Q+A with Ellen Rasnikoff, Senior Landscape Architect

Whether your property is big or small, a new landscaping or pool upgrade can have a major impact on the functionality and value of your home. But the prospect of taking on such a project can often lead homeowners feeling hesitant due to the scope of the work. Thankfully, the process is smoother and simpler than homeowners could have ever imagined. Here, with the help of Groupe Paramount’s veteran landscape architect Ellen Rasnikoff, we demystify the process of designing and building our clients’ custom projects.

How do you begin with a new client?

When a client approaches Groupe Paramount for a landscape design, the first step is to meet at the home so that we may walk around the property together. By asking questions about their lifestyle, how they would like to use the outdoor space, what they enjoy about their property, and who lives in the house (people AND pets), I can prepare a ‘wish list’ as a starting point for the design. 

At what point do you visit their home?

During the initial meeting, I assess the condition of the property and all existing features including trees, planting, lawn, driveway, pathways and steps, circulation around the property, drainage, walls, perimeter fences and hedges, as well as privacy and views, and exposure to the sun.  Interior/exterior transitions are very important to note both for views and access. The architectural style of the house will help determine a complementary landscape design.

How do you develop a project’s design?

The next step is to prepare a preliminary landscape plan. This is presented as a coloured, scaled plan (or plans) based upon a precise certificate of location and existing features.  Along with the information I have amassed, I apply the city bylaws appropriate to the project. Each municipality imposes their particular construction setbacks, percentage green space coverage and allowable materials. The client can view the entire design along with photos to explain certain details and materials, and an itemized budget.  With this information, we can modify the plans as needed and then I prepare the final construction and submission package for the municipality to be approved for permit.

How do clients explore material and colour options?

We visit a showroom to choose materials and samples and view them all together on site in the natural light. I prepare a planting list for all the new planting that we can actually see at the nursery. Our project manager and I  co-ordinate consultants as needed for lighting and irrigation, railings, etc. Once the construction begins, I visit the site to ensure that everything is being built according to plan, and maintain constant communication with the client.

What are the advantages of working with a seasoned expert?

A home designed by a Landscape Architect ensures that the client’s needs are being met, the environment is being respected, the municipality receives an accredited, stamped design, and there are years of professional education and experience behind the planning process for the client’s benefit.

What do you love most about your work?

I’ve been with Groupe Paramount for over 20 years and I have to say it’s an absolute pleasure to work in this profession. I enjoy travelling the world visiting gardens for inspiration; I’m even going to Japan early this year.  Each client and their project is unique and it’s a challenge to bring together the client’s desires, the municipal regulations, and the particular site conditions using the latest materials and features to create a special landscape.  Our Groupe Paramount team can offer professional planning as well as the entire project construction, simplifying the process for the client.

Freshen your home’s façade

If you’re looking to upgrade your home’s curb appeal this season, now’s the time to get going. The best options to consider of course depend on your taste and budget. But few things have as much of an impact as a fresh paver stone driveway, walkway, and entrance.

Because of their linear appearance, paver stones are ideal for revitalization projects because of the clean, modern look they achieve. What’s more, the customization that’s possible with paver stones is just about endless, meaning you can work with a knowledgeable landscape architect to select the stones that match your vision for your property.

This type of project can have a direct impact on the value of your home, meaning an upgrade to your driveway and walkway is often an investment in the long run.

If you’re thinking on a smaller scale, simply updating your garden beds, front lighting, mailbox, railings, as well as your front and garage door colour can have a substantial impact on the overall look of your property. 

No matter how you choose to proceed, working with a landscaping expert can help ensure your objectives are in line with what’s possible for your property in order to achieve the best result! Thinking of a project for your home? Call us today to get started!

Backyard fall fun!

The weather may be chilly these days, but that’s no reason to head indoors! There are so many ways to enjoy your backyard well into the fall and even early winter. Here we explore the top five ways to make the most of your property in the autumn:

