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For The Garden

Natural Beauty

Author: Linda J. Barkman
Issue: April, 2018, Page 110
Photography by Brian Goddard

Landscape designer Peggy De La Garza created drama and dimension in the front yard of this Scottsdale property by arranging huge boulders in a way that created pockets for plants, including the treelike Yucca rostrata and large prickly pear in the foreground and an organ pipe cactus and Yucca faxoniana to the right.
Desert-Friendly Plants and Colorful Seasonal Blooms Combine for a Garden With Effortless Appeal

While a couple from Santa Fe, New Mexico, thought that having a second house on or near the ocean would provide a nice balance to their lives, a brief stint on the East coast of Florida convinced them that their residences needed to be within easy driving distance of each other. Upon recalling her husband’s joyful tales of childhood trips to visit his grandparents in Paradise Valley during the early ’70s, the wife suggested looking in that area.

De La Garza created a wow factor in a corner near the garage by grouping a tall San Pedro cactus with a variety of Agave filamentosa, a golden barrel and a red-flowering kalanchoe in a high-glazed Italian ceramic pot.
“We searched all over North Scottsdale and Paradise Valley for quite some time and ultimately found a newly built spec home in Desert Highlands that had just gone on the market,” the husband recalls. Enamored with the elegant, romantic and comfortable feel of the home—and the privacy, incredible beauty and breathtaking 360-degree views the 0.66-acre lot afforded—the couple made an offer the same day they looked at the property.

According to the homeowners, the 4,600-square-foot dwelling, with its clean lines and indoor-outdoor aesthetic, embodied the feel and ease of beach living that they had enjoyed in Florida. However, the landscaping was quite lackluster. “We love gardens and knew we wanted something special that was indigenous to the area,” notes the husband. “When we asked around for advice on who could truly bring this property alive, the same name always came up”: Peggy De La Garza, a Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner. “Given the contemporary feel of the property, Peggy was intrigued and inspired to work with us to create something unique and striking,” the homeowner adds.

Clockwise from top left: A covered patio outside the great room provides an inviting al fresco spot to start the day with a cup of hot coffee. • Grouped with a San Pedro cactus in a ceramic pot are an Agave parryi and a golden barrel. • De La Garza planted a Texas ebony tree outside her client’s home office. The V-shaped opening created by its limbs allows light into the room, while its leaves soften the exterior wall, she notes.• Sculptural plants, such as this Agave parryi var. truncata bring textured interest to the landscape.
The existing hardscape, including the pool, spa and patio spaces, had been completed by the builder and were retained. But when it came to the plantings and terrain, “We tore everything out and redid it,” De La Garza says. “All the garden areas are new, including the pots.”

The biggest challenge the designer had to face was a tremendous amount of bedrock beneath the site. But it was an obstacle she had encountered on numerous other projects, so she knew just what needed to be done. “Bedrock is a real problem because if the soil can’t percolate, the plants will drown. So you have to make sure you have pockets for drainage,” she explains. “I had to design the whole courtyard around the existing bedrock.”

As a result, De La Garza went with a xeriscape design for the yard, choosing low-water-use plants that needed little soil. “I added clusters of agave to complement the contemporary style of the home and tall, sleek plants, such as saguaro and blue cardons, to give height,” she notes.

To create a dramatic desert garden that would be a feast for the eyes in front of the house, De La Garza brought in a host of large specimen plants, such as giant saguaros, mature blue cardon, Mexican fencepost and Yucca rostrata, as well as a variety of trees, shrubs and flowers to use in planting beds and pots. She also moved two large ocotillo situated near the courtyard to the front yard, imported large granite boulders from Congress, just north of Phoenix, and installed low-voltage lighting as well as an irrigation system.

The pool patio offers a stunning view of nearby Pinnacle Peak. A riot of Hyatt Mix geraniums and a euryops daisy brighten the planter box bordering the pool. Behind the blooms, a dense hedge of twisted myrtle screens out neighboring houses and provides privacy.
Many of the boulders were placed near the street on both sides of the approach to the house. When positioning the massive stones, De La Garza says she did her best to make it look like they were part of the bedrock. “We handpicked every boulder and stacked them on top of each other in places to create bulk and a natural appearance,” she reports. Stacking the boulders also allowed her to create those much-needed planting pockets, she adds.

The designer incorporated seasonal color with flowers in planters and large containers—a design signature that she incorporates in all her projects and for which she is well-known—and stuck to her mantra of designing to enhance the home and the view without detracting from them.

The result of her efforts is a breathtaking landscape that still draws “oohs” and “aahs” from guests and creates photo ops for passers-by, the homeowners say. “This is the first place we have lived where we’ve been able to bring together beauty, elegance and simplicity and still keep things very easy and relaxed. We asked Peggy to bring the best of Arizona’s natural desert to our lot. She did all that and more, creating not only beauty but a sense of privacy and grandeur that is truly remarkable.”

A metal gate flanked by petunia-laden pots marks the entry to the front courtyard, which was completely redone by De La Garza. “I wanted to make sure it was as beautiful as it could be,” the designer says. “It’s simple yet striking.”

Dramatic plantings and a jaw-dropping view of Pinnacle Peak are visual delights that make the walk to the courtyard a truly memorable experience. Lending height and sculptural beauty are a saguaro spear and Mexican fencepost cactus. Other plantings here include a cluster of Agave parryi truncata and a Moroccan mound, which is a succulent that bears small yellow flowers from late winter to early spring.
A lush bougainvillea enlivens a corner of this covered patio at the back of the house. Potted plants and beds filled with colorful seasonal flowers soften the home’s strong, contemporary lines.

Offering timeless transitional design, the great room boasts a pale gray and white palette complemented by light oak flooring and reclaimed wood ceiling beams. The pièce de résistance is the automated window wall.
“The huge retracting glass doors between the indoor and outdoor living areas give you a sense of intimacy when closed and expansiveness when open,” points out the homeowner.

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