Nickolaos Kon, co-owner of Toronto-based Fossil Landscapes, creates distinctive works of nature, both small and large (he designed the jungle sets for the TV series Relic Hunter). His artistic vision and eco-friendly approach have made him a fave with many, including some STYLE AT HOME staffers, who have turned to Nikolaos for help in transforming their urban patches into verdant havens. And starting this spring, Fossil Landscapes will also sell a line of garden accessories online at fossillandscapes.com. We asked Nickolaos to share his garden know-how.
Style at Home: As a landscape designer, you work with nature on a daily basis. How would you describe the average person's relationship with the natural world?
Nickolaos Kon: Firstly, I don't think we make full use of our green spaces. Many of us live in cities where we're separated from nature. We have to get into our cars and drive to national parks to commune with it. As a designer, my mission is to integrate nature and urban environments. Our survival as a species depends on it. We need to carve out our own green spaces so we can interact with nature daily.
S@H: In your view, what's the best approach to take with our green spaces?
NK: I'm a believer in personalizing a garden so you can enjoy it for years – it won't go out of fashion the way a trendy garden might.
S@H: How do we personalize a space? Simply use our favourite colours in blooming plants? Or is it bigger than that?
NK: First, ask yourself what you love to do. If you love to cook and entertain, then dedicate a large part of your budget to an outdoor cooking area; if you're a workaholic, or if you work from home, then carve out a workspace in the garden; if you love art, incorporate some sculpture. Colour also plays a part. I go into people's homes and see what colours are on their walls and in their closets. I don't replicate that palette outside, but I do try to complement it. And if the interior is modern, I'll definitely adopt a similar aesthetic outside. Not only does that personalize a garden, but it also creates harmony. The garden has to make sense with the house; you want the exterior to flow seamlessly from the interior. I pay a lot of attention to the architecture, too, transferring the lines of the house into the lines of the beds and paths.
S@H: In what way has technology allowed you to fine-tune your creative vision?
NK: Most of Canada has a short outdoor season, so, for me, anything that maximizes your time outside is important. Outdoor fireplaces allow you to enjoy your space well into the fall. And lighting is critical. Low-voltage, or mood, lighting, will illuminate the colours and textures of a garden into the night, so you can stay outside longer. We're now seeing low-voltage, energy-efficient LED lighting. I also think timers are a must, programmed to turn on the lights in different places at different times.
S@H: Have you seen any novel gardens?
NK: Like a symphony, a good garden should have rhythm, repetition, harmony, and also a crescendo in the form of a water feature, sculpture or pergola. My favourite gardens have all those elements. As for novel, well, I once walked into a garden that contained a big-screen TV. The homeowners love to sit outside and watch movies.
S@H: In terms of your own designs, what's the most novel garden you've created?
NK: I designed a bedroom on a terrace, complete with daybeds and cushions. For another one of my clients, I created a garden with a dedicated yoga area; I laid circular rubber padding and surrounded it with plantings. That's what I mean by a truly personalized outdoor space.
Enjoying your backyard
We asked Nickolaos Kon, co-owner of Toronto's Fossil Landscapes, for tricks of the landscaping trade.
• Group together like plant species, moving subtly from one grouping to another with slight changes in tone or texture.
• Set the stage for a dramatic feature by layering the heights of plantings around it.
• Introduce mirrors in order to trick the eye into thinking a space is larger, or a path is longer.
• Don't forget the kids. Give them a place to dig, says Nickolaos, or better yet, “create a mist garden for them.” A mist nozzle head (available through an irrigation company) pressurizes water to create a light mist that they'll enjoy; it's also a great way for adults to cool off.