Garden impressionsPublished on May 9, 2016

Photo by: Mark Holleron

To Carson Arthur, the HGTV all-star outdoor living expert, life is all about being in the right place at the right time. Graduating from the University of Windsor with a degree in communications, he decided that the rigidity and the confines of an office desk job were not in his long-term career plans; working outdoors was where he felt most at home.

So, at 29 he enrolled at Humber College in a landscape design program. Not realizing it was a co-op program, Carson discovered he needed to find a six-week summer job after making plans to go on an African safari. It was a good switch, as he ended up being hired by the television show Get Growing as a behind-the-scenes prop person, where he pitched ideas to studio producers. Then he was offered his own outdoor living improvements show Room to Grow (Global/Prime TV).

Carson’s next shows were on HGTV. Green Force showcased eco-conscious gardening and then Critical Listing featured homeowners learning how to renovate their existing outdoor space to get the maximum resale value. These shows earned him a nomination for a Viewers’ Choice Award for Lifestyles Host at the 2005 Gemini awards.

In April he is part of twenty HGTV superstars in the ten-part TV series Home to Win, where Canadians compete to win an average house which has been remodelled into the ultimate dream home. His boundless energy and enthusiasm for all things outdoors has made him a sought-after expert on CBC TV and Cityline.

Carson wrote his best-selling book Garden Design for Outdoor Living: Social Gatherings because he was inundated with requests for his outdoor living space blueprint designs. His upcoming book highlights how to use your backyard as a survival space or refuge. Who isn’t afraid of a Zombie apocalypse? Carson already has his escape-plan strategy and will go to his six-acre farm in Prince Edward County where he can disappear among his chickens, vineyards and vegetable gardens.

HOW DO YOU ENJOY YOUR OUTDOOR SPACE? In the spring I get so excited to be outside – taking my time getting the gardens cleaned up and having that humility with nature. Summertime is all about entertaining my friends and having them over for a meal I have prepared while sitting around the outdoor fireplace. It’s blankets, books and fireplaces in the fall. I love snow activities in the winter and being outside in the cold. I’m a Canadian boy so why not embrace it?

HOW DO DIFFERENT GENERATIONS APPROACH THE OUTDOORS? Baby boomers are focused on downsizing to a more manageable space. They still like to garden, but not on a grand scale and they enjoy entertaining their family and friends in the backyard. Generation X spends money on creating a perfect backyard oasis instead of buying a second home or cottage, and concentrates on their return on investment. First-time, home-buying Millennials look for curb appeal and want to grow vegetables in their backyard and leave less of a footprint.

WHAT ARE YOUR FAVOURITE VALUE-ADDED ELEMENTS FOR THE HOMEOWNER? Your home’s first impression can make an eight-percent difference to its worth. Our homes are our largest asset, so we want to ensure any improvements increase its value. Do not spend more than 20 percent of your home value on the outdoors because you are not going to see a return on your investment past that point. Make your renovations lifestyle appropriate. Go bigger because you are going to use it. Decks and patios add increased yearlong living space. Outdoor kitchens are popular as most people wish they had a larger kitchen entertaining space. Outdoor fireplaces are also on most wish lists. If you add to your backyard and your neighbours don’t, you can see anywhere from 10-15 percent increased home value over your neighbours, even if you have the exact same house.

WHAT’S TRENDING FOR 2016? Growing heirloom vegetables in raised planters is very popular. Container gardening has changed as you can also grow edible items like lemon and grapefruit trees and then bring them indoors. Last year I started a large raised-vegetable bed at my farm and this year we are planting peppers and eggplants. I’m planting heirloom seeds from Edible Antiques in my two-acre field to help propagate and provide more food diversity in the marketplace.

Vera Cody

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