  1. Fire tables: Ever miss the nostalgia of sitting by the fire as a child sipping hot chocolate? Well now you can recreate the whole experience in your own backyard. The best part? There’s no wood to chop! Fire tables use gas to create all the magic and warmth of a backyard fire without any of the work, and are the perfect addition to any property. Starting at a reasonable price point, they also make great Christmas gifts for loved ones.
  2. Spas: There’s nothing like soaking in your very own spa. From the therapeutic benefits, to the relaxation factor, adding a spa to your backyard is a sure-fire way to maximize use of your outdoor space year-round. With a range of styles and features available, today there’s a spa suitable to any taste and budget.
  3. Al fresco dining: you don’t need the summer heat to enjoy a meal outdoors. Even having a simple coffee and croissant can be made so enjoyable by sitting in the cool autumn air. And if you’re hoping to extend your outdoor eating season even further, you can always invest in an outdoor heating unit appropriate for your space.
  4. Fall gardens: Even after the first frost there are many plants and flowers that will continue to beautify your space. Chrysanthemums are perhaps the most recognizable fall flowers, but there are a number of grasses and shrubs that will thrive in a fall garden as well. Moreover, autumn is a great time to plant new grass, so if you’ve been thinking about a new lawn now’s the time!
  5. Cooking: Did you know that today’s barbecues allows you to grill in four seasons? Advances in technology and the advent of outdoor kitchens have made grilling in the middle of winter totally doable… if you can handle the cold while cooking that is.
Top five pool accessories to maximize your summer

Top five pool accessories to maximize your summer

  1. Lighting – Many pool owners haven’t even considered lighting as an option for their pools in the past, but today the range of products available on the market is astounding. By adding a lighting scheme, you can illuminate your entire pool area, in and around the water and change the entire mood of your outdoor space.
  2. Music – Ever been to a pool party and not been able to tell where the music was coming from? Chances are there are hidden speakers. Today speakers can be hidden out of sight, discreetly located in a strategic spot, or in plain sight disguised as something like a garden rock. No matter which style you choose, adding a source of music to your pool area can help set the tone for parties and outdoor entertaining, as well as relaxing evenings and quiet swims.
  3. There’s an app for that – thanks to changes in technology, today it’s possible to control all elements of your pool through an application on your smart phone. From adjusting the filtration settings and schedule, to monitoring water quality and temperature, your pool is now at your fingertips. This tech is particularly appreciated by homeowners when they’re travelling!
  4. Beach entry – One of the best parts of visiting the ocean is being able to lounge in the shallow slope of the beach, taking sun while remaining cool in the water. Now, thanks to creative designers, you can mimic this feeling in your very own home by choosing a pool with a sloping beach entry. Not only is this design lovely for adults, the shallow water is also a great safety feature for small children.
  5. Pool furniture – Gone are the days of rickety lounge chairs. Today you can create a total outdoor living room, dining space, and lounging area. Nothing beats relaxing poolside, especially with the right furniture. By filling your space with stylish and functional pieces, you can make the most of your outdoor space for the whole family. In fact, because outdoor furniture now mimics indoor furniture, you can use your patio as an extension of your home’s interior design.

Top 5 ways to make the most of your patio

Whether you have a pool or not, your backyard patio can be used in a number of ways to maximize outdoor fun for your whole family. Here, we explore the top five ways to make the most of your patio:

  1. Outdoor living room: The range of furniture available for backyards today is astounding! From sectional sofas to coffee and end tables, entire living room setups are easily achievable and offer many of the same comforts as your indoor space. Moreover, weather-resistant materials mean you won’t need to stress about your beautiful patio sets getting wet.
  2. Al fresco dining: If you love eating outdoors or frequently entertain guests, your backyard is not complete without a lovely dining area. Patio tables have come a long way from basic glass tops and metal frames. Today the possibilists are endless for consumers seeking outdoor dining room sets that are as stylish as they are practical. The ability to customize sets depending on the serving and seating capacity you need is another big plus.
  3. Fire features: Fire pits, fire tables, and outdoor heaters are hugely important in the Quebec market. Not only are they a tasteful accent to any backyard space, but they’re extremely practical as well. Thanks to the heat they throw, fire features can extend the use of your backyard space for well into the colder months of the year. A hot chocolate by the fire in your own backyard? Yes please!  
  4. Outdoor kitchens: Since backyard dining has been a favourite past time for many years, it’s only natural that the popularity of outdoor kitchens has increased hugely. With customizable, affordable options, backyard kitchens are popping up all over Montreal. Whether you’re interested in an elaborate barbeque set up, a full kitchen, or fun features like a wood burning pizza oven, the sky’s the limit!
  5. Pools and spas: When it comes to backyard features, it truly is hard to top the enjoyment brought about by pools and spas. Having a pool is a blast for the whole family, and being able to slip into a spa after a long day is a treat like no other. Adding these features to your home can also increase its value, making it an investment that’s both incredibly enjoyable, and beneficial in the long run when it comes time to sell your property.

Pool trends for 2019

If you’re thinking about adding a pool to your home for the 2019 season, it’s important to know about the huge range of available options. Gone are the days when one-size-fits-all was the standard in the pool industry. Today, all of our pools are customized to fit the space and the needs of our clients.

