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For The Garden

A Hillside Lot Embraces the Desert

Author: Suzanne Pickett Martinson
Issue: November, 2011, Page 122
Photos by Art Holeman

Integrated into its desert site, this home emerges from a spectacular arrangement of native boulders, mature ironwood and Texas mountain laurel trees, and specimen cacti and yuccas. The custom iron gate serves as both an entry to the courtyard and an artistic barrier to deter visits from javelinas and other wildlife.



A Rich Palette of Desert Flora Transforms a Hilltop Lot Into a Stunning Multidimensional Garden

When Penny and Wayne Mailloux decided to build the home of their dreams in north Scottsdale, the landscape was an integral part of their vision. Sitting high on a hilltop with 360-degree views, the 10-acre homesite is surrounded by mature saguaro cacti and stunning mountain views. The couple wanted to highlight the awe-inspiring native vegetation but also integrate their sense of style, color and creativity into the immediate outdoor living spaces.

“Our goal was to create a landscape that is as comfortable as an old shoe, like we’ve lived here for years,” says Wayne, citing the couple’s decade spent in Europe as a major design influence.

To help make that happen, they worked with landscape designer Mark Wdowiak of Desert Foothills Landscape. “The Maillouxs’ vision included embracing the desert environment while creating pockets of unexpected plantings for a visual delight,” Wdowiak explains. His expertise in establishing multidimensional landscapes with shape, texture and color was a perfect fit, note the homeowners. And the resulting “controlled chaos” illustrates his philosophy that landscaping should be experienced as “living in a piece of art.”

Wdowiak credits the couple’s mutual discerning eye for detail and their whimsical spirit for what has become a spectacular palette of unusual and surprising combinations. English rose beds, French herb gardens and climbing vines mingle with low-desert plants, succulents and exotic cacti. Penny’s favorite colors—shades of purple and white—are predominant in plantings, providing soft contrast to dramatic cacti specimens and massive boulders.

This distinctive setting was designed to welcome visitors approaching the front door. The stone fireplace is flanked by golden barrel and cardon grande cacti, purple trailing verbena and vibrant coral aloe. The Maillouxs say the fireplace was built to ignite as guests ascend the uphill drive to “provide an element of surprise.”
The vegetation also complements the home’s Old European farmhouse style, with its limestone walls, wooden beams and numerous outdoor dining, living and entertaining areas.

The site’s elevation and terrain offered significant installation challenges. With solid rock to navigate, a steep hill to ascend, and a house to maneuver around and over, planting the mature trees and cacti required the skill of crane operators and other professionals. The results were worth it. For example, “The signature organ pipe cactus makes a dramatic sculptural statement at the end of the negative-edge pool, especially with the mountains in the background and the gorgeous Arizona skies,” points out Wdowiak.

Attention to detail—like the subtle transition from native vegetation to more lush colorful plants in the area bordering the driveway—and the “secret” walkway that leads to a hidden casita help define the Maillouxs’ vision. “Penny and I wanted our landscape to evoke a feeling of welcome—soft and approachable yet unique to our personalities and lifestyle,” concludes Wayne.

Penny agrees, “This is everything we wanted.”

Set into a stone wall, a fountain creates a focal point in the entry courtyard and functions as a multilevel planter. The hillside garden is planted with a tapestry of specimen cacti that provides color and form. The woven-metal sconces were crafted by the late Richard Mocco.

Striking plant combinations can be found throughout the property. Here, landscape designer Mark Wdowiak combined a Mexican fencepost cactus and palo verde tree with coral penstemon and Spanish lavender.
A specimen organ pipe cactus, rising from a bed of golden barrels, is a dramatic showpiece that anchors the backyard. Placed at the end of the pool, the living sculpture is a standout against the Arizona sky. Subtle iron fencing surrounds the pool catchment to prevent wildlife from entering the area and drowning.


Formed of stone steps, the secret walkway leads to the guest casita. “This is one of our favorite garden paths,” says Penny Mailloux. “It adds a little mystery and intrigue.” An Agave americana, trailing verbena and potted cacti are interspersed along the stairway.

Photos - Clock-wise from top left: Aloe ferox adds a splash of color with its vibrant orange bloom stalks. • Water from the negative-edge pool with sunning shelf appears to cascade into the nearby saguaro forest. Outdoor living and entertaining areas merge with patio and poolscape spaces that comfortably accommodate large groups yet maintain a cozy environment for smaller gatherings. • Facing an awe-inspiring view of Tonto National Forest, this seating vignette features a custom fire pit and screen designed by architect Shelby Wilson and crafted by Richard Mocco. • Climbing vines and a Yucca rostrada create an attractive display against a textured earthen wall.

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