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Turning a plain space into a modern oasis

The work begins

Once all the details had been approved, it was time to break ground. The yard was levelled, fresh soil was added to garden bed areas and construction began. Installing the stonework was a long process, but Glancy knew skill and patience would result in a solid long-lasting surface. In addition to a large upper patio, a smaller lower stone sitting area offers a front-row view of the spout fountain. From here, one can see the floating step in the lower pond and appreciate the height difference delineated by a circular stone step that runs the length of the yard. Floating steps are also interspersed amidst the lawn and gardens, creating an ephemeral break from the order of the design, like square bubbles drifting from the water.

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The small drop along the curved lawn border provides additional backyard seating.

Fountain grass fills two garden beds alongside the upper and lower water feature borders, softening the hardscapes as it transitions from the patio into the series of garden areas on the other side of the water. Sedum ‘maestro’ and switch grass (Panicum ‘heavy metal’) were among the hearty and shade-tolerant choices for this barely sun-dappled space.

Flowering dogwood, hostas and hydrangeas (‘pinky winky’) fill another garden bed with muted hues and interesting foliage. Here, against the cedar lattice screen that separates properties, the privacy problem is solved with the planting of quick-growing cedars and hearty 1.8-m (6-ft) tall Maiden grass as an organic screen.

At the far end of the upper patio, a series of square, charcoal-coloured removable cushions create more seating and mirror the geometry of the design. All along the curved lawn border from patio to grass, the 1-m (3 ft) height drop is made functional with steps and potential sitting space.

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The central water feature special attention, including a galvanized steel basin insert for the top water feature.

The water feature itself required special attention for design and construction. Glancy subcontracted a metalsmith company, Coppersmith and Metalcraft Inc., of St. Catharines, Ont., to create a galvanized steel basin insert for the top water feature.

“Water features are notorious for their propensity to leak,” Glancy says. “Welding a basin for the top pool drastically reduces that risk.” Water flows from the top basin to the bottom pond through a stainless steel trough. “This water feature has the best of both worlds—two areas of still water for tranquility and a smooth waterfall for excitement. Water movement also keeps the whole system healthier, which is a nice bonus.”

The big picture

The back garden is a semi-circular series of purple ninebark shrubs (Physocarpus ‘diablo’), outlined in front—first by the bed of dark mulch in which they sit, then by the rounded stone lawn border. Behind lies a backdrop of white river rock, chosen for its drainage function as much as its colour. The upper patio and lawn area are bordered by squares and rectangles of alternating gardens and stepping stones, with the concentric squares of the raised water feature creating a focal point.

The end result of the integration of all of these landscape elements—from stone patios and steps to gardens and water features—is a space that is both unique and functional.


Kiera Newman is co-owner of KIVA Landscape Design Inc. She can be reached via e-mail at


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