The French Connection
A dated landscape is transformed into a classically inspired garden that exudes a certain je ne sais quoi.
By Nancy Erdmann | Photography by Mark Lipczynski
She may have been born in Wyoming, spent a good deal of her life in Canada and owned a second home in Arizona, but Barbara Anderson is a Francophile at heart. “My heritage is French, and I have always been interested in the country’s history and design,” she says.
For years, she and her late husband traveled from Calgary to their residence in Phoenix where their children competed in equestrian events. “We lived in the Biltmore area, and we would often pass this one house that I admired,” she recalls. “Then one day I saw that it was for sale and, just like that, we up and bought it. It was totally English in design inside, and we went 100% French.”
With its expansive lawns and magnolia and citrus trees framing the elegant house, the property had a simple green palette. Its Roman-style swimming pool was about as timeless as it could get. But even though the home sat adjacent to a golf course, the fairways were hidden by large bushes growing against the windows, blocking the view.
“I wanted to see the course and open up views of the yard,” Barbara recalls. On the recommendation of friends, she contacted landscape architect Greg Trutza, a Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner, to help her realize her vision.
As it turned out, Trutza was already familiar with the 2.5-acre property. “The mansard metal seamed roof was always one of my favorite aspects of the house,” he notes. The gardens, however, were frozen in time. “I knew that the perennial quality and traditional styling of the home were the bones I could use for a re-imagination of this grand estate. Barbara loves a stately French aesthetic and wanted elegant, classic gardens with manicured hedges. The overall design is expressed in a balanced formality and clean minimalistic compositions.”
Bringing the charm of Provence to the desert, Trutza devised two grand European-style marble fountains, one for the front yard and one for the back. Handcarved in Italy, each features oversized urns that spill water at varying heights into basins accented with fleur-de-lis motifs. “We waited a year for all of the pieces to be created and shipped to the U.S., after which the parts had to be carefully assembled,” Trutza recalls.
Because Barbara loves to entertain and host charity events, she wanted to add an orangery in her backyard. Originally conceived in the 17th century as additions to high-end European residences, orangeries were designed to protect orange and other fruit trees during winter and were often used as places of entertainment during inclement weather. They typically featured glass roofs, which allowed the structures to be filled with natural sunlight.
“In French history, people would often get together to socialize and then listen to someone speak on a particular subject. This was called a salon,” Barbara explains. “I like to host these types of events.” A modern version of the classical conservatory offered the perfect place for such gatherings.
While orangeries historically contained fountains and grottoes, Trutza came up with a floor plan that includes a full kitchen complete with a barbecue, ample room for dining and a fireplace sitting area. “When we designed the orangery as an outdoor entertaining room, we wanted it to flow visually as though it was created in the original vision of the home,” he explains. “We decided to attach it to the house so caterers can easily access the serving bar and the guests.” Feminine furnishings, ornate chandeliers and an antique dining table add European charm, while folding French doors open the space to the backyard.
Throughout the property, parterre hedges of dwarf yaupon holly frame planting beds. Italian cypress trees, white iceberg roses, potted hibiscus, citrus and kumquat topiaries highlight the carefully landscaped lot. “With an exercised discipline in plant selection, we allowed room for a cutting garden of three different colored roses on the east perimeter,” says the landscape architect. “And since Barbara loves to grow her own produce, we built raised organic vegetable gardens on the west side.” But the grande dame is a laurel-leaved snail tree that has graced the rear lawn for decades.
“The dwelling’s original owner planted a Cocculus laurifolius that matured into one of the largest I have ever seen in Phoenix,” says Trutza. Mediterranean in nature, the shrubby evergreen tree was once a common addition to Valley landscapes before falling out of fashion. Its mate on the opposite side of the yard was felled by a monsoon storm a few years ago. “This last standing iconic tree is now carefully tended to by Barbara’s full-time gardener,” Trutza comments.
While it took more than a year to transform the yard into its current state of refinement, Barbara plans to add more planting beds in front and a gazebo in the backyard, accentuating the property’s authentic French styling. Once démodé, this tasteful and timeless garden now makes any guest exclaim, “ooh, la la!”
Landscape Architect: Greg Trutza, New Directions in Landscape Architecture Inc.
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