• Doug Burgoyne

A Study In Compromise

Article from Local Gardeners Magazine - Beautiful Landscapes 2008, pages 22-25


Creating a beautiful and sumptuous backyard in any urban environment is, as Doug Burgoyne would tell you a study in compromise. "My wish was bigger than my space," says the Calgary-based landscape architect. "I wanted lots of things: natural stone, a water feature, a place for the kids."

What he had instead was a small, fenced-in backyard, "an ugly tool shed, a big tree that I loved but was out of proportion and flat land. My land was totally flat."

And so after a bit of bartering and haggling with his wife for space, Doug set out to revamp his backyard to transform it into his idealized, if sealed-down, after-work retreat. Everything - from the fence to the ground levels, to that ugly tool shed - had to undergo significant transformation.

"First thing I did was set a precast concrete wall in front of my fence to raise the rock garden," says Doug. "There was a lot of Bobcat work I had to do, first thing."

An experienced landscape architect long before he undertook this endeavour, owner of the popular Natural Landscapes company, he knew precisely what materials were needed to realize his plans. "I got lichen-covered boulders from Fernie, B.C., rustic Roman stones and low perennials to hug and grow around the rocks," he recalls.

"And the shed got cedar siding put on it, so that it would match the fence."

Given that space was at a premium, Doug was also particular about which plants to include. "I didn't want any overgrow. But I wanted lots of colours and textures." The result of his labours is an arresting assortment of dwarf conifers, weeping caragana, weeping royalty crab and Norway spruce, all of which lean toward the water and in Doug's words, "help add dramatic flair to the space." Overall, the effect is one of vibrant density without clutter.

Yet its the waterfall that remains the focal point of the yard.

"Without sounding hokey, to me water represents life," Doug says. "A garden's relatively static, but water creates a focal point. Especially when it's lit up at night."

Because Doug was able to do most of the work himself, the overall costs of the project were effectively halved. "There are about $15,000 of materials in total," he said. " And that was about it for expenses. Not much for a project like this. But that doesn't count all the time I spent on the Bobcat." So despite the obvious constraints of a city backyard, Doug Burgoyne has created an ideal if scaled-down area for the whole family. "It's going all the time," he said. "And it's extremely low-maintenance. That's the thing about this garden: it's simple, but with lots of enjoyment. For everyone."