How To Bring California Style To Your Canadian Backyard
We’re not alone in loving the look of sunny SoCal gardens, whether it’s a star’s Hollywood estate with posh pools and manicured plants, or a windswept Malibu pad that’s freewheeling and beachy. Here are some spaces that conjure up those coveted zip codes, but are all Canadian. Get inspired to do some California dreaming with backyards and patios that have Canadian roots.
This rural vacation home is northwest of Toronto but you would never guess it. Against a bright blue sky, a white painted pool house pops, and is bordered by decking that recalls Malibu’s boardwalk. Two large potted palms, a fireplace, and sculptural fibreglass sofas would look at home at L.A.’s famous SkyBar high over the Sunset Strip.
Repetition gives a calming, orderly sense to a backyard scheme. You don’t have to add a ton of planters to get a Chateau Marmont effect: a trio of chartreuse stools and row of lounge chairs establishes the boutique hotel vibe.
Private cabanas are a fixture at the most exclusive beach clubs and hotels. The cheerful stripes enliven a pool in this Toronto yard, and it packs neatly away once the weather inevitably cools off.
Beachgrasses are a fixture on Malibu dunes, plus their rustling sounds and gentle waving motion are deeply calming. Zebra grass forms a gentle perimeter in this Shanty Bay home on Lake Simcoe. A generous lounge chair with a retractable sun shade drives home the hedonistic SoCal spa atmosphere.
L.A. is all about blurring the lines between the indoors and out. In this Vancouver garden, the dining table can be moved in the sun or under the awning when it rains, and heaters on the beams keep it toasty when the temps drop.
When the sun goes down in L.A., the party just starts to ramp up so nighttime lighting is key. A glass-windowed cabana is a glowing focal point, as is the firepit on the left.
You can picture Goldie Hawn or Barbara Streisand at this table catching a view of the sun setting over the Pacific — but this is West Vancouver, not Malibu. If you don’t have a seaside view, convey a beachy feel with materials such a woven chairs and placemats, a nautical-inspired string of outdoor lights and oversized lanterns.
Now let’s venture into the flip side of California, where Old Hollywood glamor reigns supreme and the gardens are as photogenic — and exquisitely maintained — as the stars who own them. A showpiece fountain is a classic Cali touch often seen at the front of grand estates of moguls and A listers.
Hedge trimming is an art that often betrays the ministrations of a talented gardener, so it’s no surprise topiaries often double as sculpture. Perfectly clipped boxwoods are used as an architectural element to ring a group of robust hydrangeas and add textural contrast, shape, and interest to this formal Toronto garden.
This west-end Toronto townhouse nails beachside glamor. Potted palms make a huge impact and can be brought indoors in the winter when Lake Ontario looks less like a tropical lagoon, and more like a skating rink.
Low furnishings don’t block the view on this patio, but they also establish a chill vibe. Classic pieces such as butterfly chairs and woven furnishings in a neutral palette are sophisticated, yet casual and inviting.
Xeriscaping (landscaping with slow-growing, drought tolerant plants to conserve water) is a big movement in dry SoCal. Though there are plenty of pines in the distance, we love how this Ontario cottage sitting area has a desert feel, thanks to the decorative white gravel underfoot, bare branch arrangement, sunshade and potted grasses that require minimal watering.
It’s tempting to mass the chairs close to a cottage or home, but in this Port Colborne retreat on Lake Erie, a lovely deck area bordered by a railing conjures up the impression of being on a boat deck. Tough species of grasses and trees look better a little windswept.
Waterlilies, lotus and other water plants amp up the lushness of a water feature in this coastal B.C. garden, and make it more naturalistic. Hardy versions can overwinter in deeper water if their roots don’t freeze.