Backyards & Gardens

Outdoor design: Urban courtyard

Outdoor design: Urban courtyard

Image: Angus McRitchie | Designer: Myke Hodgins | Stylist: Nicola Marc

Backyards & Gardens

Outdoor design: Urban courtyard

Landscape architect Myke Hodgins turns a yard in the city into a low-maintenance hangout dressed up for entertaining.

As this Montreal family grew and matured, the sounds of kids splashing in the backyard gave way to silence. The pool was definitely underused, and on a relatively small 1,200-square-foot lot, it had become a labour-intensive waste of space. The owners called in landscape architect Myke Hodgins to come up with some alternative designs that would turn their yard into a more grown-up outdoor retreat. “The couple initially wondered if they should keep the vinyl kidney-shaped pool or fill it in. My team presented them with several options, and this is the one they loved the most,” explains Myke.

To avoid having to fill in so much of the ground when the pool was removed, Myke designed a multi-level plan with the lowest part at the centre of the yard where the pool had been. Now a cross-shaped fountain is an entirely more sophisticated water feature. Building on its shape, Myke laid out the space in a cross design with two axes: one from the house to the trellis at the back of the yard, and the second a raised sitting area at one end and a lounge at the other.

“We aimed for a European courtyard feel,” says Myke. Low limestone walls provide the structural framework of the new design and, for contrast, the raised areas are paved with dark brick. A tall cedar hedge offers privacy from neighbouring yards as well as a verdant backdrop. Four Japanese tree lilacs are planted in strategic spots to create a division between the upper and lower terraces. Plantings are predominantly green, with plenty of lush, leafy choices like hostas, boxwood and smokebush, as well as climbing hydrangea on the pergola.

Now the family spends quiet evenings dining on the terrace and enjoying cocktails in the sitting area under the pergola. And the only splashing sound is the soft, soothing trickle of water from the fountain. This back- yard has definitely grown up, too.
 

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The four corners of the lower terrace are defined by Japanese tree lilacs, which fill the backyard with fragrance in late spring.
 

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A large covered terrace with an outdoor dining area allows for pleasing views into the garden during dinner parties. The huge leaves of 'Frances Williams' and 'Sum and Substance' hostas provide lush division along a low wall.
 

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The cross-shaped water feature is anchored by clipped boxwood at each corner with vibrant chartreuse lysimachia at their feet. The orb-shaped fountain is modern and sculptural in this backyard design.
 

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Landscape architect Myke Hodgins suggests planning a place for the eye to rest in small spaces. Here, it's the bench. "You may not sit there, but your eye will!" he says.
 

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The raised outdoor seating area is a destination for lingering on warm evenings or finding shelter from the hot afternoon sun.
 

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A stocked bar cart is ready for entertaining.
 

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An outdoor lantern with a battery-operated candle casts a gentle glow in the evening.
 

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'Frances Williams' and 'Sum and Substance' hostas in raised flowerbeds.

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Backyards & Gardens

Outdoor design: Urban courtyard

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