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Shibui Landscaping

Who is Arthur Skolnik of Shibui Landscaping?

In 1980 Arthur’s friends convinced him to visit a newly imported collection Japanese Bonsai at the Montreal Botanical Gardens and it was love at first sight for Arthur. “They appealed to me on many levels.  They were art and science, (his background is biology and psychology); a kind of horticultural shorthand! Everything about them was fascinating, how old they were, how small the pots that they grew in were and the images they conjured…” Arthur explained. Afterwards he read a few books, took a course and opened up the first Bonsai store in Montreal in 1982. He imported trees from China, Taiwan, Japan and the United States.

Shortly after opening his store Arthur was approached by the architect who designed the Sanctuary Condo Complex in Montreal and was asked if he did landscaping. Arthur was hesitant, but decided  he would give it a shot, though he had no formal training. The job was a huge penthouse balcony. The project required a crane, 200 4×4’s, 300 bags of soil and a massive amount of work and resources. Soon after the project he bid on and got four more jobs in the same condo complex. The finished jobs and his client’s reactions to them cemented his love of landscaping. “I became addicted to the stress, passion and glory of finishing a job on time. We were creating living art.” Arthur explained.

In 1983 Arthur was invited to live in Japan with a Bonsai grower for 4 months. He fell more in love with Japanese gardens and their aesthetic, and learned more about bonsai and the traditions and techniques of Japanese gardens.

In 1988 shortly after getting married, he and his wife moved to Toronto and opened a new Bonsai store and landscaping business on Bathurst (he closed his Montreal store). He enjoyed creating Bonsai in the fall and winter and landscaping in the spring and summer. “It was an ideal situation! When fall approached and landscaping work tailed off, the store got busy. When spring approached and Bonsai sales decreased, landscaping got busy.”

What is Shibui Landscaping?

Arthur incorporated Shibui Landscaping (Shibui translates as- quiet, simple, elegant, refined, understated) in 1988.  Shibui makes an effort to create landscape designs to meet people’s actual needs and aesthetic wishes.

“We love it when clients are willing to take a chance on design. Many people don’t think of landscaping as art. People seem to think of landscape design in terms of must haves and can’t haves. If people start thinking of landscaping as a functional work of art, they could start thinking about what they could have instead of only what they need.”
-Arthur Skolnik

At the present, Shibui Landscaping has five full-time people on staff, as well as two part time carpenters.  Many Shibui Landscaping jobs have modern materials incorporated into the design, such as plexi-glass, stainless steel and LED lighting. Arthur feels the design of the landscape should fit that of the home. “Few people realize that their backyards can be an extension of their homes. In a room without a roof, the sky’s the limit.”

Shibui offers design/build landscaping services for indoor and outdoor projects for homes and commercial or industrial properties. Arthur has experience in creating landscapes that are both beautiful and functional. “The most important thing is to create a place to sit and then design the landscape and focal point (s) around it.”

What does Shibui Landscaping specialize in?

Shibui specializes in designing and building Japanese and Western style gardens. “My favorite type of garden has a Japanese flavor to it. Too much Japanese style (details) may be out of context for the property but in most cases, some Japanese details give the garden a sense of grace or dignity.” Of course making sure his clients, past and present, are happy is also a very high priority for Arthur. Arthur tells us how there is nothing better than having a client say they are not only thrilled with the job, but that they will  recommend Shibui Landscaping to  friends and family. “I spend very little money on advertizing. Over 90% of my work comes from word-of-mouth. My reputation is everything.”

What does Arthur enjoy about his work?

Arthur enjoys the entire landscaping process. “Translating a client ‘wish and want’ list  into a design, then guiding the construction process to completion and knowing Shibui Landscaping has transformed what his clients hoped for into reality; is the best feeling in the world.”

Quick Tip:

When planning a landscaping project come up with a wish list. Remember that a landscaping project isn’t that much different from a house renovation (it has the same processes). Also, design is secondary, a homeowner needs to find a contractor they feel they can work with first.
-Arthur Skolnik

Showcase Projects:

This landscape was a more traditional Japanese garden with many typical features including a beautiful Nobedan stone path, a cloud pruned (Black) pine a low Kinkakuji bamboo fence (in the background beyond the maple) and pea gravel  as surface treatment. There is also a strong use of open (and uncluttered space) as part of the design elements.

Eastern style garden

This garden was a huge stone job. 6 men took 6 weeks to install the square cut flagstone around the pool. They also built a large raised stone patio with stone steps on 2 sides and planted the property with hundreds of perennials, shrubs and trees. It has a very open, bright, lush and contemporary look and is perfect for pool parties and entertaining.

contemporary garden

The landscape in this image is a combination Tea House, shed, and summer retreat. Shibui Landscaping designed the outside to be reminiscent of a Japanese Tea House with stucco walls and round windows. The curved roof and arched doors add a feeling of grace to the structure. The Homeowners asked that the inside have finished and painted walls and also lighting. They wanted to spend many summertime hours in the structure enjoying the view of the plantings. They store summer furniture inside during the winter.

garden teahouse

Phil and Daniella’s property has a ½ acre pond that is far from the house. They like the sound of falling water and the wildlife it attracted and asked Shibui Landscaping to build a natural looking pond outside the living room so it would appear as if it had always been there. The clients were very specific about the amount of water that should come over the falls, so Arthur installed several controls to customize the look and sound as they wished.

If you didn’t know this garden was designed and built in Toronto, you might think it’s a photo of a garden in Japan. The large Japanese maple was moved from another place on the property and the traditional water feature is best viewed from the kitchen. The rest of the property has many other Japanese features as well.

Japanese garden

Have you hired Shibui Landscaping? Tell us about your experience here!

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