A Garden of Eden

When it comes to creating an intimate green space, David Lasker falls into temptation

For a couple who found that they were growing apart after raising the kids, Nickolaos Kon, president of Etobicoke-based Fossil Landscapes, is creating a garden to help the couple rediscover their intimacy. Its myriad “romantic private areas where adults can have fun” will, he says, offer enhanced sensory appeal to sight, sound, touch and smell.

The intention wasn’t to create a backyard bordello or bathhouse. Rather, Kon wanted to make a landscape that would enhance the sensuous aspects of belonging to a couple or group of close friends.

The garden, budgeted at $350,000, will occupy 8,000 square feet of the clients’ 1/4-acre lot in Toronto’s west- end. The plan comprises separate modular zones; readers looking for design inspiration can pluck ideas from among those zones even if their own backyard wilderness is confined to a tight urban lot – or a tight budget.

1 The back of the house steps out to an exterior dining area overlooking the backyard, with built-in barbecue. The bay window opens to function as a DJ booth for music during garden parties.

2 Farther along this walkout level, a circular hot tub wrapped in Corten (rust-patinated) steel will overflow into a stainless-steel spillway. The hot tub measures eight by eight feet, big enough for three or four couples.

3 Stairs flanking the hot tub lead down to the deck of a serpentine 18- by 36-foot lagoon, or natural-setting pool. Budget note: removing the pool and hot tub
would knock $100,000 to $150,000 off the cost.

4 Adjacent to the pool, an outdoor living room with a sectional sofa seating eight frames a circular fire pit cut into a polished granite square.

5 A 12- by 12-foot curtained pergola, big enough for two couples and a masseuse, sits in the most private corner of the garden on a pavement of Credit Valley sandstone with an inlay of limestone and clay brick. For the structure, combining elements of a circular and square footprint, Kon specified Eastern red cedar, which naturally resists insects and rot and doesn’t require staining. Tiny, star twinkle-like LED strip lighting will hang from the upper beams.

6 The activity area will offer ping-pong and badminton. More private is the lovers’ bench, approached by a walkway of flagstones set into a ground cover of creeping thyme. The bench will be screened by Korean lilac trees, whose leaves are tighter, more compact and formal-looking than the oft-scraggly foliage of regular lilac.

7 A border of evergreen, fir and hemlock on the property’s perimeter will buffer street noise and ensure privacy.


What to plant

Include aromatic thyme, lavender, rosemary and mint. “You can smell them in the background,” Kon says. “People like to touch plants and feel the texture if they’re fragrant. If I see lavender when I’m walking through a garden, I’ll always touch it.”

The rubbing action helps release the plants’ fragrance and isn’t restricted only to fingers and hands. Touchy-feely appeal extends to the soles of the feet. Indeed, walking barefoot on cool lavender planted between sun-baked patio flagstones is one of those beguiling summer memories that sustain us through wintry blasts.

Kon also plants basil in pots. “When I’m on the job outside, I love to put basil in my ear. It’s an old Italian gardener’s trick. You smell it all day long. It’s such a beautiful way to work.”

Honeysuckle and wisteria vines are also favourites. Wisteria in bloom is like lilac on steroids: reminiscent of but pungent to the point of intoxication. And wisteria’s more-saturated shade of purple beguiles the eye.

And fear not, Kon will also include roses, which look and smell beautiful but have thorns. “They’re a metaphor for how sex can be dangerous,” Kon says with a mischievous smile.

Lost in space? The sex-garden concept is scalable down to, say, a 17- by 35-foot yard in Toronto’s Riverdale or Cabbagetown, Montreal’s Plateau, Vancouver’s Kitsilano or mature neighbourhoods in Calgary and Edmonton, whose city councils recently approved zoning changes to permit 17-foot wide houses on 25-foot wide lots. “For upwards of $25,000, you could get a patio and outdoor cooking and lounge areas,” Kon says. These are pretty standard, he admits, but adding a lovers’ bench, however – say the sensually curved form of a teak Lutyens bench – flanked by tall shrubs for privacy, will bestow the intimacy aspect.

Zoomer Magazine, April 2015