A landscape update is infused with new life that echoes its majestic surroundings.
By Nancy Erdmann | Photography by Michael Woodall
It’s been said that every golf course has a signature hole. It’s the one everyone remembers for its challenging tee, tricky green or uneven fairway, but more often than not, it’s the hole with the most breathtaking view. When Kathy and Tom Plimpton began looking for a golf course property in North Scottsdale, they knew they found something extra special.
Situated at the base of picturesque Pinnacle Peak, the couple’s property sits adjacent to the course’s trademark 14th hole, which just happens to look directly up to the mountain’s iconic boulder-strewn spire. For Tom, an avid golfer, and Kathy, who enjoys an occasional game, it was the ideal backdrop to build a home. “The previous owner hung onto the land for more than 30 years before deciding to sell, and we were lucky enough to have found it,” Tom says
Architectural designer Tom Mooney conceived a Southwest contemporary-style house that features massive walls of dry-stacked ledge stone that complement the mountainside and provide separation for the outdoor spaces. One towering wall in the front yard “divides the motor court, the sidewalk and courtyard and, at the rear patio, another stone partition separates the great room and master patios while doubling as an outdoor media wall,” Mooney explains.
The Plimptons had a beautiful landscape installed after the home was built, but several years later there were things they wanted to change. “Some of the plants weren’t doing that well and needed to be switched out,” Kathy remarks. “Also, we were looking for more of a dramatic vibe with bigger everything. We wanted clean lines and structural plantings. Nothing too bushy.” Having seen the work of landscape designer Peggy De La Garza, a Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner, whose projects have graced the couple’s community for years, they asked her to renovate the expansive driveway entrance as well as the front courtyard into more statement-making spaces. She also added her special touches with fresh container plantings.
De La Garza says she and her crew started by building around what was already there, bringing in additional plants and moving others around to form clusters that would create more impact. “Mexican fenceposts and firestick pencil cacti, with their upright structures, look much more impressive as a group than as single specimens,” she notes. The designer also relocated existing vegetation that wasn’t doing well to areas with different light exposures where they would fare better. A number of Agave geminifloras, for instance, were moved from the northeast-facing motor court walkway to the backyard where they could get the sun they needed to thrive. She then replaced the agaves with shade-tolerant Quasimodo agaves (A. ‘Cornelius’).
A dramatic driveway entry is key to good landscape design, as it not only provides curb appeal but also sets the tone for the rest of the grounds, De La Garza notes. She created a stunning natural setting by adding elevation changes and boulders, along with supplemental vegetation. A grouping comprising two specimen-size Argentine giant cacti, a Yucca rostrada, a multi-armed saguaro and other mature desert flora made all the difference. According to the Plimptons, the change was quite dramatic.
Kathy and Tom developed ideas for several of the outdoor features, including the contemporary style negative-edge pool, which incorporates a raised floating spa that overflows into the pool and includes water jets with colored lights. Inside the entry courtyard, the couple envisioned a raised infinity-edge water feature highlighted by basalt stone pillars as focal points. And just off the master bedroom patio, a striking stone-and-metal fire element designed by Mooney is based on a concept the homeowners presented to him. Inside its base is a stainless steel sculpture that looks like flames when the gas is not turned on.
A sunken fire pit, putting green, patio furnishings from Indonesia and neutral-hued containers add to the aesthetic the Plimptons were going for. “Kathy and I love the muted desert look,” says Tom. “We didn’t want a lot of color or busy elements in the yard but more of a geometrically balanced design. We’re the kind of people who value a perfectly straight cactus or the way several Mexican fencepost spears line up. This excites us.”
Now, when the couple drive up to their home or sit inside looking out at their courtyard, they find themselves inspired by the landscape. “Renovating the front yard was a quick solution, yet it made such a big difference,” remarks Kathy. “When it was done, we both thought ‘now that’s what we’re talking about!’”
Architectural Designer: Tom Mooney, Mooney Design Group Inc. Builder: RS Homes, Scottsdale, rshomes.com. Landscape Designer: Peggy De La Garza, Trademark Landscape Inc.
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