Making the great escape
This breathtaking pond and gazebo bring park-like tranquility to the backyard
Manitoba summers may be fleeting, but Rod and Tracey Hick found a way to make the most of the season in their own backyard.
“Tracey and I are both yard people, so we wanted to put our focus on building an oasis, a place we could relax,” Rod says.
Eight years ago, the Hicks purchased the property south of Winnipeg between Lorette and Îledes-Chênes. The previous homeowners had played around with the idea of landscaping the one-acre yard, going as far as making a rudimentary dugout with an island in the centre.
“We had our own ideas about how to take it further, and we knew we definitely wanted a pond and a gazebo,” says Rod. “We envisioned it as a place of relaxation and to have friends and family over – a place you can escape to without having to leave home.”
Rod and Tracey contacted Gordon Galay of Galay Landscaping to help turn their dream yard into reality.
“I was pleasantly surprised by how little had been done, which meant we basically had a blank slate to work with,” Gord says. He immediately incorporated the couple’s vision into his own concept for a multi-phase design that involved building the foundation and gazebo, constructing the pond and a bridge, plus installing a patio and fire pit within close proximity of the water feature.
“Collaborating with Gord during these last three years has been great experience. We’ve learned along the way that a project of this size is a very dynamic process that requires patience and fluidity,” Rod explains. “Sometimes what we originally envisioned needed to be altered, or if we came up with a new idea or discovered something wasn’t working quite right, we’d change it around.”
Aside from having to build a temporary driveway to truck in heavy equipment and move in dozens of truckloads of boulders and various materials, the sheer scope of the project also presented a challenge.
“We wanted to create something that would suit the size of the entire yard, so it had to be fairly substantial. A tiny pond and gazebo just would not have the same impact or provide the same level of serenity,” Rod says. “At the end of the day, the project turned out to be much bigger than either we or Gord originally planned, but it was important to us that it fit in terms of scale.”
After attempting to find a local contractor who could build the gazebo to spec, Gord ended up finding a company in Ontario to prefabricate some of the elements, which were shipped and assembled on-site. The three-season gazebo is over 200 square feet, with plenty of space to accommodate a sitting and dining area for entertaining.
But without a doubt, the star of the entire project is the pond. Originally, it was positioned in the lowest lying area of the yard, “and contrary to popular belief, that’s not the ideal location because you want to keep it free from contaminants,” Gord says. “So we had to come up with a method of building things up to accommodate both pond drainage and underground drainage.”
The pond takes advantage of rainwater which is diverted from all downspouts on the house and garage and is used to naturally replenish pond water that is slowly lost through evaporation. Two large pumps then push the water to a natural wetland filtration system where plants and gravel remove many of the nutrients that contribute to algae growth in ponds. When this natural filter overflows, the water cascades over a waterfall and swings back into the main pond
“We envisioned it as a place of relaxation and to have friends and family over. It's secluded, serene and it really adds to the feeling of being away while you're still at home.”
via twin trickling streams. When the pond is full, the water level sits just two inches below the surface of the patio, creating a mesmerizing effect.
“Our intention was to make it as maintenance-free and as environmentally friendly as possible. The best thing about it is that it’s very much its own ecosystem,” he explains. “The water is kept clean without the use of chemicals.”
Connecting the pond and gazebo is a custom-built bridge made of steel with a cedar plank overlap.
“We have young granddaughters who love to sit on the bridge, put their feet in the water and feed the koi fish,” Tracey says. “On a hot day, it’s nice and refreshing, and the fish come up and nibble on your toes.”
Rod and Tracey say they are now outside all the time enjoying their peaceful surroundings. “It’s secluded, serene and it really adds to the feeling of being away while you’re still at home,” he says, while Tracey adds they aren’t yet quite through with making changes to the yard.
“We’ve got room in the opposite corner from the gazebo and pond, so the next thing I’d like to see is a raised garden to plant some vegetables in the summer. We’ve already talked to Gord about it.”
The stunning, three-season gazebo provides over 200 feet of entertaining space, and houses a dining table, sitting area and a refrigerator to store cool refreshments.
The gazebo offers the perfect setting to relax with family and friends.
The water is kept clean without the use of chemicals.
Waterfall coming off of wetlands filtration system for koi pond.
Stone shoreline for large koi fish pond.
“You can have a cottage or you can try to bring some of the cottage experience home to your own back-yard,” say the homeowners. “That’s one of the things we tried to accomplish.”
A place you can escape to without leaving home.