Five easy ways to create a backyard sensationPublished on July 25, 2008

  • This backyard near Woodroffe High School is the talk of the neighbourhood after the homeowner had fence panels built to incorporate these Out of Ruin glass pieces. Photo by Darren Brown

Treat yourself to a backyard oasis this summer by personalizing your outdoor space and perfecting your dream retreat. We asked local experts for hot tips about how to transform your space with soothing waterfalls, investment pieces, exotic plants and even a fireplace to extend the season. Imagine creating the ultimate place to relax - it's like taking an exotic vacation without ever leaving home. 1. Outdoor oasis

Personal comfort is where it's at when creating your own little slice of heaven in your backyard. More and more people are opting to invest in their exterior spaces instead of seeking cottage life or hitting the road this summer. That means the demand for quality, high-end outdoor furniture is booming, says Linda Fitzgerald, the store manager at Hauser Co. on Carling Avenue. "The number one consideration when purchasing outdoor furniture is personal comfort and pampering. Other considerations like entertaining your in-laws should come second," she says. This season, Linda says her customers are investing in anchor pieces, such as chaise lounges, sectionals and canopy beds for their patios. One of the store's best sellers is the Suncatcher Canopy Sofa, which retails at $3,500. "People don't even hesitate when it comes to buying something that will help them destress their lives," she adds.

2. Light up the night

The best way to unwind this summer in Ottawa is by relaxing outdoors in the early evening with a chilled drink, but add a crackling fire to that picture and you can sit outside earlier in the spring and later in the fall. Custom fireplaces with both wood and gas burning options have become the new "must-have" item for backyard makeovers. Tom Tucker from Home Fireplaces & Patio explains that, "open, round fire-pits are still the most popular item, but custom stone and brick fireplaces are coming on strong." He recommends gas and electric models for city backyards. It's also important to remember your basic fire safety rules and consult local bylaws. If you're not ready for a full fireplace just yet, there's also a funky alternative that can sit right on your patio table. This "mini fireplace" has a granite and stone base that's surrounded by hurricane lamp glass and uses ethanol to burn. There's no smell and it has a completely clean burn, making it perfect for tabletop use. Tom describes the mini fireplace as urban and sleek, so it works well for small backyards and patios.

3. Plant privacy

Whether you have a spacious yard with a pool or a compact backyard, the additions of plants can make any outdoor space private and lush. Local experts say the use of planters, trellises and arbours make it easier to create an outdoor sanctuary than you might think. At Tivoli Florists in Westboro, owner Michael Corbeil recommends adding a taste of the tropics to your backyard. "Tropical plants add a colour infusion to your outdoor space," he says, adding that banana plants, hibiscus and even palm trees are very popular and will add a vibrant beauty to any backyard this season. Michael and his team have also elevated container planting to an art form at Tivoli. He says the trick is to use several plants of different size and height, and don't scrimp on the selection. Summer in the Ottawa area can fly by and you don't want to miss enjoying the fruits of your labour if the plants don't fill out until September.

4. Artistic vision

For the outdoor enthusiast looking for a truly unique way to make the backyard sparkle, why not add a personalized piece of stained glass art? Local artist Diane Proulx, owner of "Out of Ruins," has discovered that by building her colourful pieces into wooden fences the end result is a stunning visual effect. "(It) creates a feature in your yard that reflects light in all seasons," says Diane, whose team specializes in unique glass art pieces for both homes and gardens. The reflective glass they use maximizes the morning, afternoon, and early evening light, while also making the fence a focal point year-round. Diane prides herself on working with each client to create timeless artwork for their fence, giving it special meaning. Along with creating a beautiful floating mermaid for her own fence in the Westboro area, Diane has also crafted boating and water scenes and even a patriotic Canadian flag for one local backyard.

5. Making a splash

Who needs waterfront property when you can stay put and add a water element to your backyard? Ponds are the cool, new eco-friendly way to give your outdoor space some pizzazz. Exterior Dreams Landscaping owner Bernard Laporte says the popularity of ponds is the rise, but it's important to talk to the experts to get it just right. "Most people go too small, use the wrong materials or put the pond in the wrong location," he says. Bernard also recommends that customers install ponds next to a patio, deck or even touching the actual sitting area. A wide variety of aquatic plants, plus frogs, fish and snails are able to co-exist in your pond, making this mini ecosystem a project that involves little maintenance or worry. With a good filtering system and the right location, a pond costs less and requires much less care than a pool. Incorporating lighting, landscaping, stones and a waterfall can make your very own pond the highlight of your backyard.


Exterior Dreams Landscaping, 613-833-0660 Hauser Co. Stores, 613-722-8795, Home Fireplaces & Patio Inc., 613-248-1400 Out of Ruins, 613-728-6358, Tivoli Florist, 613-729-6911 or 613-321-0969, Written by Carrie Irvine

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