Not all gardens have a romantic start, but this one did. After honeymooning in Japan, the owners of a West End detached wanted to bring a calm, contemporary aesthetic home to Toronto. So, following a striking renovation by Micacchi Architecture (with interiors by Alison Milne), they enlisted landscape architect Kate Fox-Whyte to take their vision outdoors, too, building what they call the Sakura Garden.

View to back garden from interior.

“What we were trying to do is extend the language and the aesthetic of the interiors outside,” says Fox-Whyte. The slatted wood screen inside is mimicked outside with a tall cedar screen that frames the deck and provides privacy.

Cedar deck. Garden design by Kate Fox-Whyte.
A lot of the plants have a Japanese aesthetic — the forest grass, bamboo, and Japanese maples in planters.

“We pick that [wood screen] up again at the back of the garden, where it’s also hiding something — a really old garage, which the owners hope to do something with in the future,” she says.  The cedar screen has hidden hardware that allows it to slide open, acting as an access point from the back of the garden.

Seating area in a small garden with pea gravel.
The fire feature is the Miso Bowl in Dove by Paloform. A sectional by Paola Lenti and umbrella by Tucci create a cozy seating area at the back of the property.

Pea gravel softens the hard edges and offers more space for furniture. “We don’t usually place a dining table on gravel, but it’s perfect for a large sectional. It helps to define the area and provide some functional softness.” The gas fire feature is situated to be centred on the view from the house, giving a lovely focal point to the seating areas, both indoors and out.

Overview of Sakura garden project by Kate Fox-Whyte.

For the decking of Sakura Garden, Fox-Whyte used Ipe to create a consistency with an existing deck out front. “We don’t typically use Ice as it’s a tropical hardwood, though it’s very long lasting,” says Fox-Whyte. “This will be great for 30 to 35 years.”

Urban garden design by Kate Fox-Whyte.
Planters, Green Theory; dining table, Paola Lenti; chairs, Knoll.

The lot itself, which slopes down to the sidewalk, presented some challenges. To remedy the step-down, the firm designed a Corten steel retaining wall, which frames Sakura Garden. “We’ve got plantings on either side to soften things,” says Fox-Whyte. These add another layer of privacy to the property, which is set on a laneway. Rounding out this pretty scene is more pea gravel, grasses along the laneway, and a hedge of Yews, which add softness and hides some utilities. “The higher-grade changes are tricky because you don’t want to isolate the property,” says Fox-Whyte. “You want to have some sort of engagement with the street. That’s part of the joy of living in an urban setting, but you want to have some privacy as well.”

Kate Fox-Whyte
Steps are charcoal-coloured precast.

The key to it all, says Fox-Whyte, is the through line of the design language. “It really is about that critical interior-exterior connection. When the garden is a true extension of the home, it’s used more and is beautiful to look at.” FOXWHYTE.CA

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