Oasis of Tranquility: Paradise Valley Yard Renovation Provides Perfect Spot to Relax
A landscape renovation takes a Paradise Valley yard from lackluster retreat to serene sanctuary.
By Ben Ikenson | Photography by Jill Richards
In the morning, Bonnie Cochill enjoys her coffee on the front porch of her Paradise Valley home, gazing out toward the water shimmering in a large elaborate rectangular stone-lined courtyard pond. The fountain, a series of bronze scuppers, spills water from the terraced tiers of a raised wall behind the pond. The peacefulness belies the morning traffic just beyond the lushly enclosed, one-acre property.
“This water feature was very important to me to have included in our landscape renovation,” says Bonnie, an interior designer by trade who is well-versed in the complexities of balancing form and function. “It provides a really strong, natural-looking visual focal point, and we knew the sound of the gurgling water, which we could amplify with speakers, would do a good job of drowning out any road noise.”
Indeed, the pond is a stunning and practical centerpiece for the property’s verdant, meticulously ordered resortlike grounds, which have been fashioned in the style of a European country manor. Beds of low-maintenance ground cover and mass shrub plantings share the soil, producing a vibrant, Mediterranean plant palette comprised of rosemary, iceberg roses, dwarf holly, olive trees, agave and jasmine, among others. Hundreds of orange trees line the yard’s perimeter, beneath the dense walls of privet hedges and the captivating views of Camelback Mountain in the distance.
In its entirety, the landscaping represents a nearly two-year-long labor of love, planning and creative problem-solving. But the results were worth the wait.
Originally from Michigan, Bonnie and Tom, a now-retired corporate CEO, made their way to Arizona in the late 1990s. In 2012, they purchased the 8,300-square-foot Santa Barbara-style home with traditional East Coast “Hamptons” accents, including a guest house and swimming pool. A couple of years later, the couple was ready to consider a major overhaul on the landscaping.
“What really prompted us to start on this process was that there were some pretty major issues with flooding,” Tom says. “When it rained, water would pool everywhere against the home, and it wasn’t draining properly.”
The Cochills sought the help of landscape architect Greg Trutza. “I was originally called in by the homeowners to find solutions for the decline in the plantings and hardscape. The overly planted yard had restricted sunlight along with inherent problems with site drainage,” the Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner says. “But I have found that a good design is often the result of embracing the constraints of the site.”
Echoing the thought, Bonnie adds, “Whenever you work on a project, no matter how much you plan, you’re bound to run into issues. But sometimes that’s where the creative thinking happens.”
Case in point: After recruiting a civil engineer for input on new drainage options and for modifying the grading to lower the soil below the home’s foundation level, Trutza constructed low stucco walls around the front of the home. The walls not only conceal a new drain system but also enclose a series of terraced gardens that create a sense of flow toward the entry patio. The patio itself was extended outward by 6 feet to provide a more spacious entryway and a sense of projection into the landscape.
Trutza also oversaw a suite of other improvements, including the removal of tons of vegetation, soil amendments and the addition of more appropriate plants and trees, such as germander, Bismarck palms, Wheeler’s dwarf pittosporum, “Little Ollie” olives, lace leaf lavender and agaves. Existing stone field walls were incorporated into the design of the pond. New pea gravel pathways lined with oversized antique olive jar planters add to the French country aesthetic. The front and side yards were made over with a relaxed, natural effect; while the backyard, with the pool and guesthouse, maintains a more manicured, classic Old Hollywood feel.
A priority for Trutza was to create a sense of cohesion throughout the yard, a feeling that is dramatically manifested by Bonnie’s idea of including four Bay trees, which stand like sentries posted on either side of the front of the house and on each side of the pond. “Because they grow in a very vertical and controlled way, they are ideal natural columns that provide continuity and flow from the house to the pond,” she says. “Good landscaping is like interior design in that you don’t want much to distract the eye from the totality of the space.”
In the evenings, Bonnie and Tom often stroll the grounds with predinner cocktails in hand, soaking it all in. “The white roses, the pea gravel path and wonderful wall lined with rosemary, and soft lighting: It all becomes magical at night as the fragrance and path lighting set a tone for our home,” Bonnie says. And, thanks to a lighting system fastened to sheets of plexiglass beneath the surface of the water, the pond, lit from below, casts undulating blue shadows around it, assuring its place as an ethereal centerpiece long after the sun has set.