The meandering dry stream bed serves as the focal element of the backyard. However, it becomes a dynamic babbling brook whenever it rains. Fed by a protruding downspout off the flat roof, the stream receives over 1000 square feet of rainwater. When this outlet becomes active, the urban waterfall feeds the stream and enters the groundwater system through breaks in the pond liner and an eventual outflow into an underground cistern in the middle of the yard. Here, water is retained and released, keeping soil moist long after a storm. The stream also addressed the client’s drainage concerns by channeling water, (previously directed over the tennis court and onto a neighbor’s property), into this man-made tributary. From urban wildlife habitat to native wetland plantings, the stream created opportunity beyond its initial functional and aesthetic purposes.
Another engineered drainage system constructed on-site ensured ideal growing conditions for the family’s vegetable and herb gardens. An underground “reverse” tile drainage system used reclaimed clay pipes to form a permeable broken line for watering. With occasional hose watering through an access pipe, the need for irrigation was eliminated and there is not a single drop of wasted water.
A unique palette of plant material was selected to reflect the home’s modern design. Mass plantings and architecturally distinctive specimens form clean lines and focal elements in the landscape. With an existing cedar hedge backdrop, species of particular colour, foliage and textures offer seasonal interest. The lawn was seeded with Pickseed’s Enviro1000, which grows a few inches and only requires an annual cut after flowering in July. This significantly reduced emissions of lawn care equipment. Many native plants, hardy to the local climate and immune to common pests and disease, were also selected to reduce maintenance requirements.
The use of local and recycled materials significantly reduced the project’s ecological footprint. The granite chips, crushed quartz and large granite feature rocks, which offer contrasting interest in stone beds, were sourced locally. In fact, the material chosen for the patio was granite slabs from Huntsville, Ontario. Accuracy, creativity and teamwork during the installation of the edge restraint patterns and stonework were vital to the project’s success. The use of recycled wood to retain the raised vegetable gardens and the construction of reclaimed cedar beam structures demonstrate the project’s aim to remain environmentally conscious.
From the sounds of the urban waterfall to the meandering walk by Canadian geological history, the construction of this dynamic landscape gives way to a truly spiritual connection to nature. This spiritual connection along with the fresh nourishment provided by the garden has steadily improved the health of the owner, which had been failing during the early stages of design.