My Modern City Garden

July 15, 2010

I recently completed landscaping my backyard and I have to say that I adore my new outdoor space! Now that I have my backyard finished, I get outside every chance I get. It is a very small garden, but has a dining area, two sitting areas, a fireplace, a fountain and an abundance of plants and pots. Here are some photos of my project and some tips I learned along the way that might help you to create your own small city garden.

I hired a wonderful landscaping company, JVR Landscaping, to help me with the layout and plants for the backyard. I wanted a modern garden, with lots of succulents and grasses. As much as I enjoy flowers I decided to do very few of them, instead opting for plants with interesting structures, textures and colors. Choosing these plants was a modern alternative to traditional perennials and annuals. Instead of a lawn, a large concrete patio with planting beds surrounding it was a better choice and use of the space. Doing this has enabled me to create several sitting areas and a play area for my son. I would highly recommend forgoing the lawn if you have a small back garden. You can still create a lush look without one!

Tip #1 – Consider succulent plants and grasses for a modern look.

Tip #2 – Skip the lawn and go for a patio to increase your outdoor living area space.

Here is my new concrete fountain! It was built in California and shipped up to Calgary. I am thrilled with the way the sound of water fills the air. It is so calming and drowns out any traffic noise. The concrete was stained a dark chocolate-brown color and its simple form creates a wonderful backdrop to a bed of succulents and grasses in front.

Tip #3 – Add a water fountain to help quite the city noises.


I found this wonderful Buddha at a local antique shop called Traders of the Lost Art It sits in a bed of wooly thyme and in front of a row of tall grass. The patina of the sculpture looks terrific against the dark stained cedar fence and row of tall grass. Traders of the Lost Art is a gem of a shop known to every Calgary interior designer for having wonderful treasures!

Tip #4 – Create a focal point with an unexpected sculpture.


 The deck was expanded in size, and instead of using cedar, we selected Kayu Batu wood which has a very rich color and beautiful grain. In this photo, you can see the sitting area I created off the family room. Instead of an umbrella or awning, our landscaper suggested a lovely Brandon Elm tree that shades the deck. Succulents from Vale’s Greenhouse in Black Diamond, Alberta were used to fill my pots on the deck. If you live in Calgary or the surrounding area, you have to take a drive out to Vale’s. They have the most incredible selection of plants – especially succulents – and their pots and planting beds are the best I’ve ever seen!

Tip #5 – Consider an exotic wood species for your deck.

Tip #6 – Add a tree to shade the sitting area.

Tip #7 – Try grasses and plants with unique textures for contemporary pot plantings.

I picked up the furniture throughout the backyard from a number of stores in Calgary. You might notice that only the sofa and chairs match each other, and all the other pieces of furniture are mismatched. Several years ago I purchased the sofa and chairs from Chintz and Company because I liked their clean lines. I added a new contemporary teak table from Kitchen and Patio. For a rustic element, I added the set of nesting tables and the petrified wood lamp, both of which are from Maria Tomas. I found the orange outdoor bolster cushions at Pier One and every year I change the color of the pillows depending on my mood!

Tip #8 – Mix different styles of furniture pieces together for an eclectic mix.

Tip #9 – Add color with accessories.

Pergolas add great architectural interest and a bit of shade. This pergola was constructed out of cedar and features metal columns beside the larger cedar one for a modern look. I have an old, industrial looking candelabra that I hung from the roof of the pergola over my dining area (you can just see it on the right side of the photo). Having a dining area away from the back door has worked out really well for me. It gives you a reason to go into the garden and enjoy it.

Tip #10 – Add architectural interest with a pergola.

Tip #11 – Hang a light fixture or chandelier over your dining area.

Tip #12 – Move the dining area into the garden for more pleasurable al fresco dinners.

In Calgary, summer is short and the evenings can be chilly. The amount of time that can be spent enjoying your backyard in our climate is limited. To extend this window of outdoor opportunity, I installed a fireplace to provide warmth on cool nights. I am happy to report that not only does my fireplace look great, but it has also become a lovely gathering place for my family and friends, where we can roast marshmallows or sip on a glass of wine while staying warm and toasty late into the summer evenings!

Tip #13 – Extend your summer with heaters and fireplaces.

Interior design by Corea Sotropa Interior Design

I positioned the fireplace against my garage and in this spot it can be viewed as soon as you enter my home. This arrangement really draws you into the backyard space. This photo is taken from my family room, which opens onto the deck.

Tip #14 – Consider how your backyard looks from your interior and try to draw the outdoors in.

This photo from the opposite side of the pergola shows a sitting area which I furnished with some comfortable armchairs from Kitchen and Patio. The fireplace mantle is concrete and was manufactured and installed by Sculptural Design Studio. I found a fabulous French antique iron window frame c. 1920 from Traders of the Lost Art which is leaning on top of my mantle. The round orange shape to the right is actually a mirror that is hanging on my fence. It provides and interesting view in the daytime, a bit of sparkle and at night glows with the amber flames of the fireplace.

Tip #15 – Unexpected items in a garden make it appealing and unique.

Well, that’s a little tour of my modern city garden if you missed it on the Alberta Ballet Home and Garden Tour. You can see the interior of my house on a previous post called “Designer’s Own Home”. I hope that you enjoyed seeing my project, and got some inspiration for your own outdoor spaces. Enjoy the sunshine!

All photography by John Bilodeau.



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2 Responses to “My Modern City Garden”

  1. [...] This post was mentioned on Twitter by Home Decor News, Jacqueline Corea. Jacqueline Corea said: Tips for creating a small city garden [...]

  2. camdesign Says:

    Lovely, lovely, lovely…
    our patio redo was finished this afternoon, I am truly in love
    I will be posting the before and afters later this week…
    Truely love the furniture you used, Love Kitchen and Patio…
    I am going to be looking for a new table this weekend, wish me luck

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