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For The Home

A Celebration of Outdoor Living

Author: Noelle Johnson
Issue: May, 2016, Page 92


A brick-paved circular drive at the front of the home is lined with desert-friendly plantings, including mesquite and foothill palo verde trees, spiky blue-gray Agave americana and canelike ocotillos.
Throughout history, great gardens were designed to erase the cares of the everyday world, surrounding visitors with beautiful colors, welcoming scents, soothing sounds and spaces specially designed for relaxation. From the grand European gardens of Versailles in France and the Alhambra in Spain to the Valley’s own Desert Botanical Garden, these places take guests on a journey of discovery through various landscapes that are filled with the unique textures, shapes and hues of lush greenery, brilliant blooms and meticulously planned hardscape.

The long-honored principles of beauty, relaxation and distinct zones are also evident in the landscape of the North Scottsdale home of Mike and Myrna Kelly, where the enticing fragrance of long-stemmed roses wafts across lounge spaces decorated with colorful Spanish tiles, and the refreshing babble of elegant water features is the only sound that breaks the Zen-like atmosphere of the outdoor meditation zone.
An arched entrance door opens to a private courtyard where two Japanese privet trees (Ligustrum japonicum) provide dappled shade.

The creator of these sensory grounds is residential designer Clay Scrivner. The Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner had designed the Kellys’ Spanish Colonial Revival house in the upscale Whisper Rock Estates, and the couple loved the home so much that they wanted the outdoor spaces to mirror both its style and beauty.

Whether designing homes or gardens, Scrivner’s mission is to create environments that are comfortable and not overwhelming in size. “Human scale is not gigantic,” he says. As a result, the scale of both the house and its surrounding grounds isn’t oversized, with function and beauty as top priorities for all spaces.
The focal point of the courtyard is the fireplace with its colorful Talavera tiles, parabolic opening and mantle made from reclaimed wood. Lady Banks roses growing on custom-made ironwork above the dining room window and Japanese privet trees provide welcoming shade. Additional decorative ironwork covers the eye-catching handmade bottle glass windows.

From the moment guests arrive, they know that they are in for a serene and welcoming experience. Scrivner’s emphasis on human scale is evident in the picturesque enclosed courtyard that fronts the house. The space functions as an outdoor living room with a cozy seating area that includes a fireplace edged in vibrant Talavera tiles and surrounded by Lady Banks roses that gracefully wind over window arches and provide welcome protection from the sun. A large Vietnamese pot placed near the entry door has been transformed in to a trickling water feature. Shadows from a Japanese privet tree (Ligustrum japonicum) dance across the adobe fired-brick floor.

In the backyard, Scrivner divided the garden into quadrants, with a rectangular pool located at center of the yard. Surrounding the pool is a desert-friendly landscape dotted with separate and distinctly individual elements, including an elaborate Spanish-style fountain, an open-air meditation zone, a citrus and vegetable garden, an in-ground fire pit and seating area, and a ramada with an adjacent water/fire feature. “The yard is a celebration of true indoor-outdoor living,” says Scrivner. “The ramada serves as a family living room, and the meditation zone is an outdoor retreat; then you have the organic side with the edible garden.”

Splashes of color are evident throughout the garden. It was very important to the homeowners to be greeted with a colorful view from any room in the house. To achieve their goal, large amounts of grass were removed and masses of flowering plants were added. “Mike and I love the colors of California and how almost anything grows there,” notes Myrna. “When we said that we wanted color in the garden, desert landscapers would say, ‘There is this shade of green or that shade of green,’ but we wanted vibrant reds, purples and yellows.” Roses were an integral part of that plan.
In the front courtyard, a cozy seating niche framed by red curtains is the perfect spot for intimate conversations.
Landscape architect and Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner Donna Winter found long-stemmed, red Opening Night roses, which she installed along with a variety of other colorful annuals in raised beds that anchor the corners of the pool. The classic blooms are accentuated by and contrast with the subtle colors and striking shapes of the many saguaros and desert trees in the background.

Foxgloves (Digitalis purpurea) are planted behind petunias and snapdragons, where they remain hidden until spring.
“Just when you think the flowers are finished blooming, the foxgloves appear,” Myrna adds.
A Vietnamese pot transformed into a soothing water feature is nestled beneath an arch of Lady Banks roses near the entry door.

