Our clients live in a beautiful, modernist house, with floor-to-ceiling views extending across their secluded backyard from the north-facing kitchen and west-facing dining room and main bedroom. One of the owners is a passionate and knowledgeable gardener. Both she and her partner wanted their rear garden to function primarily as a private sanctuary, and also be suitable for hosting parties. They envisioned a carefully curated oasis: a handful of quietly marvelous elements, each selected to bring out the best in the others.

Introducing a pair of curved, overlapping concrete retaining walls with integrated lighting was our team’s key structural move. These forms now trace a partial ellipse that frames the new deck and steps down onto a new limestone patio and lawn, separating these open spaces from lush, new planting beds in behind them. Widening and descending as it arcs around the lawn, the longer retaining wall doubles as bench-style seating. Tinting the concrete a soft honey brown helped meld it into a harmonious composition with the pale, even-toned limestone that the clients favoured for the patio.

The planting scheme accentuates the beauty of the massive corner elm and other mature trees and shrubs, while integrating them into a cohesive whole. To complement the scale and chartreuse foliage of the existing Japanese maples, we chose a planting palette of low-growing ferns and grasses, along with plants that flower in pink and purple hues. Native-species swaths echo and amplify the curves of the retaining walls placed in front of them. The woodland-character planting mix balances a naturalized aesthetic with repeated lines of colour and leaf texture that subtly lend unity to the landscape.

We retained the existing fence along the north and east sides and designed the new ipe-slatted steel gate that connects to the garage, screening views into the garden.

The deck’s patio area nests into the L-shape of the house, creating a courtyard-like sense of enclosure
Curved concrete retaining walls separate the tiered planting beds from the open areas of the garden
A curved concrete retaining wall embraces the patio and lawn
Raised planting creates a thick, textured carpet below the trees’ upward-thrusting branches
Detail of overlapping concrete retaining walls at deck
The curves concentrate like ripples at the wall, lawn, and patio
Curved concrete retaining wall allows for a larger planting area around the existing tree
Closeup at the garden wall’s end
Layering of textures – planting, concrete, ice wood, and stone
A curved retaining wall frames the deck and outdoor living room
View of fence and gate from garden interior

  1. A Conversation of Views
  2. Admiral Road Garden
  3. Airdrie Road Garden
  4. Airdrie Road Residence
  5. Albany Avenue Residence
  6. Alcina Garden
  7. Alexandra Park
  8. Aporia Records
  9. Ardwick Townhouses
  10. Asphalt Poetry
  11. – Poem
  12. Baby Point Gardens
  13. Beach Garden
  14. Beach Village BIA Master Plan
  15. Beaty Residence
  16. Bennington Hts Garden
  17. Bennington Hts Ravine Garden 1
  18. Berkeley Street Residence
  19. Bin-Scarth Garden
  20. Blink and you miss it.
  21. – Poem
  22. Block 22 Landscape
  23. Bloor St. Apartment
  24. Blue Note
  25. Booth Avenue Residence
  26. Boustrophedon Garden
  27. Braemore Gardens Residence
  28. Brahms Townhouses
  29. Browning Avenue Residence
  30. Brunswick Avenue Residence
  31. Camp Arowhon Offices
  32. Canadian Firefighters Memorial
  33. Channelled Buried Moved Lost
  34. Chocolate Loft
  35. City Instrument
  36. Clarendon Garden
  37. Conversation Piece
  38. Cortleigh Boulevard Garden
  39. Creemore Farm
  40. Danforth Mosaic BIA Master Plan
  41. Dickson Park Garden
  42. Dilworth Residence
  43. Don Landing Revitalization
  44. Dublin Grounds of Remembrance
  45. Duncanwoods Townhouses
  46. Dundas Roncesvalles Peace Garden
  47. Dupont-by-the-Castle BIA
  48. East Point Bird Sanctuary
  49. Eglinton Ave. Forecourt
  50. Eglinton Park Master Plan
  51. Elizabeth Fry Society
  52. Ellsworth Residence
  53. Face to Face | Tête à Tête
  54. First Avenue Garden
  55. First Avenue Residence
  56. Flyover Canada
  57. Foote’s Pond Wood
  58. Forest Hill Village Streetscape
  59. Gaze, Glimpse, Glance
  60. Global Affairs Monument
  61. Goldring Landscape, University of Toronto
  62. Gormley Garden
  63. Governor's Bridge Lookout
  64. Greener P
  65. Greer Road Garden
  66. Greer Road Residence
  67. Guelph Bridge
  68. Head in the Clouds
  69. Helena Ave Residence 4
  70. Jackman Institute of Child Study
  71. Jean Tweed Addition + Laneway House
  72. Junction Craft Brewery
  73. Kelpies Competition
  74. Kew Gardens Streetscape
  75. King's Landing Apartment
  76. Kipling & Islington Developments
  77. Lakeport Beach Neighbourhood
  78. Le jardin du repos
  79. Lenticular Curtain
  80. Leslie Slip Lookout Park
  81. Liberty Village Parkettes
  82. Liza’s Garden
  83. Lynwood Garden
  84. Macroscape
  85. Makwa Waakaa'igan
  86. Markham Garden One
  87. Markham Street Residence Two
  88. Massey College Landscape Restoration
  89. May Street Ravine
  90. Midtown Yonge Streetscape
  91. Montreal Holocaust Memorial Competition
  92. Mount Dennis Parkettes
  93. Mulock Park
  94. Nathan Phillips Square
  95. – Streetscape
  96. – Peace Garden
  97. – Podium Roof Garden
  98. Octane Medical Campus
  99. Orchard View Garden
  100. Osgoode Atkinson Green Competition
  101. Owl Cottage
  102. Paperstone Scissors
  103. Pendrith Residence
  104. Peripheral Sitings
  105. Pottery Road Crossing
  106. rare
  107. Ravine Forecourt
  108. Ribbon of the Lower Don
  109. Riverside BIA Master Plan
  110. Roxborough Garden One
  111. Roxborough Garden Two
  112. Schulich School of Business
  113. Sheridan College
  114. – Trafalgar Campus Master Plan
  115. Spadina Quay Wetland
  116. St. Anne's Road Garden
  117. St. Lawrence Centre for the Arts
  118. Stratford Market Square Competition
  119. Stratford Patterson Theatre Competition
  120. Superkids Dental
  121. Superlegible
  122. Sweet Farm
  123. Sweet Farm Pond House
  124. Swift Medical Offices
  125. The Meadows Reconsidered
  126. The Red Sash
  127. Thick & Thin
  128. Thistletown II Townhouses
  129. Tipping Point
  130. TMU Centre for Urban Innovation
  131. TMU Science Building
  132. Tranby Garden
  133. Tree House Residence
  134. UBC Okanagan – The Commons
  135. UHN Tunnels
  136. University of Toronto Mississauga Welcome Centre
  137. Venice Biennale 2012
  138. Vermont Square Park
  139. Vernon Avenue Garden
  140. Walk the Walk
  141. Walmer Road Residence
  142. Welland Canal Fallen Workers Memorial
  143. Wellesley Cottages Garden
  144. Wells Street Residence
  145. Westminster Residence
  146. Weston Village BIA Masterplan
  147. With Words as Their Actions
  148. Woodlawn Avenue Residence
  149. Woven Stories
  150. Wynford Drive Residences
  151. York Park
  152. Yorkwoods Townhouses