May 13, 2002
It's awards time!
Landscape Ontario and BCLNA winners enjoy the glow of peer recognition

By Rita Weerdenburg

Each year, horticultural trade associations hold annual awards competitions in which landscape architects, designers and landscape and maintenance contractors enter their recent projects, hoping to be recognized as the best in the industry. These "awards of excellence" competitions are important not just for recognizing those projects that stand out in quality, workmanship and design, but they also act as a means to promote to the public the level of skill, quality and workmanship of which our industry professionals are capable.

And the Dunington-Grubb goes to...
By anyone's standards, the job at hand was very ordinary and presented very little in the way of a special challenge. The Johnston residence property, located in Tyandaga Estates, an upscale Burlington, Ontario subdivision originally constructed in the early 1970s, is somewhat larger than the postage stamp lots on which the monster homes of the 1990s were built but are, nonetheless, average-sized home lots. There were no pre-existing landscape features to be preserved or special terrain-related considerations. The client's only real concern was the new landscape should provide a visual and sound screen from neighbouring backyards - a problem which presents itself in most residential landscape projects. The challenge, therefore, was to turn the ordinary into the extraordinary - a challenge made all the more compelling by the client's high level of confidence in the design-build ability of Environmental Design Landscape Contractors. Aware of Environmental's reputation for designing and constructing award-winning landscapes, and based on the recommendation of friends, the clients took a completely trusting, you-know-what's-best attitude, admits company president Koos Torenvliet.

     The overall design was dictated by the site and common sense, says Torenvliet. A recent sitting room addition to the kitchen had created an alcove, which was the obvious place to situate a secluded outdoor extension to the indoor area. A wooden pergola over the patio provides a sense of transition between indoors and out when the patio is accessed from the house. Lattice panels define the entranceway between the open lawn area and the outdoor sitting "room."

     "The house itself was well-designed to take full advantage of outdoor views," explains Torenvliet, "with the sitting area and even the kitchen counter, where people traditionally spend a lot of time, all providing a good view to the patio and beyond."

     The spacious patio, suitable for outdoor entertaining, provided functionality to the landscape design, but without a strong focal point, the landscape lacked a sense of excitement. In keeping with the scale of the property, a modest-sized but intricately detailed water feature was situated where it would contribute a sense of privacy but not confinement and provide enjoyment from strategic indoor vantage points, as well as practically every location within the backyard itself. Constructed on weathered limestone and, with a total drop of less than two feet, the waterfall is fed by a pond that measures about 15 feet in length and six feet at its widest point.

     What the waterfall lacks in grandeur is more than compensated for by the intensive, very detailed planting scheme. "This was not a matter of quickly adding a few green plants to soften the angles of the stone," says Torenvliet. "Each plant, including the perennials and water plants, was carefully selected to be the just right plant for that particular spot. It was our aim to provide a full spectrum of colours and textures to contribute visual interest and excitement to the garden throughout the season."

     The garden theme was continued along the fence lines with some larger spruce providing instant privacy as well as continuing the overall sense of maturity achieved by the strongly planted water feature garden.

     This attention to detail in all aspects of the design, construction and planting of this landscape was evident not just to the clients, who were very pleased with the final result, but also to the judges of Landscape Ontario's 1999 Awards of Excellence Program. The Johnston residence was awarded the coveted Dunington-Grubb Award, presented to Environmental Design at the Congress 2000 Awards of Excellence ceremony.

     "We did expect this project to win an award in its category,(1)" admits Torenvliet, "but we were certainly surprised to receive the Dunington-Grubb Award. We all know that in theory, smaller jobs such as this are just as capable of winning as are the larger projects, but in reality, it's usually the scope of the larger projects that wins this highest honour."

     It is the mandate of the Awards of Excellence Program to promote excellence of design and workmanship. Excellence, as clearly demonstrated by this project, is defined not by size but rather by quality and attention to even the smallest detail.

(1) The Johnston residence was entered in the category of Special Interest: Water Features.

BC Landscape and Nursery Association's 1999 Awards of Excellence

Single Family Residential
Company: Blasig Landscape Design and Construction
Owners: Gunther Blasig and Ruth Olde
Designer: Reiner van de Poll
Project: Foster/Mortifee Garden
After the homeowners had completed a major home renovation, the landscape contractors were challenged with creating an entirely new, yet natural-looking landscape with a completely mature appearance. Large boulders and moss-covered stumps provided an instant sense of maturity. A random flagstone walkway creates a meandering effect and the change from loose set to mortared flagstone makes the transition from a natural area to a more formal and functional seating area. A cedar deck, designed so that it appears to be an extension of the indoor hardwood flooring, is surrounded by a raised garden, made possible with a dry-stacked basalt wall. A specially designed fence was built to achieve a maximum sense of privacy, while at the same time allowing for some extra light. The project was completed with a diverse selection of plants to provide year round interest, while at the same emulating a natural west coast style.

Interior Landscape Renovation and Maintenance
Company: Botany Bay Landscape Services
Owners: Anne Cassidy and Randy McDougall
Project: Richmond Centre
Richmond Centre is actually two shopping centres that have grown together to become a single, vibrant centre of activity. Although there are two management teams, they work together to provide a consistent image throughout. The ongoing maintenance of the interior plants also includes constant upgrades and renovations. Recent upgrades included the removal of overgrown plants or older plants performing poorly. Most recently, the interior landscape's maintenance was better facilitated through the development of an inventory system, which identifies each plant, container and location.

Single Family Residential Maintenance
Company: Creative Garden Services
Owner: Allan O'Connor
Project: Huberman Residence
True landscape maintenance requires more than on-going grooming and this garden, defined by the client's passion for plants, was in need of an extensive overhaul to correct its congested nature and the lack of structure that had evolved. A too-small seating area was expanded with the removal of an overgrown cedar hedge. A Japanese garden, which included a dry lake as a focal point, was added near the patio to take better advantage of an underused area. A new boxwood hedge brought a sense of formality and definition to the entranceway. Plants were moved or pruned as necessary to provide an increased sense of their form and texture, while at the same time, opening up those areas that needed opening and creating more privacy where required.

Unique Landscape Feature
Company: Excel Landscaping
Owners: Gerald Cupido
Project: Columbus Residence
This fourth floor roof garden was designed to be a place of peace and tranquility for the seniors' (Alzheimer's) residents. Weight considerations and accessibility to the site, were the project's major challenges. A natural perimeter using basalt columns provided the necessary planting depth. Styrofoam was used as a light weight subterranean drainage system. The water feature, set to one side, is fed by a drilled basalt column. Another carved column serves as a bird bath. The eight-inch deep pool is filled with river rock to eliminate any drowning hazard for the residents. Screening and visual appeal were added with a variety of non-toxic plant materials.

Multi-unit residential maintenance
Company: Natural Space by Design
Owner: Steve Thompson
Project: The Harwood Residences
An ecological approach is used in the maintenance of this finely crafted, Japanese-style garden. All routine tasks, even lawn mowing, are performed by non-motorized hand tools. Pest populations are controlled by non-chemical methods and soft garden waste is composted off-site and then returned as a garden mulch. A limited palette of plant material adds a sense of unity to this small but complex unit. There is, however, some latitude for discreetly adding accent plants without compromising the intent of the design. Originally installed in 1994, this landscape is in it early stages of maturing, but with constant attention, will take on the dignity of time while requiring fewer resources.