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For The Garden

French-Country Garden

Author: Nancy Erdmann
Issue: November, 2012, Page 134
Photos by Michael Woodall

The addition of a front courtyard, reclaimed-brick walkways, decorative ironwork and such plants as spiraled yaupon holly dramatically changed the feel of the exterior of this Phoenix home.

Extensive Changes Transform a Bland Arizona Garden Into a French Country Retreat

Michelle and Bill Swift probably would agree with landscape architect Greg Trutza’s initial assessment of their yard: “It was stuck in the ’80s,” says the Phoenix Home & Garden Master of the Southwest. “It was uninspiring and much of it was in disrepair. It is a common sight I have found in a number of older houses.”

That was five years ago. After a major renovation, the yard has the look and feel of a French country garden retreat. In April 2011, it was one of six properties featured on Phoenix Home & Garden’s Grand Tour of Gardens and received rave reviews, with high praise coming from the homeowners themselves. “It has a new personality,” says Michelle Swift. “It has warmth and charm and feels like a wonderful garden full of flowers and beautiful touches that make you feel happy, content and welcome.”

The change came about as a result of time. “We had lived in the home for 14 years when we decided to update the landscape,” Swift remembers. “At first, we thought about moving, but then decided to stay put because of our prime location, and the house has everything we really needed. We realized that updating the grounds was the perfect piece of the puzzle that we were missing.”

Behind the entry courtyard walls is a secluded space that includes an antique fountain composed of Italian limestone troughs and an oversized fireplace, both designed by landscape architect Greg Trutza.
The pair met with Trutza, who suggested they add a front courtyard to update their home. “To be honest, we really didn’t want to spend the money,” she recalls. “But after thinking about it, we decided it would give us more space to entertain. Now, we can’t tell you how thankful we are for our decision, as it is for sure our favorite part of the remodel.”

With three daughters ranging in age from 14 to 21, the couple wanted the backyard to be family-friendly and a “down-to-earth” living area. “Bill loves to cook, and we enjoy having people over, so we also wanted an outside kitchen and living room,” notes Swift.

The rear yard found new life once the outdated pool and boulder waterfalls were removed, according to Trutza. An outdoor kitchen and bar were constructed for poolside convenience, in addition to a fire pit, raised vegetable and rose beds and various palms to enhance the Mediterranean theme.

“We can’t begin to describe the joy that our garden brings to us and our family and friends,” Swift says. “We feel very blessed that we have been able to create such a dream home and garden, and we love it.”

Roses, artemisia and pink trumpet vine create a romantic ambience.
Wrought iron forms a unique window box that holds individual pots of blooming pansy, salvia and dianthus.
At the home’s entry, an aged white pot holds geraniums, trailing Needlepoint English ivy and a spiky cordyline variety.

Photos - Clock-wise from top left: Details such as weathered urns, old brick and heat-loving plants enhance the garden’s Mediterranean theme. In the backyard, rosemary grows up toward a Moorish-style “window” set into a wall behind the pool. • The backyard was completely renovated with the addition of a new pool and a raised limestone-clad planting bed that doubles as a water feature. “I designed the new pool to be sequestered in the lush landscape rather than dominate it,” says Greg Trutza. • Existing mature trees provide a verdant backdrop for the tranquil setting. Hidden behind a serpentine wall in the background are a sports court and play areas. • A long side yard provides an ideal location for a vegetable bed. “Bill enjoys vegetable gardening, and the humus-rich soil allows him to grow organic produce,” notes Trutza. Sequoia strawberries flourish in the raised planter.
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