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For The Garden

The Secret Garden

Author: Nancy Erdmann
Issue: November, 2013, Page 122
Photos by Art Holeman

This mesmerizing setting features a reflecting pool designed in the late 1980s by landscape architect Greg Trutza to replicate the shape of a Byzantine Orthodox cross. Behind the arched ramada is a trompe l’oeil mural. Two rows of heritage oak trees form a classic allée.



The Grounds of a Neglected Phoenix Estate Are Lovingly Restored to Their Former Glory

Once, not so long ago and not too far from the city, there was a magical garden. It was located on 2½ acres with a charming 1935 adobe home. In the late ’80s, the residence had been renovated and presented as a Phoenix Home & Garden Designer Showhouse. The grounds, too, underwent a change, transforming from a mishmash of over-planted spaces into verdant, well-defined garden rooms.

Landscape architect Greg Trutza, ASLA, who brought the garden to life at that time, explains his vision: “Having as a backdrop the Robert T. Evans-designed adobe, I was enchanted with the rich patina of the home’s untouched exterior. I wanted to have elements of a classic Italianate garden interwoven with the wild abandon of a lush, romantic landscape.

“The long colonnade that traverses the property was designed to be a contemplative journey as one would experience in an old abbey,” he continues. “The walk was enhanced with an elaborate sound system playing Gregorian chants. At the end of the colonnade you can see a beautiful trompe l’oeil painting of a sunrise on the wall of the reflecting pool.”

Over the years, the picturesque setting has enchanted more than a few people. It has been featured on several home and garden tours, and the estate has changed hands only a few times. But by 2006, when current homeowners Kristin Austin-Jacob and Andy Jacob purchased the estate, the grounds were in disarray. “It looked like a jungle,” Austin-Jacob recalls. “It had a large dirt lot in the front, and looked like two separate properties. I really wanted to create a better flow and tie the whole thing together.”

After a trip to Italy, the current homeowners decided they wanted a bocce ball court, so landscape designer David Jernigan configured a raised court with pergolas bearing wisteria and bower vines, and Italian cypress trees flanking the ends. Lady Banks’ roses drape over the yard’s back wall.
The homeowners hired longtime Phoenix garden designer David Jernigan, who jokingly describes the landscape as looking “somewhat between the twilight zone and a missile test site.” What plant material wasn’t dead or in decline was overgrown, he remembers. The hardscaped areas, however, were intact, and the designer says they had “aged beautifully to give the garden a more authentic look.”

In 2010, a monsoon storm knocked down a large salt cedar tree, which destroyed an already decaying flagstone patio. The tree also filled up the pool and almost destroyed the pool equipment. “It was the catalyst to get started on the renovation,” notes Jernigan. Existing foliage on the property was trimmed and shaped, and hedging and cypress trees were added for definition and symmetry. To give the landscape the European country feel the homeowners desired, gravel was often used instead of pavers.

One of the biggest changes Jernigan made was in the area the homeowners call the pasture, located outside the front yard. Here, he added a raised bocce ball court with pergolas and cypress trees, and an oleander tunnel that leads guests to the front door. “Kristin showed me pictures of the historic Filoli garden estate near San Francisco, and told me she wanted her garden to have that same character and effect on people,” he remarks.

Now, with 10 different garden areas, plus fountains, arbors, fireplaces, a reflecting pond, an outdoor shower and charming guest house, the property feels very European, says Austin-Jacob. “Guests can’t believe they are in Phoenix when they come to visit, because it is so lush and green. It reminds me of a secret garden in the middle of the city.”

During the property’s initial renovation, Greg Trutza, a Phoenix Home & Garden Master of the Southwest, designed 12-foot-high walls to “enhance the sense of a cloister.” Custom wood gates, which were antiqued by beating them on-site with chains, open to the front yard. Kristin Austin-Jacob added the French iron bench.

Not-so-long ago, this romantic walkway was part of a dirt lot. Today, it guides visitors past the bocce ball court at right and toward the hidden front yard. Cecile Brunner roses sprawl over the arbor. An antique iron bench is a perfect fit for the pastoral setting.
From this new entry, guests follow a paved brick walk over a footbridge and to the front of the house. Clavos embellish the oversized portal, which is from Morocco and features a door within a door. Lettering overhead depicts the year the estate was built, and the name the Jacobs gave their new home—Il Segreto (The Secret). The antique bell is from Paris. Cecile Brunner roses climb the arched walls.


“The original driveway ran around the center island in the front yard, where roses were planted each year of the previous owners’ marriage,” recalls Greg Trutza. “Kristin kept the existing palms and Aleppo pines as anchors in the garden,” which has been reimagined as an enclosed sitting area boasting a gravel floor and a ring of rosebushes around its perimeter. An antique bed offers a cozy spot for a nap.
This patio was originally designed by Greg Trutza, who used old Maryland Rose brick for paving and for the arched wall. The fountain’s concrete moldings and columns were faux painted. Decorative tile and an urn below the spout were recently installed by the new homeowners.


The Jacobs added this stone trough, which they converted to a fountain complete with an antique spout. “Inside the house, I added a built-in seating area that is a wonderful place to sit and listen to the fountain and take in the views” says Kristin Austin-Jacob.
Before the renovation, this area was located off a guest bedroom with two small windows looking out to the old circular drive. Today, French doors off the new master suite open to a patio of recycled brick. Boxwood hedges and Mexican bird of paradise were planted nearby.


A dining arbor adjacent to the kitchen was created as an offshoot from the main colonnade, explains Greg Trutza. “The fragrant trailing star jasmine planted 20 years ago has now made a dense canopy over the aged-timber arbor.” Upside-down Saltillo tile pavers, a fireplace and an antique iron chandelier were installed by the new homeowners.

Photos - Clock-wise from top left: A walkway of old Maryland Rose brick is shaded by a columned arbor that leads to the reflecting pool. Engulfing the structure are roses, jasmine, trumpet vine and cat’s claw that entwine the rustic wood beams. For the illusion of depth, Trutza asked artist Douglas Barron to paint the ramada's back wall with a mural of “columns continuing into the sunrise.” • The Jacobs remodeled the dated swimming pool, “using the darkest finish that was available to make the 14-foot-deep pool look even more dramatic,” says Kristin-Austin Jacob. Grass grows up to the pool’s travertine border, giving it “that great European country look.” • David Jernigan created this picturesque setting, where a decorative window grille and a hanging terra-cotta pot of cyclamen and lobelia exude country charm. Fragrant star jasmine and Hall’s honeysuckle scramble up the wall. “I like to plant different vines together so that you get blooms, colors and textures at various times of the year,” he notes. • A large antique clock from France makes a statement on the exterior of the guesthouse. The bike rack was custom made and inspired by one the couple saw while traveling in Provence.

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