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Designing a multi-purpose yard for fun and relaxation

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A pool was at the top of the client’s wish list in this Mississauga, Ont., project.

By Jon Mulder

The owners of this home in Mississauga, Ont., were looking for a multi-purpose backyard that not only complemented the house they had built themselves just a few years earlier, but also provided a functional entertaining space.
To realize this goal, they contacted Cedar Springs Landscape Group, an Ancaster, Ont.-based landscape design, construction and grounds care company serving customers in Ontario’s Golden Horseshoe region. As 20-year veterans of the landscape business, the group at Cedar Springs worked closely with the clients, using their experience and inspiration from the natural world to create a space that took home a 2011 Landscape Ontario Award of Excellence.

A collaborative plan

Planning began in early January, to ensure workers would be ready to break ground as soon as spring arrived. As with any project, the design process started with a client meeting to determine the homeowners’ distinct design sense and collaborate on their ‘wish list’ and priorities for the property.

First on the list was a pool. Having already met with a builder, the clients were interested in a lagoon-shaped or curvilinear design. Sizing was left up to the Cedar Springs team and was dependent on the overall layout of the backyard, which would ultimately include a cabana, bar, built-in spa, dining area, lounging space and fireplace-centred conversation area.

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The yard is split into two levels, to create added visual interest and establish a degree of separation between the dining area and pool.

The existing space was a blank canvas of green grass, with nothing more then a catch basin in the back corner of the property, which sat close to 1.6 m (5.5 ft) lower than the back doorsill. The yard elevation also needed to be managed by a series of natural stone and masonry retaining walls.

Extensive excavation was required to create the different elevations and prepare for the structural concrete, which was the first step in the construction process. Addressing the elevation change between the doorsill and catch basin took some thought. The swale flowing along the back property line needed to be maintained and specific plant material (e.g. serviceberrys and rivers birch) needed to be selected in order to handle the flood-like conditions these swales experience during periods of high rain.

As the design developed, it was determined that the pool needed to be installed 1.1 m (45 in.) below the doorsill. It was crucial the pool be installed not only at the correct height, but also in the exact location planned. With so many areas of the yard connected to the pool, any change in location would have had an effect on the entire flow and functionality of the backyard. For this reason, among others, effective communication with the pool builder was a top priority.

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