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For The Garden

Spanish-Inspired Garden

Author: Roberta Landman
Issue: June, 2013, Page 104
Photos by Michael Woodall

This wall fountain exhibits elements of Spanish/Moorish design, including colorful tilework, a shell-shaped stone font with a carved-cantera plaque, adobe wall caps, and vegetation arranged with formal balance. A backdrop of trees includes orange and grapefruit, apt choices on a site that once was part of a citrus grove.

An Iconic Phoenix Resort Is the Inspiration for a Couple’s Moorish-Style Landscape

Attending college in Spain, and then honeymooning there with husband Erik, Jennifer Hellum succumbed to the country’s many charms, its Moorish-influenced gardens prime among them. Sensory-appealing, and often perfumed with the scent of orange blossoms, she says, the lovely venues featured bubbling fountains, lush plantings and unexpected delights to discover.

More than two decades later, after she and Erik had moved from state to state with his career opportunities, they relocated to Arizona with their two sons, purchased a Spanish-style mid-century Ranch home in Phoenix’s Arcadia neighborhood, and set about reinventing the property with the unforgettable aura of Spain.

Architect James Kottke redesigned the existing dwelling which, in need of modernization, had to be razed. The result is a commodious two-story Spanish Colonial “dream house.” Landscape architect Greg Trutza, a Phoenix Home & Garden Master of the Southwest, in concert with Kottke, gave the residence its singular indoor/outdoor appeal and provided the magical Moorish-style landscape the Hellums saw in Spain. Visitors were able to experience its fine qualities during Phoenix Home & Garden’s Grand Tour of Gardens in 2012.

A setting much closer to home inspired the renovated landscape. Explains Jennifer: “During one of our past visits to Phoenix, we had been to the Royal Palms Resort and were immediately reminded of the gardens near the Alcázar in Seville, with all of its quiet places to sit and enjoy the fountains and beautiful tilework.”

The existing lap pool became a dramatic focal point, enjoyed from both the new covered outdoor room and the indoor great room. Framed by established olive trees, these areas function as one large entertaining venue when glass doors pocket open. A goal of the landscape design was that it be “unfussy,” evident here in simple pots of flowers surrounded by vibrant purple heart plants. The interior fireplace wall was retained in the home’s makeover.
As it turns out, the resort’s courtyards, wedding gardens and other features were designed by Trutza. He notes, “The Royal Palms’ charm is in the intimate courtyards, each with its own distinct character leading on to grander spaces that weave this same magic into a broader tapestry.” At the renovated Arcadia landscape, similar courtyards, or “sequestered destinations,” are linked by a walk of recycled cobbles. As in Moorish/Spanish design, water features are plentiful, and, in addition to fountains, include an existing blue-tiled lap pool that also functions visually as a reflecting pool.

“The inspiration for this home and garden was the desire to capture the charm of Santa Barbara style of the early 20th century,” he explains. “Influenced by the historic Moorish courtyards of Old Spain, I wanted elements of symmetry and formal balance to characterize many of the spaces.” This is evident in planting beds bordered with mass plantings of low-growing, drought-resistant vegetation, such as easy-care dwarf Yaupon holly and Indian hawthorn.

Bulbine, artemisia and purple heart plants, likewise massed, provide color against a neutral backdrop of green; wispy silver weeping acacia trees add grace; and existing olive, citrus and twisted myrtle trees lend a timeless quality.

The property, once owned by a founder of the Central Arizona Cactus and Succulent Society, has unique charms, says Trutza. “Besides the wonderful mature trees, the home itself has signature gems, such as the combined cantera-and-adobe entry portal and fireplaces, which were preserved. With its special character, this home leaves a sublime respite for future generations to enjoy.”

The cul-de-sac site allowed the creation of several relaxation and recreational settings, including two backyards, one of which contains the lap pool. The front of the home, with its romantic-looking weeping acacia trees and cobbled intersecting walking paths, is among many “spaces of discovery.” Beds of dwarf aloe ‘Blue Elf’ (foreground) add color and definition where walkways divide areas of lawn.

In the second backyard, a patio’s dining table is situated off the home’s kitchen, making it easy to enjoy alfresco meals. Flooring is a combination of salvaged and new Saltillo tiles. Nearby, a fountain provides visual and auditory delights. Creeping fig vine climbs a wall that separates the outdoor dining area from a private patio off a guest room.
A lacy-looking ornamental-iron gate offers a hint of Old Spain.

Photos - Clock-wise from top left: A prized twisted myrtle tree near a sitting area is one of many mature plant specimens on the grounds. • Flanked by pink Indian hawthorn plants and trailing purple lantana, and shaded by a twisted myrtle tree, a cobblestone path leads to the backyard. A cozy seating group (right), set upon a colorful “rug” of concrete tiles, offers a view of the lap pool, with its original cantera lion’s-head wall fountain. • The lap pool, with its original adobe coping, measures 9 feet wide by 54 feet long. Although the homeowners have since moved, they have fond memories of the swimming pool. “We loved that it was shaded in the afternoons, allowing us to float on chairs and relax—and even nap—without getting burned. We have many, many fond memories of swimming and hanging out with our sons in that pool.” • Under a second-story Juliet balcony, this alfresco setting offers all the comforts of an indoor room. The custom tin wall lanterns had graced the original one-story home. Made to match the earlier dwelling’s flooring, the patio base is tinted and scored concrete.
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