Natural beauty, botanical inspired backyard living space

by Samantha Kleinknecht
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Landscape designer Samantha Kleinknecht shares how she created a beautiful, botanical-inspired backyard living space

photos Alex Lukey

After selling their cottage, my city client’s desire to have an outdoor getaway at home, where they could relax and enjoy being outside, inspired the renovation of their backyard. Before the redesign, the backyard fell short and did little to encourage their outdoor living aspirations. With my landscape design ideas and the interior design help of Erin Feasby and Cindy Bleeks of Feasby & Bleeks Design, the family can now dine, cook, lounge, entertain and swim in their newly renovated backyard.

The homeowners didn’t want to see a wooden fence surrounding the perimeter of the yard. They wanted lots of green to fill in the space and make it feel like a cottage in the city. We went with a planting palette of greens, whites, yellows and purples and kept a good-sized patch of sod for the family dog. We used various plants and flowers from boxwoods to black-eyed Susans and even lined the property with green cedars and pyramidal European hornbeams to give that green backdrop they were looking for. We also included a couple of eastern white pines – a nostalgic reminder to the homeowner’s cottage. We placed potted plants around the pool to add extra greenery to the expansive patio. We planted topicals, perennials and annuals. Some of the plants will die in the winter, but the homeowner may choose to put seasonal cuttings in the planters for winter interest when the snow flies.

New fencing, some made from pressure-treated stained pine and some in black aluminium, keeps it open and airier. The wood fence was stained a dark colour, which helps the fence recede into the background. The backyard is paved with Permacon, an engineered material, in a light grey colour. Due to the freeze-thaw cycle of Toronto, the pavers were dry-laid in an aggregate base.

There are so many great seating areas around the backyard. One is an area with a natural gas firepit beside the pool – a nice spot to relax in the evenings and well into the fall season. The furniture was repurposed from the family cottage and updated with new outdoor fabrics.

For a bit of formality, we added a boxwood hedge around the dining patio along with planters that include fresh herbs. The homeowner loved the large maple tree trunks on her neighbour’s property, so we used aluminum fencing so as not to hide the trunks. To connect this patio to the one around the pool, we used four large pavers pushed together to create lovely, large stepping-stones. Sod in between the stepping-stones adds a hit of green between the two patios.

The back corner of the yard is a lounge sitting area, complete with a sectional sofa, coffee table and lots of great shade cast by the cantilevered umbrella. This corner is a cosy nook that acts as the backyard’s living room. Overall, this backyard is a green oasis, a great escape from the hustle and bustle of city life.

Samantha Kleinknecht is Owner and Principal Landscape Designer at SK Design Co. Specializing in residential design, she loves to help her clients discover their own outdoor style.