Materials and orientation

Step one is deciding which type of pool best suits your needs: gunite, hybrid, or vinyl. Each one has distinct advantages, and our experts will be able to help you decide which type makes the most sense for your property. We’ll then explore different pool shapes and orientations, depending on available space and the style you’re most attracted to. Thanks to our turnkey solutions, we can create a pool to fit just about any space!


By incorporating safety features into your project, we help ensure the security of your families and friends without sacrificing style. Things like beach entries, which allow everyone to enter the water slowly, and sleek glass safety gates and fences help control access to the water. This is critical for many families, especially those with younger children.

Patio areas

While basic concrete slabs was once the norm, today your pool patio area can be thought of as a chic extension of your home. The range of stones available, from natural options to manmade pavers, can be used to create a variety of looks to appeal to any taste. Moreover, we can add features like special imported wood sun decks, complimentary fencing, and other accessories to bring your patio area to life. Moreover, by adding sitting areas, a space for dining, and any number of accessories, your backyard patio can become a true outdoor living room!

Thinking about a family vacation in 2019? Think again!

If you’re thinking about planning a big family vacation this year, you might want to consider investing in your property instead. While travelling as a family is wonderful, it can be quite costly when you consider the amount of time, coordination, and money spent for such a short period of time. Instead, here are the top 5 reasons to invest in a backyard upgrade rather than a family trip.

  1. A permanent fixture: The most obvious reason to opt for a pool instead of a trip is permanence. A trip will last a couple of weeks, while adding a pool to your backyard will result in countless years of seasonal enjoyment for your whole family – and friends of course.
  2. More face time: Our clients often remark how adding a pool to their home has resulted in a huge increase in family time. After all, why head out when you can spend hot summer days lounging poolside in the comfort of your own home? This is especially true for families with kids of all ages.
  3. Bang for your buck: When you consider that a trip, whether it be to a warm climate or a European getaway, can cost a substantial amount for a short period of time, it begs the question: might it be better to spend a bit more for something that will endure for years to come?
  4. Leave the coordination to the experts: Planning a trip can be quite time consuming and stressful, especially when you’re trying to please every member of the family. When you opt for a pool instead of a trip, you won’t need to spend hours researching locations and venues. Rather, meeting with our landscape architects will kick off the efficient and smooth process of bringing your backyard oasis to life.
  5. Property value: Adding a pool or turnkey landscaping project to your home will undoubtedly increase your home’s value. This means you’ll get to enjoy the new installations for as long as you live in the home, and are likely to see a return on your investment when it comes time to sell your property. Win-win!

Top 5 ways to maximize your backyard space in the fall

If you’re big into outdoor living, you likely already know that your backyard can continue to be an oasis well into the fall. Here, we explore the top five ways to make the most of your outdoor space as we head into the cooler months of the year.

  1. Fall gardens: While we tend to think of gardening as a spring and summer activity, the fall is a wonderful time to liven up your gardens with warm hues and hearty, seasonal plants. Ornamental grasses and shrubs can be used to create clean modern lines, while flowering plants like asters, chrysanthemums, and goldenrods can add a pop of colour and bloom for several weeks. Bonus: you can add some festive décor by including pumpkins and other gourds.
  2. Fire tables: Adding a fire feature, whether it’s a pit, ring, or table, to your backyard is always a great idea! Not only do fire tables add a gorgeous visual component to any outdoor sitting area, they also serve a practical purpose by providing the source of warmth that’s often needed to enjoy your outdoor space on chilly evenings. Curling up by the fire on a cool night with a cup of tea or a glass of wine is often the best way to unwind at the end of the day.
  3. Al fresco dining areas: Let’s face it, eating outdoors is one of the best parts of summer, and a favourite pastime for so many families! But why stop there? Don’t let a little cool air spoil your fun. The number of heating and lighting options available for outdoor dining spaces today are as vast as they are varied. The best part? Most of them won’t break your budget.
  4. Cozy outdoor living rooms: Fall is a great time to invest in some new outdoor furniture! By purchasing three-season pieces and sets, you can set up an outdoor living room complete with comfortable couches and chairs, as well as practical dining options. Doing so can help you make the most of your patio set up well into the fall. You can also add a cozy and visually appealing element by having a basket of blankets on hand!
  5. Soaking in the cooler weather: Did you know? Most outdoor spas can be used year-round, and so we always like to consider accessibility when designing a back yard landscape that includes one. Placing the spa as close as possible to the backdoor, without compromising the orientation of the rest of the patio area, means it’s easy to warm up with a soak on chilly days, and even in the snow.




Five reasons to consider an urban pool

If you live in Montreal, or any city for that matter, and miss the many comforts offered by a suburban backyard, you’ll likely be thrilled to know that the trend of installing pools in city settings is growing quickly. Here, we explore the top five reasons why urban pools are hotter than ever.

