Extreme Makeover: Courtyard Oasis

Extreme Makeover: Courtyard Oasis

Local businesses join forces to transform hospital’s courtyard.

If you’re a fan of makeover shows and you’re looking for new landscaping ideas then you’re in for a special treat this spring. A new show premiring on HGTV is set to feature a stunning makeover of the courtyard garden at Burlington’s Joseph Brant Memorial Hospital. The transformation of the 15,000 square-foot space, completed over 12 days last fall, will be featured in an upcoming episode of Green Force. The new TV series is produced by Tricon Films and features the beautification of different areas within the GTA.


Tricon Films first approached the hospital about the project last year. To prepare for the makeover, hospital staff helf community focus groups to come up with a ‘wish list’ of needs to improve the courtyard. Accessibility was at the top of the list, says Helaine Ortmann, manager of community relations at Joseph Brant. “We had a lovely humble courtyard before but it wasn’t accessible to our patients with wheelchairs. We would see people struggling, they counldn’t get over any of the grass or uneven brickwork.”

The hospital wanted the space to promote a sense of healing and comfort for patients and their families, as well as visitors and staff. It also had to be multifunctional, able to accommodate both patient activities and hospital events. To make those needs a reality, Landscape Architect Haig Seferian of Seferian Design group came up with a plan to transform the outdoor courtyard into seven distinct ‘rooms’ of functional outdoor space to accommodate and reflect hospital and patient needs.


“We wanted to incorporate many levels of activity, anything from quiet, reflective individual time, to something more active like throwing a basketball around near the back wall. That’s why we created the rooms,” says Seferian.

The sports room provides a basketball net and streamlined concrete space, replacing what was a smaller, uneven basketball court. The games room has bistro tables for checkers, chess or card games, and is bordered by a garden with a seat wall for extra seating. The wildlife room improves an existing squirrel habitat with added bird feeders. The oasis garden, located in the competely refurbished pavilion, is outfitted with comforable Muskoka chairs that let visitors take in the tranquil woodland setting. Because of its proximity to special gas tanks used by the hospital, service trucks and other vehciles would also need to access the courtyard area. A high-level PVC grid product was installed below the grass to create a reinforced, durable surface for trucks to pass over without causing long-term damage.


The cozy self-contained backyard cottage garden serves as the courtyard’s main focal point. A cheery cottage shed, surrounded by a bright perennial garden, was strategically placed in the courtyard’s southwest corner to block the view of the tanks and provide an unspoiled vista of Lake Ontario.

All seven rooms are linked together by a meandering path made of interlocking stone, culminating in the large, circular stage area, which acts an outdoor podium and gathering area for staff and donor appreciation events. The design services and all materials, furnishings, and accessories, totaling almost $400,000, were all donated by corporate sponsors coordinated through Seferian Design Group Limited. Working alongside the professional contractors were dozens fo faculty and students of Humber College’s landscaping program, who responded to Seferian’s request for help. Close to 40 sponsoring companies and organizations contributed products and services to the project.


The Green Force production crew were on site filming throughout the 12-day renovation, and were on hand to capture the unveiling ceremony, where the hospital and cimmunity got the first chance to see the dramatic results. “The garden is emotionall, spiritually and holistically uplifting for our patients. Being able to visit and enjoy the new water features and garden landscapes really helps to change and improve our patients’ outlook and attitude,” said recreation therapist Deb Vandenberg at the unveiling. “To be involved in such a project is humbling. Our design targeted the needs of the patients, and I think we certainly achieved those goals. Those 12 days of hard work will mean long-term enjoyment and well-being for the patients and families who receive their care at Joseph Brant. It’s an absolute success story,” says Seferian.