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For The Garden

A Perfect Pairing

Author: Rachel Eroh
Issue: November, 2017, Page 52
Photos by Michael Woodall

Utilizing changes in elevations, carefully placed boulders and a selection of native trees and cacti, landscape architect Donna Winters turned the driveway into an enjoyable entry experience.
On the outskirts of North Scottsdale, an artfully designed home receives an updated, charming landscape to match

Houses designed by architect Lee Hutchison, a Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner known for his organic Pueblo designs that appear to be extensions of the desert and feature unique curving contours, are visually intriguing works of art in their own rights. As such, they require a strong landscape composition that reflects their creative architecture. For one couple who purchased a Hutchison-designed home, however, their front yard was in desperate need of a makeover that would match the beauty and craftsmanship of their North Scottsdale abode.

Plants of varying heights and textures, including Yucca rostrata, San Pedro and Cleistocactus, hesperaloe and golden barrels, add visual interest to the large walls of the courtyard.
Consistent with the uncultivated terrain and covered in turpentine bushes, the property was underwhelming and merely blended into the surrounding desert. Having seen how she created original and dramatic settings with the use of native plants, the homeowners enlisted the help of landscape architect Donna Winters, another Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner. After viewing the front yard, Winters capitalized on the levels created by the natural terrain in a way that would complement the house without overpowering it.

Because the driveway slopes downward, the home has a nestled-in ambience. Winters added to that feeling by incorporating layers to create an intimate connection to the property and enhance its curb appeal. She trimmed trees, raising their canopies and framing the driveway, and employed existing tall saguaros to establish depth. “They stop your eye and allow you to focus on the identity of the home,” she says. Granite boulders added texture. “We created that intermediate layer by utilizing boulders, which have sense of permanence and longevity. They evoke a certain emotion,” she says, noting that they bring a calmness and stability to the surroundings.

Mesquite trees were trimmed to raise their canopies and frame views of the house and native vegetation, including large saguaros.
The use of indigenous plants, including saguaro spears, organ pipe cacti, Agave americana and bougainvillea, builds a seamless transition from the natural desert to an organized landscape. “Anybody can put plants in the ground, but the reality is you can’t tell where we touched it,” says Winters. “The changes happen so subtly that it grows from the desert and suddenly becomes more refined. You don’t feel that harsh line of where the desert ends and where the landscape begins.”

Inside the courtyard, narrow plant beds along the driveway challenged Winters’ plan for a layered garden effect. Because the plots couldn’t be enlarged, Winters chose a medley of streamlined plants of various heights, such as Yucca rostrata, cardons, and San Pedro and Mexican fence post cacti, and basalt columns that draw attention upward. “Their texture and form hold you. They create a moment of pause and calm things down,” she notes.

As seen from the front door, the once-empty courtyard now captures the viewer’s interest thanks to the addition of sculptural accents and an array of boldly shaped vegetation.
The tall, rectangular columns also provide a sculptural element to the otherwise simple space and establish a dramatic focal point on an excessively shaded wall opposite the garage that restricts plant life from growing. “The columns are my favorite part because I know that there is an abundance of basalt in Arizona,” says the wife. “To me, it’s like they are an extension of the ground. It’s as though the stones are just growing straight out of the earth.”

Bougainvillea crawl up a large arched gateway in the courtyard, adding height and color to the space and further complementing the structure of the home. “The design shows how the landscape and architecture can mimic and support one another,” explains Winters.

By bending the space vertically and horizontally, Winters created an eye-catching front yard that remains as true to Hutchison’s vision as it does to the surrounding desert. “It makes me happy in the morning to look out and see flowers and the basalt columns,” says the wife. “You can have a beautiful painting in your home, but landscape is a work of art too.”

A trio of tall, angular basalt columns accents the entry and provides scale and proportion to the soft curves of architect Lee Hutchison’s design.

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