Priority in the gardenPublished on April 24, 2016

  • The former playhouse is now a garden shed
    Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Andre Godin designed the outdoor living room
    Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • An abundance of lounging space in the pool area.
    Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Stone pathways scattered with perennials around the gardens
    Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • A dining area is adjacent to the pool
    Photo by: Mark Holleron

  • Bella enjoys an afternoon swim
    Photo by: Mark Holleron

Two outdoor-enthusiast homeowners bought a Rockcliffe Park home eight years ago for its garden potential. Although the house required top-to-bottom renovations, the lush yard held such promise that it was worth a leap of faith. 

The couple quickly began creating a lifestyle for their two children and family dog Bella that revolves around the backyard. It started with planting perennials in existing garden spaces to reflect their own French-inspired tastes, and replacing a pathway encircling the garden with more modern-looking stones.

While the homeowners did much of the yard renovation themselves, they called upon contractors to help with the heavy lifting and outsourced some design and labour work to Georges Haddad, owner of Heritage Landscape Design and to Andre Godin Design. They tore down the dated sunroom and replaced it with a pergola of their own design, while adding a loggia designed by Godin that overlooks the sauvage shade garden.
The loggia is an impressive and invitingly cozy space that beckons you to crack open a book, pour a drink, lift your feet and relax. An epitome of outdoor living, the space boasts a hanging light fixture in solid wood, stone fireplace, coffee table and plenty of seating to suit solitary or group huddles by the fireside as a summer sun sets.

A more formal French garden in full sun approaches the pool, which has been modernized to a salt-water system. The homeowners also moved a garden shed, which was built as a child’s playhouse 25 years ago, to the other side of the yard when they first moved in. While their kids enjoyed it for many years, it is now back to being a garden shed, but a unique one with two beds and a sink!

As they renovated their L-shaped home, special care was made to maximize views of the same-shaped yard from nearly every room in the house. Two years after beginning, the pergola, eating area, in-ground pool, loggia with fireplace, two small ponds, playhouse-turned-garden shed and two mature gardens were complete, and continue to make for a magical escape from the everyday.

Though the homeowners theorize the yard is at its most beautiful in spring when shrubs are in full bloom, they make full use of it from early spring to late fall. The family opts to forego any summer travel to spend every possible moment in a yard that beckons wildlife (wild turkey, fox and neighbourhood cats), boasts a garden that blooms all summer long, and has outdoor living spaces that are both inviting and private.
The couple continues to oversee their own yard maintenance, hiring local kids to help with weeding. Pride in her garden keeps the homeowner’s hands in the dirt, and she visibly lights up when reminiscing of past summers spent in her yard with her children, claiming it’s a large measure of her happiness quotient. It’s a space that is used daily and every year, she adds new annuals, trying unique varieties, adhering to a purple, green and white colour scheme.

This haven for the tenets of outdoor living is where the family devotes their leisure time. They eat outdoors every day when weather allows, swim in the pool multiple times a day, sit by a crackling wood fire at least once a week, and host guests at every opportunity.

Sarah Niman

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