban farming

Carson’s tips on mistakes to avoid working with wood


About the Author

Patrick Langston

Patrick Langston is the co-founder of All Things Home Inc. and a veteran journalist. He has written widely about the Ottawa housing industry since 2008.



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