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