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Winding Pathways and Plenty of Trees—This Garden Was Made for Wandering

Grade changes and bouldering insulate the home from the streets and provide enchanting vantage points for homeowners Steve and Rochelle Bochner.

Winding pathways, charming enclaves and plenty of ‘wow’ moments make this Paradise Valley garden a pedestrian’s paradise.

By Lauren Tyda | Photography by Art Holeman

It’s hard to find a destination not worth falling for in Steve and Rochelle Bochner’s meandering outdoor wonderland. You might get lost along the way—but that’s the idea. 

Perhaps you would start by sipping, swirling and savoring the couple’s collection of Mexican spirits in the alfresco tequila bar, sated by a slice of pie from the woodfired pizza oven. Then you could wander the roving pathways through a menagerie of fruit trees, blooming shrubs, towering cacti and carefully placed boulders before running into Sunny, their 24-year-old pet African tortoise.

You might spy Steve brandishing a stogie around the firepit in the outdoor “smokers’ lounge” or decide to perfect your game on the putting green before curling up on the custom swing under the covered patio. Wherever you land, it’s about the journey rather than the destination—and that is exactly what the owners and Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award-winning landscape architect Donna Winters had in mind.

“They wanted it to feel like being on a nature walk in the forest—a parklike environment,” Winters explains. “The goal was to create a sense of discovery in the landscape, with things such as sitting boulders that provide rest, and trees that provide privacy and comfort.”

But it wasn’t always this way. The yard was flat, surrounded by pink perimeter walls, black lava rock and a dense grouping of mesquite and pomegranate trees along the edges. “There was some weird stuff,” Rochelle laughs. “But I fell in love with the pool and the yard. They just spoke to me, and I knew this was where we needed to be.”

Rochelle, a retired former nonprofit director, and Steve, a lawyer, were adamant about giving the setting an authentic desert feel, distinct from their Lake Tahoe winter retreat. “Steve is a major skier,” she says. “It’s hard because he’s a winter boy—he loves the snow, so we needed to create a unique space that made him want to be here in Arizona.”

1. Layers of landscaping in the front courtyard blend with distant scenery. “The tree canopy and textures create a nestling effect, slowing guests as they enter the home,” says landscape architect Donna Winters. 2. A Manfreda succulent adds both color and texture. 3. Grade changes and bouldering insulate the home from the streets and provide enchanting vantage points for homeowners Steve and Rochelle Bochner. “Everything’s got a view,” Winters notes, citing the care with which her team considered every perspective from the inside out. “Everything has a purpose—it’s not random.” 4. The rusted steel fence and stone walls fit the organic, natural character of the landscape. “The fence secures the space while providing transparency,” Winters explains.

Winters and her team incorporated grades and contouring to craft a sculpted, more natural look. “We combined textural plants—such as agave, totem poles, Mexican fence post cacti and toothless desert spoon—and then integrated colors to contrast with those experiences,” she says.

The pathways are made of stabilized granite in place of loose gravel to simulate walking on a hiking trail. “There are no dead ends in this yard,” Winters insists. “You can move anywhere in a million different ways—and there’s something around every corner.”

The designer applied a similar treatment—sans the footpaths—to the front yard, taking it from flat and open to layered and private using a palette of native plants and trees. “The charge was to create an experience that the couple could enjoy from outside in and inside out,” Winters notes. “Everything has a view and a purpose. We were able to achieve that because they were kind enough to invite us into their home. That way, we could see every vantage point, sit in every chair and observe the views as they see them.”

Interior designer Alexis King used a palette of neutral colors with pops of crimson—Rochelle’s favorite hue—to furnish the exterior spaces. “I wanted to create a luxe, modern organic feel that would sit well within the beautiful natural landscaping,” she states. “Gunmetal grays and lighter shades all work well together without overpowering the landscape design, and the red adds a bit of sophisticated whimsy.”

On milder days, the couple’s six grandchildren enjoy loping through the winding pathways, climbing on the boulders and playing hide-and-seek while reveling in the fresh air, sunshine and chorus of chirping birds.

At night, the Bochners saunter outside, wine glasses in hand, guided by soft illumination resembling the glow of a full moon. “You can walk without a flashlight and feel as though you are on a moonlit stroll,” Rochelle says of Winters’ masterful lighting design. “It’s magical.”

1. Sheer-descent cascade waterfalls and raised beds are focal points for the pool. 2. The pizza oven incorporates the same stone accents as the walls and allows workspace for firing pies. 3. A Cosanti rain chain captures the light in the backyard. 4. In the private garden off the master bath, star jasmine (Trachelospermum jasminoides) radiates sweet fragrance during relaxing soaks in the outdoor shower. “All finishes and surroundings are organic and give the feeling of being immersed in nature,” Winters says.

Even their black Lab, Boca, enjoys the trail motif. “He’s a little bit of a tenderfoot,” Rochelle jokes. “He does not like the rocks, so if I throw his Frisbee, he will walk the paths to go retrieve it.”

Winters says the project is one of her favorites to date: “Steve and Rochelle just wanted a sanctuary, a respite, a place that is healing and comforting, and they wanted it very natural. And to me, that’s the true honor of a well-done experience, when it replicates nature.”

“They wanted it to feel like a nature walk in the forest— a parklike environment. It’s definitely a space for healing.”

—Donna Winters, landscape architect

1. The Bochners’ pet tortoise, Sunny, is the queen of her personal kingdom. The habitat features a heated burrow, grass meadow, watering basin and steel rebar fence enclosure so she can observe the backyard action. 2. The pool was the hub of the backyard and attracted Rochelle to the property. A custom swing on the covered patio is a favorite spot for guests to rest and enjoy the views. 3. This destination garden, featuring a fire pit, rocking chairs, stone accents and access to the putting green became Steve’s cigar lounge. 4. Blue palo verde and an array of flora frame views of the pool from the walking path. “A lot of landscapers have a formulaic vision of a yard,” Rochelle says. “But Donna has the ability to see space and layers. The paths were important to keep the yard natural-looking and not heavily sculpted.” 5. This private master bath sanctuary has its own spa and fire pit. The boulders and a veil of greenery provide needed privacy.

In addition to hosting larger gatherings—including two weddings and the Phoenix Home & Garden annual Garden Tour—the homeowners enjoy throwing more intimate soirees. “We’re having another pizza party this week,” Rochelle declares, pointing to the aforementioned wood-fired oven. “And next, we want to do a tequila tasting in the bar.”

The only thing more coveted than the yard itself? An invite. “Neighbors always walk by and ask if they can sneak a peek,” says Rochelle, who is often happy to oblige. “And why wouldn’t they? It’s like manna from heaven back here.”

Interior designer: Alexis King, Alexis King Interiors, Los Gatos, Calif., Landscape architect: Donna Winters, Enchanted Garden Landscapes Inc., Phoenix, Outdoor furnishings: and CC Patio, Scottsdale, Pavilion builder: Craig Hazeltine, Heritage Master Builders, Scottsdale, (480) 946-9746. Fencing: Southwest Steel Sales, Phoenix,


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