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For The Garden

Garden Gem

Author: Nancy Erdmann
Issue: February, 2012, Page 92
Photos by Michael Woodall

A newly built ramada includes a gabion filled with river rock that is constructed around a vertical support. Stone also clads the bar, which was designed and built by homeowner Russ Price. A full kitchen, large concrete fireplace, built-in TV and several sitting areas make this a much-used space for entertaining and relaxing.

Enveloped in Lush Plantings, an Enhanced Phoenix Landscape Offers More Than Meets the Eye

When Ginger Price bought her 1960s Ranch-style house 18 years ago, it was the landscape—with its rugged beauty and untamed plantings—that captured her attention. Having grown up in south Phoenix, the Arizona native says she has always had an appreciation for the desert. But what made this east Phoenix lot so unique to her was what the previous homeowner did with it.

“Our property is located in an old tract-house development. Normally, the land would have been scraped and replanted with lawn and non-desert trees,” Price explains. “But the original owner made a conscious effort to preserve as much of the natural desert vegetation as possible.

“This woman actually physically tagged the trees that were to be saved and was on-site while the property was being cleared for the house,” she continues. The result is that much of the lot kept its natural, untamed look, with sections of it hidden from view. “Some of it was so wild it was unusable,” Price remembers. “My vision was to maintain that feel yet enhance the grounds and make them more functional.”

The renovation took place in three phases. In 1999, the homeowner hired landscape architect Christy Ten Eyck—a Phoenix Home & Garden Master of the Southwest—to design a pool, elevated spa, fire pit and patio. An outdoor shower with a spiral rock floor also was added. “The river-rock theme was inspired from my memory of the cool rock house that sits at the top of South Mountain,” Price explains. “We use the shower every day in the warmer weather. It just starts your day out with that connection to nature.”

The outdoor shower, with its rock-filled floor, is a favorite spot for rinsing off after a hot day. Its trellis walls are covered in honeysuckle and jasmine vines.
The second phase included the addition of a front patio with a river-rock wall and a fountain by landscape architect Shari Zimmerman. Several years later, Price’s husband, Russ—an exotic-wood designer—needed a place for his woodworking. And Ginger says she had always wanted a space for her own creative pursuits of glass, clay and sculpture. So began phase three, the construction of a ramada and his-and-hers studios.

“The addition of any outbuilding has the potential for creating a real eyesore,” says Price. “Our plan was to maintain a natural feel while also maximizing the lot.” Architect David Dick and landscape architect Greg Trutza, both Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest, worked their magic, designing an architectural backdrop that melds with the couple’s home.

Trutza also updated the plantings, and designed winding sidewalks, lower patios, a vegetable garden and a new ramada. The latter is outfitted with a full kitchen, bar, dining and sitting areas, and a rustic fireplace. “It’s much larger and more elaborate than we intended,” says Price. “But it’s our favorite area, and we use it all the time.”

In 2011, the property was featured on Phoenix Home & Garden’s Grand Tour of Gardens.

Under the canopy of a Chilean mesquite tree, a concrete fire pit is embedded with black Mexican beach pebbles that match insets between the concrete slab flooring. The stone-clad banco is topped with custom-made cushions.
Grapevines growing in a raised vegetable garden climb up the back wall of the ramada and onto a lattice-style steel trellis.
“We wanted to maintain the wild feel of the landscape by keeping as many of the mature trees as possible,” explains Ginger Price. Flowering aloes and Mexican evening primrose thrive under the partial shade of mesquites and sweet acacias. Broken concrete pavers set in granite lead to the front patio.

A view from one of two newly built studios reveals a lushly planted terraced backyard. The concrete dog statue is a monument to the couple’s late Labrador retriever, Ernie. “He is guarding the pool,” says Ginger Price. “He loved to swim.”
Yellow-blooming feathery cassias put on a show of color in the front yard. A copper spigot on a wall of riverstone pours water into a shallow half-moon-shaped pool. A decorative metal piece serves as a piece of outdoor art.
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