Mak­ing the great es­cape

This breath­tak­ing pond and gazebo bring park-like tran­quil­ity to the back­yard

Manitoba Gardener Magazine - - Contents - By Bar­bara Chabai

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.

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