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The Georgian is coming soon to Gerrard Street East in Toronto, offering suites close to transit, shopping and downtown for upscale, urban-minded home seekers.COURTESY OF STAFFORD DEVELOPMENTS

Spring is when everyone’s fancy turns to thoughts of greening up their space.

“People are now looking to make the most of those outdoor opportunities,” says Carson Arthur, a landscape designer, author and television personality, including as host of HGTV’s Green Force and Critical Listing, and a regular on Cityline. Arthur is a presenter at this year’s National Home Show, returning April 15 to April 24 at Toronto’s Enercare Centre.

Outdoors as a healthy and functional extension of indoors

Arthur’s focus has been to show homeowners how to raise the value of their homes through outdoor renovations. But the outdoors also has tremendous importance for our sense of well-being.

“Without question, the mental health aspect of having been cooped up [the past two years because of the pandemic], it has been cabin fever times 10,” he says. “Condos are a perfect example. If you are fortunate to have a balcony, you want to make the most out of every square inch. There are very few condo balconies that provide you with more space than you need. People are being asked to make their dollar go further. We talk about the stresses that inflation and global unrest and the pandemic put on the individual. Home is where we go to feel secure and comforted. So people are looking at their outdoor space and asking, ‘How can I create a haven or sanctuary?’”

For Arthur, outdoor space, whether it’s the backyard or on the balcony or terrace, is an extension of what you are doing inside and should be seen as something that complements the interior design. He says it’s important to ask questions about your needs and wants: What do you not have on the inside that you wish you had? Is it extra seating for guests, a bigger kitchen, maybe a dining room?

“The reason I say that is too often I see people put a dining set on a deck, for example, right outside the dining room window,” he says. “So we have two separate tables side by side. It’s so much better if you have something outside that you don’t have inside because you will use it so much more. It will complement your lifestyle and add more depth to your day-to-day activities because now you have a spot for your evening cocktails, or maybe an outdoor smoker.”

Creating privacy outdoors is also a priority, Arthur says. Who’s looking at you, and who can you see? That’s going to give you more direction on what to do with that private space.

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An expert’s tips on maximizing green space in a small space

People living in condos in the Greater Toronto Area often have only a small balcony or terrace space to work with but there are plenty of options to maximize every square foot of that space and enjoy the benefits of a garden.

Expert gardener Mark Cullen says he saw nothing but possibilities when driving down the Don Valley Parkway one day in March, where he saw a new condo tower on the east side of the road with 30 storeys of different balcony spaces without a single tree.

“What we tend to do as humans is we carve space for ourselves and separate ourselves from the world of nature in a variety of ways,” he says. “And when we move into a condominium or an apartment building and we have a balcony or a terrace it becomes our only connection to the natural world around us, other than the view out the kitchen window.

“You can use plants to reduce noise, you can use them to provide cooling shade, you can use them to produce food like a tomato plant or apples. There are any number of reasons for [greenscaping]. The fact is they all sequester carbon, they all produce oxygen, and many of them produce fragrances that help you to relax and to enjoy that outdoor experience, that you would not always have.”

Some of Cullen’s tips for greening up outdoor condo spaces:

• A good rule is to think vertically by planting upright growing plants. “It doesn’t matter if you have 800 square feet or 120 square feet,” he says. “You can maximize the benefits of that space by planting vines.” Espaliering is another space-saving technique that allows you to take a dwarf apple tree, for example, and train or prune the plant to grow flat against a vertical wall or a trellis, thereby not allowing it to create a canopy the way it would if you planted it in a garden.

“It’s easy to do,” he says. “People are a little nervous of it because it’s like an art form. With vines, there are so many that will fill up a wall with greenery, or fruits and wisteria, with dripping colour. There is a long list of vines that will prove hardy on a GTA balcony, such as morning glories and bittersweet vines.