On the far side of the pool, a cascading water feature draws the eye to mountains beyond, including Pinnacle Peak and Lone Mountain. Turquoise-colored handcrafted tiles cover the surface and front of the fountain, mirroring the color of the home’s patio doors and reflecting the azure waters of the pool. A testament to Scrivner’s unparalleled attention to detail, the water feature was designed so that no tile would have to be cut to fit. “You don’t notice it until it’s pointed out to you, but it really makes the pieces appear seamless and organic,” says builder Brian O’Neill, who worked with Scrivner to create the outdoor structures.

To the left of the pool, in the far northeast corner of the yard is the meditation zone, which is used for yoga and relaxation. Scrivner took advantage of existing mountain views by siting the open-air room on raised land. “I’ve spent a lot of time in Japan where you sit in the hot tubs and see the mountains, so we wanted to open up this area to see the mountains,” says Mike, adding that he and Myrna wanted the style of meditation zone to match that of the house. As such, the space has a distinctive Southwestern Zen feel rather than a typical Asian one.

Color reigns in the backyard, where the turquoise pool is surrounded by raised beds filled with Opening Night roses edged with dark green wall germander (Teucrium chamaedrys). On its southeast edge, a ramada provides an ideal place for enjoying an evening drink by the fire.
A parabolic archway opens onto the circular open-air room. According to Scrivner, the shape of the doorway comes from similar entrances found in Spain. Wide at the bottom and narrow at the top, they allow for a donkey and his rider to pass through. Four arched cutouts in the curved walls house iron bells that are exact replicas of ones that hang in the historic Mission San Juan Capistrano in California. Scrivner used a compass to create the circular floor, which is divided into concrete wedges cut with faux turf. The lines of the turf draw the eye to the bell windows, each of which is aligned to a different mountain peak. Large cutouts along the tops of the outer walls offer additional mountain views. Inside, snaking along the interior wall is a Spanish-style water feature, known as a runnel, that was created from terra-cotta roof tiles. The feature channels water down toward a basin, providing the welcome sound of a trickling waterfall.

On the northeast corner of the house is the citrus and vegetable garden. Mornings often find Myrna harvesting fresh kale, which she likes to use in salads and smoothies. Flowering plants, such as blue bells (Eremophila hygrophana), nasturtiums and Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera), offer pops of color while attracting pollinators. Around the edges of the yard, foothill palo verde trees (Parkinsonia microphylla), saguaros (Carnegiea gigantea) and ocotillos that were existing on the property before the renovation add texture, subtle greens and vertical interest. Both Mike and Myrna are very involved when it comes to choosing their plants, and they enjoy designing innovative vignettes. Creative pairings include artichoke agave (Agave parryi  var. truncata) with gopher plant (Euphorbia rigida), and Lady Banks roses (Rosa banksiae) with star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides); Myrna uses the latter pairing to soften the edges of water features and camouflage walls.

Groupings of flowering annuals add even more color to the rose-filled yard and accentuate the subtle green and gold tones in the pool tiles. Snapdragons and petunias enjoy center stage until midspring when the tall pink spikes of the foxglove (Digitalis purpurea) emerge from behind for a brilliant surprise.
To the right of the pool is the ramada. A parabolic archway that echoes the door of the meditation zone opens to a fire/water feature, the back of which mimics the same arch shape, giving the appearance that it was cut from the wall and extracted to create the fountain. The same Spanish-style tiles that are seen on the poolside water feature, this time in a fiery red, decorate this fountain. Water flows down a narrow channel to a circular ground-level fountain that includes a fire ring. “The ramada is from where we view tremendous sunsets,” note the homeowners. “Watching the sunlight move across the beds of roses and hit the bells in the meditation zone is an extraordinary experience—the bells appear to glow in the sun’s rays.” ?No matter what time of day, it’s not unusual to find Mike and Myrna sitting in the ramada enjoying wine and the lovely views of their backyard with Scrivner. “Wherever you go, from the courtyard to the house to the ramada, there is always something new to see,” says the designer who guided the homeowners on a journey that helped them discover the beauty of Spanish-style architecture and extend it out into their garden.
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