Creating the 100-Year Garden

Crescent Beach Residence, by a Vancouver-based firm, spotlights how landscape beauty can last over time.

At Crescent Beach Residence, a multidimensional outdoor space emphasizes sustainable beauty that merges lush plants with artful design features.

Designed by Vancouver-based landscape architecture firm Donohoe Living Landscapes, Crescent Beach Residence emphasizes both sustainability and landscaping as art. Led by Ryan Donohoe and Jessica Oakes, the firm primarily focuses on residential and hospitality projects, as well as event-specific installations.

Crescent Beach Residence began as a front-yard renovation that has since evolved into an all-encompassing outdoor space extending throughout the property. To provide the client with a serene garden in which to admire the scenery and to extend the outdoor living space, a large custom platform was cantilevered over the eroding back area of the property. The platform minimizes disruption to the sensitive ecosystem while simultaneously offering ample seating options to take in the views of Boundary Bay beyond.



Flowering plants were chosen to ensure beauty from one season to the next, while the clean lines of the steel pathway balance the soft vegetation. Lush perennials imbue the outdoor space with a wild and natural beauty, and a 50-year-old Scots pine rises creates filtered light and a sense of expansiveness. Over 50 species of plants throughout the garden provide texture to the outdoor space.

A plunge pool that converts to a hot tub in the colder months creates an additional focal point. A built-in jet system that creates a swimmable current meant the pool could be smaller and more sustainable.




Nearby, blackened stainless steel accents serve as an artful contrast to the natural plant life and water. An elevated steel pathway extending onto the platform features cut-out shapes that provide soft lighting and allow safe access to the garden after the sun sets. Custom-designed yellow-cedar benches dot the outdoor space, offering sculptural elements as well as seating.

The landscaping is designed to survive harsh climate events. The floating platform has footings to help it endure the maximum expected sea-level rise, and a tightly woven wall of native plants will further protect the deck over time.


Donohoe Living Landscapes Landscape Architecture

Donohoe Living Landscapes



The team at Donohoe Living Landscapes often aims to create 100-year-old gardens whose function and beauty last without significant modification for a century.

“Following principles of sustainability will often provide the most beautiful and poetic elements of a landscape, be it through basic means such as incorporating the local materials found on site that give the design a sense of place or ensuring that the planting plan is biodiverse, providing an abundance of textures and colours, and being also thoughtful of requirements for pollinator and habitat species,” the landscape architects say.



Rather than an ultramanicured look, Donohoe Living Landscapes emphasize natural beauty. “It’s about celebrating the existing conditions of the site, striving for minimal disturbance, salvaging and reusing where possible—taking a gentle approach,” Donohoe and Oakes explain. “For the most part, landscape architecture used to be about controlling the landscape. Now, it’s about adopting practices that defer to the landscape.”

The firm is now working on the second phase of the project, which is focused on erosion control, building sensitive ecosystems along the river below the property, and aiming to preserve the forest surrounding the garden.

Photography by Luke Potter.