Barbecues and Buddha

Playing and Meditating in a Lakeshore Backyard

Story by Karen Paton-Evans
Photographer by Michael Pietrangelo

East meets West in a Lakeshore backyard, where the large family can unwind together with yoga in the Zen garden or kick back on Muskoka chairs and roast sausages over the firepit. Savvy landscape design enables them to spend more time on yard play than yard work.

Installed after the custom house was built 16 years ago, the harmonious layout of the spacious property reflects the homeowners’ attention to detail and their willingness to receive great advice from two very important sources: their kids and landscape professionals.

Sharing two sons and three daughters, ages six through 12 back in 2004, Heidi and Joe dreamed of a yard that would keep pace with their growing family.

“We wanted to create our own personal oasis that was multifunctional and divided into different areas where we could have fun with our family and entertain our friends,” the mom says. “For our kids, it was all about the swimming pool.”

The 4,800 square foot house, containing five bedrooms, five bathrooms and a finished basement, took up a good section of the half-acre lot. To maximize the remaining outdoor space, “we had to begin with a good design,” says Heidi. The couple engaged Flood’s Nursery Farm to bring together all the items on the family’s wish list through intentional planning.

The landscaping team began with the major existing feature in the backyard: the substantial exterior of the red brick and ivory stucco contemporary classic house. It was incorporated as the backdrop to the outdoor décor theme. Two tall storeys are punctuated by long Palladian windows, with curved tops arches echoed in the arched accesses to the big covered patio attached to one end of the home.

“We graded the yard at many different elevations, starting with the covered patio attached to the house – the highest level,” Heidi says. The structure offers cooling shade and protection from the elements. “The second tier catches more sun, ideal for relaxing and exercising. Lower down at the pool level is the fun-filled, busy area. Our yard finally tapers down to a grassy spot, where our firepit is.”

Natural stone, stamped concrete that mimics stone and other hardscaping help define the zones. Chunky elephant rocks form borders to contain plantings. Stone also clads the pool house and outdoor kitchen. When concrete was poured to create the island countertop, fossil and seashell images were pressed into it.

“Although everything is 16 years old, all the hard surfaces are great,” Heidi notes. An upgrade done several years ago looks seamless: “we added a half-height brick wall around the covered patio to enclose it a bit more.”

Substantial slabs of limestone and elephant rock appear as though water has been over their ledges forever. The rock was arranged so two separate waterfalls can cascade into the deep end of the saltwater swimming pool. When the pumps aren’t on, the rocks serve as twin diving platforms.

Relax Pools built the pool. “At the time, they said it was double the size of a normal pool,” Heidi recalls. “We chose a saltwater system because we find it is gentler on your skin and hair and easier to maintain than chlorine.”

The brilliant blue of the swimming pool pops against the home’s red brick. Stamped concrete provides durable decking around the pool, helping to prevent slips and falls. Black wrought iron chaises are situated for sunbathing. Complemented by deep red Sunbrella fabric cushions, the wrought iron collection from Patio Palace is repeated throughout the yard.

Two individual sound systems were installed in the backyard. One is by the pool house “so our kids can listen to their own music when swimming,” the mom says. “The second system plays our music on the covered patio.”

Nature’s own harmony is welcome whenever mother and daughters retreat to a quiet spot near the waterfalls and framed by barberry bushes. Tranquil looking statuary reflect Heidi’s desire for Zen. “One of my favourites is the big head of Buddha, an icon of awareness and knowledge surrounded by grasses and below a starburst tree. We placed it facing the house to attract positive energy.” A tall black pagoda lamp made of sturdy concrete adds practical illumination.

“When the weather is nice, my girls and I like to do stretches, yoga and reading out in the yard.”

An upbeat mix of figures populate the property. A reclining statue of a bare-
footed person sprawled across the outdoor kitchen’s eating bar is a great conversation starter – and a lighthearted reminder to relax.

Clever placement of greenery helps the family achieve their desire for privacy, “so we can’t see what the neighbours are doing and passersby can’t see us,” says the mom. To this end, “every tree, plant and shrub was thought out before planting. It was necessary to incorporate natural elements that are true to our area.”

Firs, spruce, cedars and dwarf and Australian pines provide year-round cover and protection. Sunburst locust trees on either side of the pool house are valued for their pretty, delicate foliage. Purple beech by the waterfall and Japanese red maple inject further colour and visual interest into the yard. “Around the house, clipped boxwood hedges add formal flare, with white hydrangeas popping above them,” Heide points out. She also loves sees papaya waving against the red brick walls.

Selecting a range of hardy perennials that would thrive in Essex County’s extreme
seasons has resulted in an annual show of attractive leaves and short-lived but lovely flowers. Varieties of shade-tolerant hostas and sun-happy grasses; Annabelle hydrangeas that produce big white lacy blooms; and rich burgundy and yellow day lilies each take their turns as the stars of the garden beds. Between the waterfall rocks, dainty yellow tickseed and succulent chicks and hens can handle the summer heat.

“There is always something in bloom in the beds, from early spring through to late fall,” says Heidi.

Enjoying their yard for three seasons, the family looks forward to every meal that is grilled on the barbecue near the covered patio.

A favourite treat is dad’s homemade sausages, roasted over the firepit, “away from the rest of the yard’s features,” Heidi says. “Our firepit can burn real wood logs or we can flick a switch for convenient natural gas.”

“Some of my best memories are around the bonfire with our kids. We tell lots of stories and have loads of fun out there,” the mom says. “Our backyard has also become the popular place for extended family and friends to gather. We have hosted Canada Day events, birthday celebrations and my oldest daughter’s engagement party.”

It is also a wonderful place to staycation. Rather than crawling through congested traffic to reach a cottage in the woods, the family steps through their backdoor and
escapes into their private retreat. “Our aim was to build a spot of our own with the feel of northern Ontario, mixed with a bit of Zen,” Heidi says. “I think we achieved that.”

The front of the yard received equal thought and care. Wishing to greet arriving guests with a pleasant approach to the front door, Heidi and Joe gave a green thumbs up to entrance gardens. The splashing of a water fountain is a calming touch that refreshes wild birds flying about the neighbourhood. The family also appreciates the beautiful view from the large windows overlooking the front gardens. Guarding the property are two regal lion statues. “Those two little guys are the keepers of our yard,” Heidi chuckles. Coco the family cat may have something to say about that.

When envisioning and establishing a successful property design, Heidi believes, “Patience is key.”

Sixteen summers have given the trees plenty of opportunity to put down deep roots, soar upwards and spread their branches wide. Shrubs are prevented from taking over with periodic trimming. “The upkeep is mostly thinning out, which lets us share overgrown perennials with friends who want to beautify their own yards,” the mom observes. “Here, everything keeps getting better with time.”

Windsor Life Magazine is always searching for interesting homes, landscaping, gardens, patios and water features to show our readers what others in the community are doing with their living spaces. If you have a home that you feel would be interesting please email photos to Photos need to be for reference only. If your home is chosen we will arrange for a complete photo shoot. If you wish, you may remain anonymous and the location of your home will not be disclosed.

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