Tucked away in the woodsy part of Mississauga, Ontario, Canada, lies a quiet hideaway once thought to only exist in fairy tales. It’s a real-life Cinderella tale of an overgrown backyard that turned into a stunning jewel.
Designed with the hot tub expertise of Doug Gillespie and the landscape artistry of Juergen Partridge, this private escape came together for an older Canadian couple. They were looking for rejuvenation amid natural surroundings.
“When people go into a hot tub, they quite often want to have the feeling they’re in Shangri-La,” says Partridge, owner of Juergen Partridge Ltd., Design & Build in Terra Cotta.
He and Gillespie decided to work with the existing environment rather than change the scenery. The Ontario-based experts examined the couple’s small backyard and came up with a nature-loving design. The space would become a stone garden interspersed with flowers and plants, with a hot tub discreetly placed in the center of the curative milieu.
“These are all the attributes I would put into a hot tub setting,” says Gillespie, general manager of California Spa & Fitness in Mississauga.
The clients first cut back some of the original plans due to expenses. But as they watched the transformation of their sleepy backyard turn into a dreamlike setting, they began to reconsider discarded ideas. The project ended up totaling more than $100,000 (Canadian currency).
Gillespie and Partridge tried to provide a physically, as well as psychologically, satisfying experience for the clients. A trickling waterfall into a small, geometric pond masks the sound of the hot tub jets and creates a soothing resonance. The landscape itself is a picture of serenity, and the warm, massaging hot tub touches and relaxes the body.
For this project, Gillespie selected a self-cleaning hot tub for its ability to filter debris through its base. He made sure the jet placements met the couple’s arthritic treatment needs.
Installing the unit became the first challenge. Excavating the area where the hot tub would sit was guaranteed to attract ground seepage, particularly when it snows. To prevent this from happening, Gillespie placed a gravel drain to draw the water and disperse it away from the equipment.
The hot tub rests in a crypt lined with timber to keep dirt away. To gain easy access to the equipment, Gillespie fit a removable cedar deck on the interior side of the unit for his service crew.
For Partridge, bringing in heavy flagstone rocks down a narrow side path into a small backyard was among his biggest feats. “You’re trying to drag these slabs in and be delicate with them, and you can’t wreck the hot tub,” he says.
The light gray stone slabs create a double step-up to the half-sunken hot tub. They were also laid out to make a smooth patio area, which blended well with the couple’s contemporary Frank Lloyd Wright-style stone-and-wood house.
For the flora and fauna
Partridge opened up the dense treetops blocking the sun to allow light to bloom the newly planted perennials and flowers. For the flora and fauna, he selected shade-tolerant plants and flowers such as ferns, packasandra, Siberian iris and some shrubbery. An irrigation system was installed and garden lighting creates a pleasing evening ambiance.
Gillespie and Partridge, who have collaborated before, say they worked well together on this particular project. Gillespie says he is “astounded” by the creation.
“There’s nothing I’ve ever seen that compares to that backyard,” he says with awe. “It doesn’t look like an afterthought. It looks like a well-planned, thought-out installation.”
Partridge agrees. “It’s hard to work with such a tiny space, and this yard shows you can,” he says. “You don’t need acres to make these things.”