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For The Garden

Front-Yard Makeover

Author: Suzanne Pickett Martinson
Issue: August, 2012, Page 84
Photos by Michael Duerinckx

Behind the newly added seat walls are octopus agaves, a variety of grasses and Crown Jewel mesquites that soften the transition from the hardscape to the lawn.

A Plain-Jane Front Yard Is Now a Chic Family-Friendly Space

The difference is striking. Before: a typical mid-century Ranch home landscape, with a grassy front yard and berms to capture weekly flood irrigation. After: an updated landscape filled with a playful mix of plantings and an inviting entry hardscape—one that is both functional and true to the home’s north-central Phoenix heritage.

For homeowners Jessica and Mark Brown, it was the change they were seeking. “We wanted something unique, a little edgy,” says Mark Brown. “And we wanted to enjoy spending time in our yard with our children.”

To accomplish the transformation, the couple contacted landscape and interior designer Troy Bankord, a Phoenix Home & Garden Master of the Southwest. Years before, Brown had seen Bankord’s work in a magazine and kept the article, “just in case.”

An initial challenge was the nearly foot-high berms, which seemed to diminish the house, giving it a sunken feeling. The berms were removed and the rest of the yard leveled. Then a drip irrigation system and sprinklers were installed, while the flood irrigation was rerouted to the backyard.

Aluminum gutters were replaced with decorative rain chains for added flair and to harvest rainwater.
To retain a sense of maturity, existing palm trees were kept, although neglected orange trees were removed. “Bringing the grade of the new landscaping down to the height of the curb would have meant exposing the root systems of the palms to the sun,” Bankord explains. Instead, he constructed angular block planters around the bases of the trees. Doing so allowed the home and garden to be buffered and cocooned from the street and neighbors. From here, plans for the entry walkway, plantings and lawn areas fell into place.

Bankord designed a series of angled seat walls along the new cobblestone entry walkway, which allowed the homeowners to interact with their boys when they played in the front yard. In addition to creating balance and bringing dimension to the property, the seat walls also play up the angular rooflines of the home and draw one’s eye to the front door. Ornamental grasses and agaves planted in masses add life to the hardscape.

The result is “an eye-catching landscape that provides the family with visual beauty and a sense of peace,” remarks Bankord.

Octopus agaves and weeping acacia trees help soften both the home’s stuccoed walls and the angles created by the walkway and seat walls, explains landscape designer Troy Bankord.

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