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For The Garden

California-Style Arizona Garden

Author: Roberta Landman
Issue: January, 2013, Page 120
Photos by Michael Woodall
In this resort-like backyard, the line of sight from the carved-cantera fountain (foreground), across the pool to the tile-roofed clubhouse beyond reflects symmetry in design—a hallmark of Santa Barbara style, according to landscape architect Greg Trutza. Colorful annual beds and yaupon hollies trained to spiral add to the area’s classic look.

Nuances of Santa Barbara Style Enhance a Romantic Revamped Arizona Property

Enter this sumptuously landscaped Paradise Valley property through its tall wrought-iron gates, and you may feel like you have left Arizona behind. All about its 2 acres, myriad blooms in garden beds and on such trees as magnolia enchant the senses with their vibrant hues and intoxicating aromas.

The home and its garden areas were inspired by Santa Barbara style—its distinctive Spanish Revival architectural antecedents and its lush vegetation. The property’s timeless ambience, the result of a makeover of indoor and outdoor spaces, is exactly what the current homeowner desired, says landscape architect Greg Trutza, a Phoenix Home & Garden Master of the Southwest.

Designing the landscape,
hardscape, new pool and water features, Trutza worked in coordination with the renovation efforts of architect Mark Candelaria, AIA, likewise a Master of the Southwest, and builder Cal Christiansen, who had constructed the residence in 1995. “The style always has been classic Santa Barbara,” Trutza says of the dwelling. “All of the additions brought it up a notch.” Features introduced include a clubhouse and outdoor kitchen, gracefully carved cantera on the home’s facade and an abundance of Spanish-inspired iron lanterns.

The grounds themselves underwent dramatic changes. “The original landscape was a simple desert-style layout,” recalls Trutza. While the new homeowner wished to preserve original desert specimen plants, he also “requested symmetry in the design, with formal elements, as found in the grand style of Santa Barbara homes,” according to Trutza. “He wanted predominantly a lush, manicured landscape with parterre hedges and colorful borders.”

Adding atmosphere in a private courtyard, an ancient Roman stone frieze depicting Neptune, the god of water and sea, is set upon a wall covered in fig vines. Below, an Italian glazed urn sits on reclaimed antique Italian pavers.
Trutza retained the property’s existing palo verde, ironwood and mesquite trees, and the cereus and organ pipe cacti. The maturity of these plants and trees provided a “good backdrop” for the luxuriant vegetation and beauty that were to come. “I wanted a diversification of the planting palette, as the garden experience needed to be one of wonder and delight,” reflects Trutza. A stroll along winding travertine paths from the front to the back of the house confirms the sense of wonderment.

Along the way, one encounters a multiplicity of plants; some growing according to the whims of nature; some plants in formal beds. Floribunda roses, Asiatic jasmine, Japanese iris, alyssum, cyclamen—the list is as dazzling as the experience. “Many hundreds of unusual plants were used for their bloom, foliage or scent,” Trutza notes.

The landscape is surprisingly water-thrifty, he adds. That is because various areas are interspersed with a broad range of cacti, desert shrubs and agaves. For those considering a diversity of plants—on any size property—Trutza finds that, “The challenge is to utilize our desert species along with xerophytic plants to complement the planting scheme and low water use.”

In this lush-looking take on Santa Barbara style, for example, “We have golden barrel cacti, Agave geminiflora and giant hesperaloe playing center stage in the auto court, under the graceful shade of a magnificently structured old ironwood,” he relates. In addition, “Xerophytic plantings such as bulbine and artemisia became the foreground to majestic clusters of organ pipe or cereus cactus.”

It took more than installing the right blends of plants to make this plan a success. “Transforming the flat lot to incorporate multilevel terraces, a putting green, rolling contours and retention basins required extensive drainage systems and civil engineering,” the landscape architect explains.  

All said and done, the appearance of the revitalized landscape seems long-established. “It looks like it has been around here forever,” he remarks. “It’s a little gem.”

Rose bushes and Mexican blue palms lend the landscape a lush look, as does a groundcover of Asiatic jasmine. Surrounding the steppingstones, this hardy plant requires minimal maintenance but can take over if not occasionally trimmed, notes Greg Trutza.
Organ pipe cacti, beds of annual flowers and clipped parterre hedges are indicative of the landscape’s mix of xeriscape and lush plantings. Low walls are faced in limestone and capped with cantera.

A stone frog peeks out from a bed of Asiatic jasmine.
Greg Trutza designed the pool’s unique conch-style cantera fountains.

Rose bushes border a cozy sitting area with a raised fire pit and patio flooring accented with black beach pebbles.

Photos - Clock-wise from top left: A wispy-looking California pepper tree near the gated entrance of the home’s guest quarters provides filtered shade. The tree is not subject to freezing and does not lose its leaves, says the landscape architect. • At the rear of the house, a slatted wood overhang adds drama to a fireside sitting area. Wicker furniture invites with cushioned comfort. • Ready for casual dining under the shade of a wooden ramada, this patio is conveniently located adjacent to the home’s covered outdoor kitchen. Both spaces, designed by architect Mark Candelaria, were added during a remodel of the home. Flooring is antique Italian pavers. • A glazed urn provides color on a patio accented with Mexican beach pebbles.

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