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Case Studies

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Woodland Paradise

Locale: North Vancouver Design Solution: The planting scheme for this large woodland garden in North Vancouver included a wide variety of plants, providing year-round interest. Perennials planted in drifts offer bold foliage and bright blooms, add texture and movement to the garden, and lead the visitors’ eyes along the main gravel path, inviting them to explore the garden. Boxwood and evergreen azalea hedges establish structure reinforcing the hardscape layout, while woodland favourites like rhododendrons and hydrangeas provide screening as well as floral accents. A lower canopy of medium and small ornamental trees add interest and establish a human scale in the landscape, so that the existing large native conifers do not overwhelm the garden. The colour scheme for the planting consists primarily of different tonalities of green that provide the garden’s backbone, with pink for accent, and high contrast between the chartreuse and maroon foliage adding excitement to the garden.

Rectilinear Composition 

Locale: Locarno Beach, Vancouver Design Solution: The asymmetric composition of the new entryway and simplicity of planting connect the modernist characteristics of the house with the more traditional character of the surrounding garden. The geometric arrangement of rectilinear forms in the entryway is reminiscent of Mondrian’s modernist compositions. Generously proportioned granite platforms and architectural concrete slabs with a sandblasted finish are positioned to create an inviting contemporary garden. A stone basin serves as the focal point for the area and also acts as a drain for the rain-chain, transforming into a water feature during the rainy season. To draw attention to the feature stone, the walkway narrows next to it, slowing the walking pace. The planting surrounding the basin is arranged in a spiral to echo water swirling down the rain chain into the stone basin. River rocks create a dry water-rill and act as “mulch”, suppressing weeds and concealing the directional lights that illuminate the pathway.

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Relaxing Retreat

Locale: North Shore Design Solution: Views from the home’s elevated deck reveal the garden’s geometry, where the patio’s formal, rectilinear lines are softened with the swaths of planting organized in sinuous curves and the soft tapestry of ornamental grasses. Sculptural elements, like the boxwood globes and the water feature’s basalt columns provide visual interest when the garden is seen from above. The site’s sloping topography was retained and used to delineate the outdoor spaces while minimizing costs of regrading. The generously sized, sunken patio gives the garden dimension and depth and with its low surrounding wall and furnishings form a cozy outdoor living room. Bluestone seat-walls wrapping around the patio offer additional seating and seamlessly integrate the spa area with the patio. The spa’s pergola echoes the house’s deck architecture and provides a feeling of enclosure. The spa’s cable-railing opens the spa area and preserves the views, while carefully placed trees and hedges ensure privacy. The patio’s bluestone paving in a full-range colour palette was selected to complement the tones of the reclaimed concrete pavers that were repurposed for pathways. The curved garden path tapers to a narrowed section surrounded by trees and hedges that conceals the view, creating a passage that makes the garden seem bigger and invites visitors to journey further into the garden

Family Idyll

Locale: Lynn Valley, North Vancouver Design Solution: The design solution is a response to the existing forms of the swimming pool and the patios. The new garden areas are organized into a tapestry of rectilinear forms that were softened with planting arranged in curves. Throughout the garden, the linear geometry contrasts with the spherical shapes of formally clipped boxwoods, round river pebbles, and large round planters. A narrow pool deck progresses into the garden with a sequence of granite pavers that have black pebble joints. Together with carefully curated light fixtures, the pathway creates a visual rhythm drawing visitors into the garden. Black pebbles are also used in narrow strips to connect the differing materials of the new pool deck with the existing patios. The swimming pool area gains architectural definition from the addition of a low feature wall that serves as a base for the two fire and water bowls. The feature wall is mirrored on the opposite side of the garden with a low, trough-style Cor-Ten vegetable planter that, together with the large rectangular lawn area, provides a balance to the overall composition. The fire and water bowls are referenced by using the same shape and materials for the patio planters that feature sculptural pines, extending the garden into the dining area. The long, rectilinear planting bed separates the pool area from the lawn and is planted in long curved swaths of rosemary, blue fescue grass, and evergreen geraniums punctuated with architectural compositions of boxwood spheres, creating an understated yet elegant planting scheme. A river of blue fescue grass leads the eye deeper into the garden towards more informal planting beds organized around a repetition of forms, textures, and colours, while a combination of ornamental grasses, astilbes, and bugbane add movement to the garden. Balancing tree logs and natural boulders echo the natural surroundings and create an edge that separates the lawn from the play area and also act as steps to the trampoline. The stepping stones encourage the children to venture further in the garden, offering rewards of seasonal fruit such as pink lemonade blueberries, cherries, and figs.

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Tropical Garden Vibes

Locale: West Vancouver Design Solution: The contemporary design organizes the entertaining areas on a single level, providing flexibility in how the space is used. A swimming pool with a tanning ledge and a raised spa are connected by a spillover water-feature that generates white noise. The planting around the pool area includes a 4-foot-deep Portuguese laurel hedge, providing a noise buffer from the neighbouring property. The retained windmill palms are complemented with new, bold foliage of hardy bananas and phormiums, reinforcing the feel of a tropical resort. The pool terrace is bordered on one side by a low concrete retaining wall that helps define the area. The retaining wall joins the house’s concrete wall, connecting the home’s architecture with the garden. The contemporary angles of the retaining wall minimize the wall’s visual mass and separate the entertaining area from a more traditional upper terrace garden that includes a sinuous lawn surrounded by mixed borders of flowering shrubs and perennials, and a curved, raised vegetable bed. At the rear of the property, trees, shrubs, and hedges are positioned and maintained at heights that do not block views of the surrounding forest, visually extending the garden into the woods behind the fence.