• Buy compact versions of the plants you love. “Take a cucumber for example,” Cullen says. “A cucumber is a very gangly space hog. Yet you can get a compact cucumber plant that produces very heavily and is very suitable for containers.” Patio tomatoes will grow vertically from a container, although other expansive vegetables such as corn, pumpkins and zucchini should be avoided. And, while the size and weight of larger plants has to be considered on a balcony, that doesn’t mean you have to go without trees or shrubbery. Lilacs are typically known to be “monster shrubs,” Cullen says, but Korean Lilacs won’t mature to more than a metre round and therefore are good choices for the balcony.

• Pay attention to plant hardiness zones, which are geographic zones that encompass a range of climate conditions related to various types of trees, shrubs and flowers and how they will most likely survive and grow. According to a Natural Resources Canada map, Toronto, for example, is a Zone 6a – with extreme temperatures between -20.6C and -23.3C. Cullen says that, when planting on a balcony, always go up two zones – so plant an apple tree that’s hardy to Zone 4 (-28.9C to -31.7C), for example.

• Be mindful of the elements. If you live more than two or three stories high you’re going to get a lot more wind exposure. “In the winter that can be really hard on plants, especially if your balcony faces north or northwest,” Cullen says. Also pay attention to exposure. If you’re facing south or west, you’re getting more sun, so sun-loving plants such as tomatoes will grow faster. That sun also intensifies when it bouncing off your patio door or exterior wall, and that’s beneficial to herbs as well. But then it can be too strong during the hot months of summer, which can cause those plants to bake. “It would be in your best interests to shade those plants,” Cullen says, adding that eastern and northeastern exposure is ideal if you want to really avoid that hot sun.

• Consider herbs. With the rising costs of food and increasing concerns about healthy food (which was already a trend before the pandemic), people are more interesting in food gardening. Herb gardens, for example, don’t take up a lot of space and offer great health benefits.

Don’t be afraid to talk to an expert at your local garden retailer or go to for insights on gardening.

Developments with ‘green’ in mind

Many developers in the GTA are responding to the growing desire among homeowners for green spaces and the option to customize their own outdoor areas.

The Webley

A new boutique condo project called The Webley, located in Yorkville, has a long list of features for residents. That includes outdoor space and the opportunity owners will have to green up that space with decorative and food plants, and even trees. (Anyone with a balcony or terrace who wants to set up a tree should first check with their condo corporation to find out how much weight that outdoor condo space will hold.)

Ken Zuckerman, president of Zinc Developments, says The Webley will have four different types of outdoor living. It will feature the traditional terrace living on each floor, allowing people to have an outdoor dining and living space. On the second floor there will be a large terrace with an augmented area. There are also balconies. “And the penthouse is totally unique, one of the only ones [in the city] that has a pool, at an approachable height [the building is nine storeys], with an expansive outdoor space for eating, cooking, lounging, just off the workout room. There will be a private dining area, and a bar overlooking the pool. It is a very special place.”

89 Avenue Yorkville

At 89 Avenue, an Armour Heights Development project also located in Yorkville, select suites offer outdoor spaces with sizes of 1,400 square feet and 1,900 square feet. “Clients have created their own oasis outdoors with details such as water features, hot tubs, pergolas, fire pits, built-in barbeques and kitchens, art sculptures and lush greenery and landscaped gardens,” says Armour Heights Developments president Frank Mazzotta. A private entrance into the building will include lush greens and seating areas.

The Georgian

The Georgian is a condo project in Toronto’s Cabbagetown, in the Gerrard Street East and Sherbourne Street area. “Bringing nature indoors and creating environments that are light, bright and filled with clean air was a priority for the development, design and architecture teams,” says Shaista Kitabi, director of marketing and strategy for Stafford Developments, which is the developer of The Georgian. “It was important for us when designing this building to include access to outdoor spaces with every suite, and as a result every unit at The Georgian features either a terrace or balcony.”

Advertising feature produced by Globe Content Studio. The Globe’s editorial department was not involved.

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