  1. Size matters: Thanks to improvements in construction technology and changes in materials, tiny yards have become easier to access and small pools are more popular than ever. This means that even tight backyards can often accommodate a pool! Bonus: a smaller pool means lower heating costs for homeowners.
  2. Customization is king: Because landscape experts have increased their capacity to create complex custom designs, pools now come in all shapes and sizes, meaning there are options for even the most awkward lots and uniquely oriented homes.
  3. Turnkey projects are on the rise: Many urban homeowners are opting to raze their whole backyard, including their deck or patio, and start from scratch. In doing so, landscape designers are often able to incorporate a seating area, patio, steps, and more into the space around a pool. This type of project enables designers to optimize the placement of the pool and typically delivers spectacular results thanks to the uniform look created by designing everything at the same time.
  4. Changing pool trends: Gone are the days of large deep ends with diving boards. The result? You no longer need as much square footage of space around a pool. Rather, linear pools with steps or beach entries, as well as lap pools, leave a smaller footprint than pools of the past, meaning installing one will not dominate your entire backyard.
  5. A sign of a thriving downtown: While having a pool brings about endless hours of personal enjoyment for homeowners, the rising trend of urban pools is actually a sign of a healthy economy and thriving population. The sprawling development in and around Montreal’s downtown core, from the entire Southwest borough to hills of Golden Square Mile, is a positive indication for the city as a whole… so splash on!

« Top ten » des jardins

Le long week-end qui s’amène donnera certainement à plusieurs propriétaires le temps de préparer leur jardin pour la prochaine belle saison.

Voici le « top ten » des tendances en jardinage pour la saison 2018 :

  1. Un jardin zen : Une des façons les plus populaires de créer un jardin zen consiste à installer des places assises, entourées d’herbes basses, de végétaux persistants, de pierres lisses et d’au moins une pièce d’eau.
  2. Pièce d’eau : Peu importe qu’elle soit dans un jardin zen ou non, la pièce d’eau demeure un élément des plus prisés dans l’aménagement de cour arrière d’aujourd’hui. Son look élégant, combiné au son relaxant produit par le flux d’eau, apporte une diversion appréciée à notre train-train quotidien.
  3. Conception d’éclairage : L’ajout de lumières disposées de façon stratégique mettra en évidence certaines parties de votre jardin, en baignant d’un éclat chaleureux différents buissons et arbres dès la tombée du jour. Plusieurs propriétaires optent plutôt pour un éclairage le long des marches et allées, joignant ainsi le style et la sécurité.
  4. Jardins « peu d’entretien » : Aussi appelé jardins sauvages, ces espaces verts sont constitués de fleurs sauvages, de graminées et de rampantes disposées librement, en les laissant pousser naturellement afin de créer un look sauvage.
  5. Herbacées ornementales : Avec un grand assortiment de tailles, de couleurs et de textures, les graminées ornementales agrémentent tous les types de jardins et de propriétés. Ces plantes vivaces sont décoratives, qu’elles soient employées seules ou intégrées à un aménagement.
  6. Merveilles locales : En optant pour des plantes locales, vous assurez la pérennité de votre jardin. Habituées à notre climat, elles requièrent moins d’entretien.
  7. Jardins comestibles : Les jardiniers ne seront pas étonnés d’apprendre que les potagers sont toujours aussi populaires. Produire ses propres légumes est une expérience extraordinaire, particulièrement grâce à la disponibilité de graines et de jeunes cultures biologiques locales maintenant disponibles. Nouvelle tendance cette année ? Faire pousser des légumes verts tels que les différentes variétés de chou kale, de bette à carde, de chou vert et autres légumes-feuilles.
  8. Bordure de jardin : Afin d’obtenir un look propre et plus fini ainsi qu’un effet linéaire, plusieurs propriétaires utilisent le pavé pour le contour de leur jardin. Cela permet d’agencer le patio et les allées avec le jardin.
  9. Jardinage sur balcon : Pas de cour arrière ? Pas de problèmes. Les propriétaires de condo qui désirent profiter d’un coin de verdure ont un vaste choix d’options. Des jardinières à étage, des murs de verdure, un potager étagé, ou encore une jardinière bien garnie, il n’y a pas de limites à ce qu’on peut réaliser pour agrémenter la terrasse.
  10. Espace extérieur accueillant : À quoi bon avoir un magnifique jardin si l’on n’y passe pas le plus de temps possible ? C’est pourquoi les propriétaires choisissent d’incorporer un espace où s’assoir et même un coin repas dans et autour de leur luxuriant jardin afin d’en profiter le plus souvent et le plus longtemps possible.