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For The Garden

The Perfect Beginning

Author: Isabella Castillo
Issue: June, 2017, Page 40
Photo by Brian Goddard

Landscape designer Jake Plocher says the shimmering sheet of water that runs down the surface of each stone fixture echoes the reflective look of the home’s original glass front door.
Three senses—smell, sound and sight—are piqued by a home’s new entry

The soothing fragrance of jasmine, the calm babble of running water and the quiet strength of stone combine harmoniously to create an unforgettable first impression at the entrance of Mike and Shannon Hitchcock’s home in North Scottsdale. The couple, who hail from Colorado, always wanted an impressive entry with water features, but the Mountain State’s climate made that difficult. So, when they relocated to the Valley, Mike and Shannon were anxious to reimagine the unremarkable entry of their new abode into a showstopping landscape.

The house sits below street level at the end of a steep drive, so the couple knew an eye-catching entrance would instantly improve its curb appeal. They set about viewing other front-yard solutions for inspiration, and when they spied one where sculptural pillars combined with hardscape and plantings, they knew they had also had found their landscape design expert: Jake Plocher.

The addition of several towering water features, subtle plantings and uniquely shaped pavers gives the entrance the curb appeal it was lacking.
But there was no doubt in the Hitchcocks’ minds as to what material would star in their new entry. “We’re stone people,” says Mike, who co-founded a stone surfaces company. Shannon adds, “Stone is near and dear to us,” so it was inevitable that the couple would ask their designer to work with the substrate to create water features.

Plocher chose natural basalt from northern Washington from which to construct a series of irregularly cut, towering pillars. From the driveway, these imposing edifices draw the eye to the front door. Plumbed for water to trickle down their rough sides, they also delight a visitor’s sense of sound.

To visually anchor the columns, Plocher added a ground cover of smooth black stone, which creates the illusion of a dark stream. “This gives the impression of running water so the pillars look connected,” he says. “The design also goes from north to south as if it’s flowing into the house.”

To soften the look even more, the original pavers were recut into various shapes and repositioned in a curving pattern that underscores the pillars; they also provide a balanced looked on either side of the walkway.

Plantings complete the landscape, including a sago palm paired with star jasmine and blue agaves; “Chocolate Drop” euphorbias and cape aloe are additional shade-loving choices. Vegetation and color are kept simple so they don’t compete with the pillars and their watery whimsy.

No longer lacking character, the transformed entryway is now a warm and welcoming space that engages the senses.

Each pillar is cut from natural basalt, weighs about 1,200 pounds per foot and is braced by more than 2 feet of concrete anchored with rebar into a large underground basin.

Initially, homeowners Mike and Shannon Hitchcock anticipated placing columns on only one side of the walkway, but Plocher suggested adding two smaller fountains on the opposite side for visual balance.

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