Cover Story : Beauty In Abundance

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Cover Story : Beauty In Abundance

Photography By Larry Arnal

Sculptural, serene and sophisticated, a layered lakeside garden provides changing and spectacular views all year long.

Some homes have great synergy with the landscape—the plants hug the house, and the ivy nestles in comfortably. When Sarita and Arthur Peltomaa bought this charming lakeside house in 2004, it had lots of curb appeal, but the yard came into its own years later after an extensive overhaul. “It was beautiful, with mature trees and shrubs, but the landscape was old and tired. Our vision was to freshen it up, add some living space and give it a style that better reflected the owners,” says landscape designer Adrian Bartels, who owns Cedar Springs Landscape Group in Oakville, Ontario.


The owners, a creative pair with two teenagers, wanted a place to relax and entertain, and to add curb appeal to their wide corner lot. Sarita is a psychologist who brings a Zen approach to the garden, while Arthur is a lawyer and sculptor, whose work is displayed prominently in the new design. “We integrated a large rock by the archway to display his various pieces,” says Sarita. In fact, a lot of heavy rock was moved in that transformed the space with visual interest and texture. The stone, along with well-placed evergreens, forms the structure behind the low-maintenance garden, breaking up the large lot into smaller, cosier spaces.


It all adds up to a very sophisticated design that isn’t trying too hard—upscale but not ostentatious. “It’s somewhat eclectic—a transitional blend of natural, Japanese and traditional English garden,” says Bartels. First the overgrown shrubs were removed, and then a series of new plantings went in to revive the ailing yard. “The varieties and styles are very much English garden with boxwoods, hydrangeas, and vinca groundcover,” he says.

FRONT EAST SIDE: hills yew hedge with phantom hydrangea trees in between (brunnera and blue hosta in front), begonias (annual), tropical oleander trees, let’s dance moonlight hydrangea, vinca ground cover, little Henry itea, rose glow barberry, and hosta


Sarita found herself very involved in the process. “I grew more interested in plants and became more aware of my own preferences in terms of colour, and the types of flowering plants that I like,” she says. Her input and the family’s personal touches really make the space sing. It’s a reflection of how they live here. “We can sit in the courtyard nestled away, and listen to the pond; we can walk out from our kitchen into a private, gardened breakfast nook that has some lake views; and we can roast marshmallows in the firepit,” says Sarita.

POND AREA AND BACKYARD: sedum in the rocks, bobo hydrangea, hinoki cypress, icee blue juniper, begonias (annual), cascading japanese maple, boxwoods, tricolor beech tree, cedar hedge backdrop behind arbor, and hosta


FRONT SOUTH SIDE: bobo hydrangea flower carpet roses, yews, begonias (annual), dwarf hinoki cypress, little Henry itea, christina source (flanking the side door), blue hosta and japanese maple. Blue spruce, hosta, vinca ground cover and yellow hosta.


To carve out dedicated entertaining space, a new patio was laid. “We used natural square-cut flagstone, which was designed to be quite geometric in shape. We relied on the plantings to soften it up,” says Bartels. “The idea was to create a patio that transitioned from the house to the dining area and also cantilevered the koi pond.” The pond, which was also modernized, is a favourite feature of most people who come here. “Since water is “nature’s laughter,” it tends to be the highlight of many gardens, and I think this one is no exception. I particularly like how the patio integrates up to the edge of the pond,” says Bartels.


Landscape designer Jenna Earle from Bulow’s Garden Centre and Landscaping was also heavily involved as the years went on, adding in new garden beds. Earle used plantings in keeping with a woodland garden. She mass-planted hydrangea for maximum impact and colour all summer, and used hardy yews and versatile hostas, all low maintenance, to great effect. “A really neat gem of the garden is the parade yews against the house in the backyard. They are the perfect evergreen for a narrow space. The form on them is spectacular,” says Earle.

Designer Lou Ward created a serene vintage garden-room using a mix of antiques and a bold Ralph Lauren floral wallpaper. The sunroom also acts as a pass-through to the home’s bedrooms on the other side.


With each season, the garden changes, giving the Peltomaa family beautiful vistas year-round. The house was fitted with expansive new windows with views to the garden from almost every room. A favourite spot is the Frenchinspired sunroom, decorated by local designer Lou Ward to complement the outdoors and to embrace Sarita’s love of French antiques. The elegant and serene space is swathed in a botanical print and drenched in sunlight thanks to a wall of floor-to-ceiling windows and double doors. It’s hard to think of a more ideal spot to sit with a cup of tea in the morning and take in the lush greenery beyond.

Outside, the large yard, divided into smaller “rooms,” works well for moments of quiet relaxation or hosting a louder, larger crowd. And with a stellar lake view, and the bubbling sound of the pond, it’s quite therapeutic. It seems the house isn’t the only thing in harmony with the beautiful new garden. “I just love that it’s peaceful and calm. We can enjoy nature all around us,” says Sarita. “It feels like a sanctuary.”

SOURCES INITIAL LANDSCAPE DESIGN: Cedar Springs Landscape Group EVOLVING GARDEN: Bulow’s Garden Centre SUNROOM: Lou Ward FURNITURE: Petit et Jolis; WALLPAPER: Kravet; CUSHION FABRIC: Bilbrough; MIRROR: The Millionaire’s Daughter; ACCESSORIES: White Pear Studios and Pier 1

Catherine Sweeney is a Toronto-based writer and editor who focuses on art, design and architecture. She has worked for numerous publications including House & Home, Designlines and Azure.


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