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For The Garden

In Good Hands

Author: Linda J. Barkman
Issue: January, 2017, Page 78
Photo by Michael Woodall

Landscape designer Peggy De La Garza added large boulders to this elevated garden area on the west side of the home to create pockets for a variety of vegetation. Included is a magnificent mature saguaro that was transplanted from a planter in the home’s driveway. An ironwood tree and a showy organ pipe cactus play supporting roles. The low block masonry walls help separate the parking area from a courtyard and wash.
North Scottsdale Homeowners Rely on Their Landscape Designer to Take Their Yard From Lackluster to Lush

When undertaking a remodel—
regardless of its scope—many homeowners want to be involved every step of the way. But when San Francisco-based couple Don Scherer and Lee Hanson decided to build an addition to their second home in North Scottsdale and revamp its garden, taking part in every decision was the furthest thing from their minds. In fact, they were off-site and pretty much uninvolved during the duration of the project, Don admits. As it turns out, their trust was completely justified.

Although the existing garden “wasn’t anything special,” Don says they liked the contemporary feel of the house and the large expanses of glass that let in views and natural light. They did, however, want to add an office for Lee on the second floor and brought in builder Randall Crowe to complete the task. “Then we decided to do a little additional work and had him expand the side patio by several feet and add a fire pit,” Don notes. Crowe also created a linear fireplace on the back patio and refreshed the adjacent pool and spa with new tile and coping.

Concurrently, the couple hired landscape designer Peggy De La Garza, whose work elsewhere in the community they had admired, to bring in supplemental plantings that would screen out the view of passing cars on a nearby road and transform the flat, ordinary landscape into a lush garden that would be both low-maintenance and interesting. They liked De La Garza’s ability to create an immediately mature look with exuberant groupings of full-grown and specimen plants, and examples of this are beautifully evident throughout yard.

“One thing led to another, and Peggy just ran with it,” Don says. At the front entry, for example, the designer grouped a tall saguaro spear with a low-growing sago palm, then added yucca cane, bush bougainvillea, African daisy and variegated Agave weberii for balance. She contoured various areas to create elevation changes, spiced up planting beds with sculptural cacti and brought in large boulders for impact. The designer installed riprap and a culvert to redirect water away from the house, which sits low on the land, and built up areas that had eroded. She also installed new lighting and irrigation systems, and layered in striking container plants to patio areas.

De La Garza points out that elevation changes and the precise positioning of boulders are two elements that make this garden so exceptional. “The elevations set the scene, and then you can build around that,” she explains.

One of the biggest challenges was relocating a mature saguaro that was inconveniently growing in the middle of the driveway to a dynamic new planting area that De La Garza created in the nearby yard. “Moving it wasn’t something we had even thought about, but once Peggy suggested it, it made perfect sense,” Don notes. Surrounded by pavers, the multi-armed cactus looked out of place in front of the garage doors. Now it thrives in a setting filled with prickly pear, barrel cacti, an Argentine giant, a mature organ pipe cactus and other desert-adapted plants. The grouping can be seen from directly through the house.

A second mature organ pipe cactus is planted near the front door, and De La Garza considers the pair to be the garden’s defining features. “Either way you look from inside the house—toward the front or the back—you can see these two magnificent organ pipes,” she reports happily.

She also describes the completed yard as a lush desertscape. “It sounds like an oxymoron,” Don says, “but it’s a pretty good characterization.

“We’ve always enjoyed visiting Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix. We never thought we would have anything that was even remotely similar, especially because our yard in San Francisco is so different from it,” he adds. “It was serendipitous that our garden developed the way it did, and everyone who sees it is amazed that it is both beautiful and serene.”

Don notes that he and Lee didn’t go into their remodel with any expectation of having a creative landscaping. “It wasn’t a big deal to us,” he recalls. “We didn’t see it until it was done, but when we talked to our contractor on the phone, he said we were going to be pleasantly surprised. And he was right. When we finally saw it, we were amazed. Peggy is a real artist. She has this natural instinct for what really works.”

Carefully placed boulders add drama to a garden bed at the home’s entry, where a sago palm and yucca cane are sheltered beneath the overhang. Adding visual interest to the grouping with graphic shapes and color are a columnar saguaro spear, bush bougainvillea, African daisy and variegated Agave weberii.

A colorful base of scarlet geraniums and euryops daisies complement a grouping of variegated Yucca gloriosa ascending from an in-ground planter on the back patio.

De La Garza created impact on the east side of the house with a garden area featuring desert plantings in various heights and shades of green. Included are saguaro, cereus, Argentine giant, and Arizona barrel and golden barrel cacti, along with Agave angustifolia, Moroccan mound and blooming lantana. The mature ocotillo and native ironwood tree were existing.

Below and Above: On the west side of the house, a fire pit was added to an expanded patio, creating a peaceful sitting area that offers privacy and views of Pinnacle Peak. Plantings seen from this area include an organ pipe cactus, thornless desert spoon, cholla and a spectacular ocotillo. The patio flooring is cantera stone.

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