Palm fronds sway in the breeze.

A serene garden can calm the mind, soothe the spirit and remove us from the stresses of day-to-day life, even if just for a few moments.

English philosopher, statesman, scientist and author Sir Francis Bacon called a garden “the purest of human pleasures” and “the greatest refreshment to the spirits of man,” and tucked away behind a Savannah home is one of our island’s most refreshing.

Paving stones in the patio area.

Craig and Lorene Stewart bought their Savannah plot after Hurricane Ivan, and in 2010 they began to build. What they have created is a beautiful home behind which lies a lush oasis, complete with a tumbling waterfall and relaxing poolside lounge areas, all with the ability to be enjoyed day or night.

When it came to their outdoor area the couple discussed concepts for a few months before they began the build out process, which took around six months for the pool and patio and three weeks for the landscape installation.

Mountain river pool

“The focus was to have a pool, hot tub and entertaining areas that are somewhat multi-use,” explains Craig. And they have succeeded in that, creating an area that can be used for exercise, relaxation and entertaining before and after sunset.

Lush greenery surrounds the pool, creating an oasis for relaxation. Photos by Stephen Clarke

“The pool has a diving rock into the seven-foot deep end and is long enough at 40 feet to swim laps,” says Craig. “The waterfall and hot tub are therapeutic, and the swim-up bar and shallow end are used for entertaining, all within a lush, tropical, secluded garden.”

It is evident at first glance that the Stewart’s pool is different to standard pools. Instead of the light blue, shallow ocean color created with traditional pool bottoms, theirs has as a dark bottom creating a deep lagoon effect.

“We picked the Onyx diamond brite [for the bottom] as it resembles more of a mountain river or swimming hole, which plays into both our upbringings,” says Craig who is originally from New Zealand while Lorene is Canadian. “Also, the darker color does help to keep it warmer in the winter months.”

A dwarf Japanese juniper.

The focal point of the outdoor space is the towering waterfall rock foundation which was purpose built over a four- to six-week project. “Our diving rock, which sits at the opposite end of the pool, was used as a template in which we created sections of the waterfall with wire mesh and cement,” explains Craig. “We then pieced them together around the structural steel, sealed the joints and airbrushed the concrete with stain to get the right combination of colors.”

The waterfall is truly magnificent. On a sunny early morning, refreshing mist and spray comes off the water as it falls, and dragonflies dodge the descending plumes.

Of course, it takes quite a system to run all the interplaying facets of the pool and waterfall. “We went with a Pentair IntelliTouch system which has a central control system in the house and a spa-side remote,” says Craig. “The pool and spa are run through a IntelliFlo 3HP variable speed pump with a high-performance heat pump that can either heat or cool the system at the touch of a button or from your smart phone or tablet.” Perfect for days when getting out of the pool is just too taxing.

“For the waterfall we have a 4HP 4-inch Speck pump, which is often used for swim jets due to the large amount of volume they move – up to 15,000 gallons per hour flows over the main waterfall.”

A colorful mosaic hangs outdoors.

The waterfall’s source sits atop a mound overlooking the pool, and this vantage point serves two more purposes. The mound also hides the pool house equipment – meaning there are no unsightly pumps or loud machinery visible or heard in the otherwise relaxing space, and there are also two seats atop, nestled in lush greenery and providing a peaceful outlook towards the back of the garden.

Abundant foliage

Given Craig’s position as co-owner of Vigoro along with Tom Balon, and the fact that both he and Lorene come from horticulture and agriculture backgrounds, it is no surprise that the garden surrounding the central pool is beautiful.

Pops of color come from cordylines and other plants.

When it came to the foliage, the couple wanted a very tropical garden, and therefore, as well as trying to save trees already in situ when they purchased the plot, they incorporated different species of palm, as well as gingers and a large variety of philodendrons.

Interspersed throughout the garden, crotons, variegated plants, cordylines, chenille cattails and the aforementioned gingers provide pops of color and dimension on a backdrop of verdant greenery.

One especially beautiful aspect of the garden is the sprinkling of orchids, accenting a number of the trees surrounding the pool.

“We brought home unwanted orchids from the nursery, tied them to trees, and they’ve done really well,” says Lorene.

Vigoro services the garden weekly, and there is extra work on the weekend, as well as servicing the potted plants which sit around the pool and seating areas, such as pink desert roses and aloe plants.

Various birds visit the feeder beside the pool.

Alongside the trees, a bird feeder attracts numerous birds during the day, adding further life and movement to an already vibrant scene.

Day to night

Craig and Lorene wanted to make the most of their outdoor space and use it as much as they can, given Cayman’s year-round warmth.

“With only 12 hours of sunlight most of the year, and a very short twilight being so close to the equator, after working long hours at the office, the need to be back in the outdoors made it important for us to make our outdoor living areas usable any time of the day and night,” Craig says.

Lighting was therefore incorporated into the garden in numerous ways to facilitate evening usability.

One challenge of many when it comes to garden lighting is to accent a garden’s beauty as opposed to creating a flat, washed out “daylight” effect. To achieve this in the Stewart’s garden, lights have been placed inconspicuously, with ground mounted spots illuminating some plants and walkways.

“We incorporated a solid brass low voltage LED landscape light system in integrated speakers throughout the garden for our outdoor TV and entertainment system,” says Craig.

Small lights appear in other areas such as the wall of the walk down bar, and more natural illumination is provided by Tiki torches surrounding the pool and seating areas.

Aloe vera plants adorn the jacuzzi.

The pool and jacuzzi contribute to the nighttime scene with changeable lighting colors perfect for any occasion, whether a serene evening with a glass of wine or a livelier gathering outside.

As well as extending the usable hours of the garden, the lighting expertly highlights the plants. The orchids, especially the white varieties, which provide such a gorgeous accent during the day, are still visible at night, shimmering in the light. Lamps hanging over the hot red cattails and crotons also allow them to be appreciated after nightfall creating a contrasting color scheme and depth to the darker night scene.

The many and varied aspects of the Stewart’s garden, from the tumbling waterfall, the combination of vegetation choices and the inconspicuous interplay of light sources, prove how intelligent garden design can create a relaxing daytime haven as well as a serene and functional nighttime venue.