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For The Garden

Enchanted Enclave

Author: John Roark
Issue: July, 2017, Page 88
Photos by Art Holeman

Beneath the dappled shade of a blooming jacaranda, the backyard presents a tranquil tableau populated with dwarf Yaupon holly (Ilex vomitoria ‘Nana’), espaliered apple and Rina Hugo hybrid tea roses (Rosa ‘Rina Hugo’). Retaining walls host terra- cotta pots filled with Meyer lemon trees.
A Florist Creates Gardens Within a Garden, Inspiring Magical Moments at Every Turn

For a former Texan who managed her own flower shop for two years in El Paso, Texas, the love of gardening runs very deep. So deep that when she and her husband happened upon a charming rural Mediterranean-style home in the Phoenix neighborhood of Arcadia that could become a canvas for her considerably green thumb, they purchased it without hesitation.

“I guess it was serendipity,” she says. “We randomly went to an open house and fell in love with it. Even though we had just moved into a new place two years before, we knew we couldn’t let this property slip through our hands.”

An intimate breakfast area overlooks a fountain accented with tiles in sky blue and cobalt. The diagonally placed cantera pavers were hand-treated with white paint and coffee- and tobacco-colored stains for a weathered look. Faux turf keeps maintenance to a minimum.
Her affection for the home was sparked by the way it subdivides the yard, offering a chance to create a series of individualized garden experiences. “The house is a classic H-plan design,” says architect and Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner Clint Miller. “In addition to giving its peninsular rooms windows on three sides, the plan also presents interesting courtyards. I tried to create long views so that no matter where you are inside, you can also see what’s happening in several directions outside of the house. All of the interior spaces were created to engage the garden wherever the opportunity existed.”

Having logged many years leafing through the pages of local home and gardening magazines, the homeowner found herself continually inspired by the lush, romantic creations of landscape architect Greg Trutza, another Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner. “We had an instantly joyous connection based on her enthusiasm, her love of plants and her in-depth knowledge of how to grow them, and she was completely open to experimenting with new introductions to her plant world,” Trutza says.

When he originally designed the property, Miller had focused on three main areas for outdoor entertaining: a sizeable courtyard, a covered outdoor kitchen and a fire pit. When the owners purchased the home, the courtyard consisted of a large bricked patio with a fountain that had fallen into disrepair and a patch of grass beyond. Trutza enhanced these spaces and made the most of virtually every inch of the property, infusing a romantic ambience throughout.

A raised garden bed overflows with organic herbs and vegetables. In it, the top tier of the property’s original courtyard fountain was repurposed and enjoys a new life as a charming water feature.
The courtyard now provides guests the first moment of surprise when they enter the home. For this primary outdoor entertaining area, the homeowners envisioned a pool integrated into a garden setting that would not dominate the landscape. Surrounded by a matrix of hand-hewn San Miguel pavers with artificial turf between, the classic rectangular pool includes a spa, lap lane and Baja shelf all designed by Trutza, evoking the elegance of Hollywood’s heyday. “This is reminiscent of something you would find in Beverly Hills,” he says.

At the pool’s end, a barrel-roofed ramada accented with climbing Lady Banks roses (Rosa banksiae) shelters an intimate seating area. The support structure for the ramada integrates water features with custom copper scuppers that recycle the pool’s water and a fireplace flanked by twin bancos. Trutza recalls that neighborhood building codes prohibited a chimney, which turned out to be a benefit. “The fireplace is a very important element, but it doesn’t overpower the ramada,” he says. “The size fits the space perfectly without intruding visually.”

Surrounding the fire pit, an existing banco was updated with colorful matte-finish tiles, gray cantera caps and a finial found by the homeowner. Sour orange hedge (Citrus aurantium) and purple leaf plum (Prunus cerasifera) add richness to the varied plant palette. In the background, French and South African roses, raised garden beds of herbs and vegetables, and a variety of fruit trees keep the homeowner well-stocked with fresh produce and cut flowers.
To create the charming setting that the homeowner longed for, Trutza softened the courtyard’s gridded layout with a varied Mediterranean planting palette that includes germander (Teucrium chamaedrys), artemesia and white roses. A collection of French glazed luminarias, imported Italian urns and troughs complete the vision.

