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Integrating a landscape project into the natural lay of the land

The grand tour

While creating a coherent and striking visual ensemble, the garden’s series of interconnected spaces each has its own ambiance. The water features can all be enjoyed from the patios that encircle the new garden, and, from the residence, visitors can descend a staircase to a welcoming firepit and spacious terrace. From this vantage point, one overlooks the entire pool with a spectacular background view of the neighbouring hills.

The lowest terrace, located at the foot of the pool’s overflow basin, allows guests to enjoy the view and the soothing sounds of the waterfall away from the activity on the upper levels.

After descending a second set of stone steps, one enters the main pool area. Two larger terraces can comfortably accommodate a large group of guests, while native inspired-plantings frame the area and maintain a sense of intimacy. A final set of steps lead to the lowest terrace at the foot of the pool’s overflow basin. Here, guests can enjoy the view and the soothing sounds of the waterfall away from the activity on the upper levels.

On a more practical note, another challenge was integrating a pool house for the mechanical systems, change rooms, and other outdoor equipment. The location needed to be readily accessible, yet not impede the design’s visual flow. Ultimately, the rock formations dictated the pool house be tucked into the forest at the base of the existing staircase. Native plantings were used to soften the access pathway, while the wooden structure of the pool house was inspired by the main house.

To maintain a feeling of openness, while maximizing the impact of the surrounding views, a custom, wood-and-glass fence, inspired by the wooden fencing used in the existing garden, was erected around the pool perimeter area.

Finishing touches

In completing the project, lush waves of planting were used to compliment the organic lines of the new pool and patio area, while the garden was divided into ‘planted’ and ‘natural’ areas. Planted areas comprising horticultural and native species chosen for their visual esthetic are immediately adjacent to the pool, and newly created terraces with natural areas provide a buffer zone between built spaces and the existing vegetation. The use of native species not only helped to integrate the project’s man-made elements into the forested area, but also adhered to the municipal bylaw requirements. As such, surveyors were used to designate various planting areas as well as to confirm the project respected these municipal rules.

That said, plant selection was based on guidelines provide by the city as well as the expertise of Northland Landscaping. Together, an informal plant palette of subtle textures was put together, with the final selection comprising horticultural cultivars and native species of trees, large shrubs, ornamental grasses, and perennials, which are deer-resistant and hardy to zone 4. The plants included:

  • Red Maple (Acer rubrum);
  • American Elderberry (Sambucus canadensis);
  • Black Chokeberry (Aronia melanocarpa);
  • Highbush Cranberry (Virburnum trilobum);
  • Creeping Dogwood (Cornus canadensis);
  • Common Bearberry (Arctostaphylos uva-ursi);
  • Bittersweet (Celastrus scandens);
  • Blue Flag Iris (Iris versicolor);
  • Joe Pye Weed (Eupartorium maculatum);
  • Fireweed (Epilobium angustifolium);
  • Purple Silver Grass (Miscanthus purpurascens); and
  • a seeding mixture of native, shade-tolerant perennials

Three years later

Work on the project started in September 2010 and was completed a year later. Today, the plantings have taken root and matured, providing a rich seasonal counterpoint to the activities that unfold in the garden. Nature provided the framework and a responsive, professional design team helped realize the full potential of this spectacular site. The clients not only enjoy themselves, but are also delighted to entertain their guests surrounded by the flow of water and rock that shape this unique space.

Editor’s note: This past February, Hodgins & Associés and Northland Landscaping received two awards for this landscaping project at the 2013 Association des Paysagistes Professionnels du Québec’s (APPQ’s) certified landscaper awards. They earned the ‘Milan Havelin’ grand prize, which is awarded to the project that most impressed judges across all contest categories, as well as the first place award in the ‘natural materials’ category.

Hesse_HeadshotTracey Hesse is a landscape architect with Hodgins & Associés, a landscape architectural firm based in Westmount, Que. While completing her bachelor of arts (BA) in journalism and bachelor of fine arts (BFA) at Concordia University, she started her career as a landscape contractor and garden designer. Hesse returned to university to earn a master’s degree in environmental design from the Université de Montréal. Over the last 10 years, she has worked as a landscape architect at various Montreal-based firms, as well as taught briefly at the Université de Montréal. She can be reached via e-mail at

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