A Dellwood couple transforms their backyard into a serene getaway, complete with a modern-day moat.

A Dellwood couple transforms their backyard into a serene getaway, complete with magical water feature.

For most people, moats are the things of fairy tales or medieval times long, long ago. Filled with crocodiles and accessible only by drawbridge, they surround grand castles and protect the kings and queens that live within. But that’s just for most people. For Peter and Rebekah Hagstrom of Dellwood, a moat is a thing of the here and now—they have their very own just steps outside their back door.

The Hagstroms decided to renovate some of their nearly two acres of property, including the backyard, six years ago. In order to bring the project to life, they teamed three builders: Peter’s company, Hagstrom Builder, his brother’s landscape architecture company, Savanna Designs, and Outdoor Concepts.

The team was careful to include all of the Hagstroms’ requests, chief among which was a cozy, bug-free space surrounded by water. After one summer of renovation, the backyard was done and all of the Hagstroms’ wishes were stylishly granted.


At the center of the restored area stands a 16-by-16-foot wooden ramada (porch) equipped with automatic screens that drop down to keep out pesky mosquitoes. Within the ramada is a modern, wood-burning fireplace with comfortable seating carefully arranged around it. There, family and friends can easily enjoy chilly nights, enjoy a cigar or two, and fully take in the peaceful environment.

With the fireplace and couch seating, the space feels like an outdoor living room. According to Jim Hagstrom, Peter’s brother and the landscape architect for the project, outdoor rooms such as the Hagstroms’ are becoming increasingly popular. “This is a great example of an outdoor room that is screened, has a nice fireplace, has water features, yet it’s really usable and very much an outdoor room,” says Jim. “It’s a good example of what a lot of people are doing now.”

Surrounding the ramada is what could be the most unusual aspect of the yard: the moat.

Technically a lily pool, the moat fulfilled the Hagstroms’ desire to have water—and lots of it—in their backyard. “They wanted a water feature, so I looked through a lot of pictures of lily pools, which is common in a lot of English gardens,” says Jim.

The moat measures about 5 feet wide and 2 feet deep. Shaped like a “U”, the water flows around three sides of the ramada. In order to cross the moat from the patio to the interior ramada, visitors cross an arched paver bridge.

Peter keeps the moat stocked with koi, a sturdy, ornamental species of fish originally domesticated in eastern Asia. The fish are relatively easy to care for, says Peter, who notes that the “hardest part is bringing them in for the winter and back out in the spring.”


To stay environmentally conscious, Peter fills the moat every spring with rainwater that he has collected and stored in a cistern. He also uses the collected rainwater for irrigation and watering.

Supplementing the moat is a large fountain on the main patio, as well as a pair of waterfalls that cascade into opposite ends of the moat. All together, the effect of all these elements creates a space that is serene, comfortable, and fresh. “It’s just a real oasis once you get to that screen porch with the moat around you and the fish swimming all around,” says Peter. “It’s really relaxing.”

As well as providing a sense of calm, the area is also perfect for entertaining and connecting with loved ones. Jill Vosberg met Peter four years ago on a mission trip through their church. They and their families quickly became close, and today she works for him at Hagstrom Builders. As close friends and work associates, Vosberg and her family have had the opportunity on several occasions to enjoy the Hagstroms’ backyard oasis. Her boys, ages 8 and 5, especially love visiting the special spot. “My boys, of course, think their backyard is the best thing ever,” says Vosberg.

Two years ago, the boys even got to start assisting Peter moving the koi fish out of their winter tank and into the moat in the spring—an activity Vosberg says they look forward to, starting in January. “Pete has four boys, so he relates easily to my boys. Now his boys are gone and grown, so [moving the koi] is a fun connection time that they get to have with Pete and him with the boys,” says Vosberg. “With a moat and fish and a little bridge, it’s like a boy’s heaven.”


Hagstrom Builder Inc.
3511 Lake Elmo Ave. N.
Lake Elmo

Savanna Designs
3637 Trading Post Trail

Outdoor Concepts