The landscape architect was intent on utilizing the lot’s features to maximum advantage. “Like the house, the yard sort of unfolds as you walk through it,” Trutza says. “It invites exploration, and there’s so much to engage you as you go along. You see everything as an adjunct and a complementary juxtaposition in the design. Nothing takes over or dominates. Each nuanced element leads you to the next.”

Neighboring the side courtyard, the covered outdoor kitchen and dining area includes a TV and fireplace for cozy evenings during cooler months. The view from within the shady structure is lush and leafy: sour orange trees (Citrus aurantium) lining the yard’s perimeter are interspersed with bougainvillea, providing privacy and year-round color to the north; to the west, a welcoming fire pit peeks out between desert fern (Lysiloma); urns overflowing with geraniums and a potted Chihuahuan desert orchid tree (Bauhinia macranthera) nestle beneath the shade of a Chilean mesquite tree. The homeowner brought additional color to the area by cladding the pit’s surrounding banco with matte-finished, hand-painted tile. “I probably brought home 30 different samples to see how they looked,” she says. “But when I found the right one, it just clicked.”

The property includes a number of water features, which add visual interest and soothing sounds that mask noise from nearby traffic.
Just beyond the fire pit and a fountain set in a diagonal checkerboard of hand-stained cantera pavers is a favorite area of the homeowner. Against a backdrop of French and South African roses, raised garden beds burst with organic bounty including strawberries, cauliflower, garlic, parsley, shallots, and heirloom and Roma tomatoes. Pink lemon, apricot, peach and kumquat trees—as well as a fruit cocktail tree that bears lemons, limes and oranges—grow right within reach of the home’s kitchen. While maintaining a garden this size may sound like a full-time hobby, the homeowner insists it is not as daunting as it looks. “If you have raised beds, a drip line and organic soil, it’s so easy,” she says. “We installed a fertilization system with the irrigation, so everything gets fed through the drip. This saves me a lot of time because I fertilize a lot.”

The yard’s numerous “garden rooms” transition seamlessly, inviting leisurely wandering and exploration. The fire pit area is enjoyed by the homeowners and their guests throughout the year.
For a garden that presents such a wealth of individual tableaux, the effect is remarkably tranquil. “It’s like our own self-contained oasis,” says the homeowner. “Our kids are always saying it’s like a resort. They want us to go out of town so they can take care of the house and have a big party. I’ve told them thanks anyway, but we’d rather stay.”

Trutza believes he and the homeowners have created a singular experience. “You can’t match this to anyplace else. It has its own distinct personality because of the unique materials and the way it all fits together in a series of garden rooms. You feel very protected and nurtured in each space.” He thinks that the property will only get better with time. “I am looking forward to watching this landscape mature. And I know it will be in good hands. They will make it work because it’s a labor of love.”

Paved with Pinon cantera, the outdoor kitchen and dining area boast a verdant backyard view. The shady refuge is a warm-weather favorite, and a built-in corner fireplace makes winter evenings cozy.

The classic rectangular pool includes a spa, lap lane and Baja shelf designed by landscape architect Greg Trutza. An assortment of potted flora brings seasonal color; French glazed luminarias add flickering ambience after the sun goes down.
Faux grass reduces water consumption and maintenance. “I’m glad we did artificial turf because it’s so green and looks perfect all the time. Visitors don’t even know it’s not real,” says the homeowner.

From beneath the ramada, the home’s south side offers a stately view.
An imported antique door originally used in a home in India now welcomes visitors to the backyard. The Brazilian pepper tree (Schinus terebinthifolius) was part of the original landscape. A silver Bismarck palm (Bismarckia nobilis) brings distinctive color and texture, and duranta (Duranta erecta) adds a soft accent to the garden wall.

A barrel-vaulted ramada provides a dramatic poolside respite. Climbing Lady Banks roses (Rosa banksiae) will eventually engulf the overhead trellis in a cascade of white and green. Hand-carved support columns feature bases of subtly glazed terra-cotta tiles.

Four sets of French doors open to the side courtyard and pool, mimicking a Hollywood Hills setting. Gray cantera stepping stones in a grid pattern match the pool coping, while hand-painted tiles add a colorful accent to the waterline. Japanese blueberry bushes (Elaeocarpus decipens) in planters bring an air of informal elegance.

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