Outdoor spaces that evolve as our families mature

One of T.O.’s top landscape architects, Janet Rosenberg, on tackling the challenges of city gardens

Our properties have become much more valuable to us with the intensification of our city.

We ask our gardens and landscapes to enhance our busy lifestyles, and often what we need and want from our gardens shifts over the course of our lives.

The outdoor space that served our needs when we were a young family often no longer serves our needs once we are empty nesters. So spaces, like gardens, should be flexible, designed to evolve as your life and family changes.

Through my work on residential gardens throughout the city, I focus on careful planning, analysis and design to establish a framework for our clients’ properties that allows their gardens to mature, grow and evolve over time, becoming a critical and functional part of their home.

In our increasingly dense city and neighbourhoods, every square foot counts, and the outdoor aspect of your property can be designed to enhance your use day and night and through all four seasons.

Three popular ways to achieve this type of functional garden are through creative uses of secondary structures, design-savvy garden furniture and outdoor living spaces.

Secondary structures no longer serve as just a place to store your equipment and tools. They are now cleverly converted into art studios, retreat spaces and deluxe lounge and entertaining areas that extend our use of our gardens.

Garden furniture now comes in a vast range of options, offering a myriad of different configurations to allow for more comfortable and flexible entertaining and relaxation.

Outdoor kitchens, fireplaces and pavilions have truly allowed the interior of our homes to seamlessly flow out to functional outdoor spaces, becoming valuable extensions of our homes.

As a landscape architect in Toronto, perhaps one of my greatest challenges today is designing spaces that are resilient and can respond to extreme weather events, such as periods of drought or flooding.

Landscapes are living and breathing systems that suffer under duress and can ultimately fail in adverse conditions.

To address this challenge, we integrate green and blue infrastructure strategies that can help to increase the resilience and sustainability of our landscapes without compromising the esthetic integrity of the design.

We try to weave this infrastructure seamlessly and holistically through our gardens with a focus on reducing overall water requirements, capturing and utilizing rainwater and reducing urban heat.

Specific techniques you can use include a palette of hardy, native and drought-tolerant plants; installing rain gardens, bioswales and cisterns for water storage; using green roofs and permeable paving; encouraging diverse tree canopy growth; and using paving materials with a high solar reflectance index (SRI) value.

The implementation of these techniques will result in habitat creation, pollination and storm water management and will allow your garden to be resilient to extreme weather events that are all too common in our city.

A garden that can bounce back from these types of extreme events requires less maintenance due to damage and failure.

Article exclusive to TRNTO