Fire and Water

Locale: North Shore Design Solution: To maximize the use of a limited outdoor area, the existing space was organized in three different zones, generating a multifaceted space for relaxing and entertaining. Segmenting the space created a series of connected outdoor rooms, allowing guests to circulate and to congregate in small groups. The different levels and varied materials break up what could otherwise have been a concrete monolith. The elevated spa area with a sunken hot-tub offers gorgeous views of the nearby mountains while bamboo hedging creates instant height and provides privacy. A custom-built combination fire trough/fountain, with its juxtaposition of flames hovering over cascading water, generates a dramatic effect. An elongated steel spout illuminated with LED lights spills water into a concrete trough, filling the space with a gentle splashing sound that can be enjoyed throughout the garden. The linear fire adds a warm, cozy glow to the outdoor space, keeping guests comfortable at night. The swimming pool is the main feature. The surrounding pool-patio is paved with large-scale natural stone pavers laid in a “stacked bond” pattern, giving the space a sleek, modern feeling. Contemporary garden furniture was selected to complement the overall design, letting the clients entertain in style. The vibrant red of the patio umbrella and lounger cushions provides a lively accent to the hardscape’s neutral gray tones.

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Modernist Coastal Beauty 

Locale: Garden Bay, Sunshine Coast Design Solution: The design solution considered the site’s topography, bedrock contours, and coastal location. Trees and tall ornamental grasses planted on the top terrace frame panoramic views and define the entryway down two sets of cantilevered stairs connected by four raised platforms. This approach conserves the stunning ocean view while creating suspense and timing throughout the entry sequence. The asymmetrical composition of linear concrete paving strips integrated with boxwood hedges and a large boulder creates a small contemporary courtyard that complements the residence’s architecture. The connection of the house to the garden is further emphasized by the retaining walls, made of cast-in-place concrete to mimic the house walls, creating a series of three integrated terraces adjacent to the stairs. Every effort was made to incorporate the site’s natural beauty in the design. Most importantly, the design includes an unobtrusive transition where the garden meets the natural landscape by using boulders excavated on site and ornamental grasses. The design also emphasizes rugged textures to further connect the cultivated garden to its surrounding natural landscape. Paperbark maples reference the native arbutus trees, while the contorted forms of the Hollywood junipers and flowing appearance of the ornamental grasses harmonize with the movement of the ocean in the distance.

Fun with Circles 

Locale: False Creek, Vancouver Design Solution: The asymmetrical yet balanced composition of oversized circular paving pads is visually engaging from both the ground level and the upper levels of the home, adding a sense of movement and rhythm to the garden. The circular theme is referenced in the custom-designed cedar-slatted screen suspended from the garden’s concrete wall, revealing circles in a void. The textural contrasts among different types of crushed granite and the plants provide additional visual interest. A beautifully shaped maple (acer palmatum) provides a central focal point, bringing colour and a soft texture. The rest of the planting consists of shade tolerant plants that thrive in this garden, which is completely enclosed by walls. A mass planting of Erythronium ‘Pagoda’ embraces the ephemeral with an explosion of yellow blooms in the spring. A resin bound-crushed granite paving solution allows full permeability in the wet climate, resolving a drainage challenge and satisfying the weight constraints of installing a garden atop an underground garage.

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Garden Set in Stone

Locale: West Vancouver Design Solution: This garden is designed to be viewed particularly from the home above. The design uses strong geometry to provide an engaging bird’s eye view while indicating a clear journey from the house’s lower patio through an intimate seating area to a play area and a berry patch. Bold curving retaining walls anchor the house within the landscape and bring a sense of order to this steeply sloped property. The design preserved the existing site contours to minimize regrading, resulting in curved, low-rise retaining walls and a winding path that flows down the hill. The seating area references the yin-yang symbol, embracing a retained Japanese maple in a nod to the previous garden that featured Asian elements. The seating area offers a perfect vantage point to view the garden and surroundings while supervising children in the play area. The low wall with a basalt gurgler provides a sense of enclosure and intimacy within the landscape. The retaining walls were built with traditional stone masonry techniques using locally quarried stone, celebrating times when gardens were created to be enjoyed by several generations.

Beyond the Straight and Narrow 

Locale: Kitsilano, Vancouver Design Solution: The design maximizes the use of every square inch of the 17-foot wide lot while creating a picture-perfect view from inside the home and providing continual flow from indoors to outdoors. The garden is divided into two sections to make it seem bigger. The granite patio extends the indoor entertaining area and provides space for outdoor dining and cooking on a natural gas pedestal-style BBQ that doesn’t occupy much space. The rest of the garden is filled with plants and a small lawn, transforming this urban space into a lush and serene garden. The patio’s horizontal strips of cobble inlays and Irish moss inserts visually extend the depth of this narrow lot, while strategically positioned small ornamental trees separate the garden’s two sections and provide privacy from the lane. A mossy, natural stone gurgler is a low-maintenance focal feature, muffling the surrounding city’s noise and attracting myriad birds. Using individually placed cobbles for the water feature’s surround creates a three-dimensional tapestry, concealing the below-grade water-basin and anchoring the gurgler into the patio. Strategically placed landscape lighting highlights the essence of the garden, ensuring after hours enjoyment in all seasons.

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