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For The Garden

Living Lush

Author: Rebecca L. Rhoades
Issue: April, 2017, Page 86
Photos by Garrett Cook

An intimate nook outside the master bedroom opens to a romantic garden setting with a checkerboard design of pavers and faux turf. Landscape designer Peggy De La Garza framed the scene with colorful annuals, variegated flax and blue plumbago.
Native Plants and Luxuriant Blooms Transform a Stunning North Scottsdale House Into a Warm, Inviting Home

A beautifully designed house is every homeowner’s dream. After all, who doesn’t love to spend time lounging in a sumptuous and serene bedroom or cooking in a luxuriously appointed gourmet kitchen? But when it comes to houses in Arizona, the outdoor spaces are just as important—perhaps even more so, due to our region’s temperate weather almost year-round—as the ones indoors.

De La Garza added elevations and boulders to the transition area between the street and motor court. Native plants and cacti draw the eye toward the home’s entrance.
That’s why, after building a show-stopping Spanish Revival-style abode in North Scottsdale’s Desert Highlands community, one couple wasn’t satisfied until the landscape matched all of their requests, as well.

“I wanted something different from my homes in Colorado and Chicago,” says the wife of her desire for a warm, inviting residence with graceful arches, stucco walls, ornamental ironwork and ornate, colorful tile details. Architect Scott Giesen brought that vision to life. However, the wife adds, “I also wanted a garden that was a combination of elegant desert plants, ample vines and colorful perennials, but no one would give that to me.”

After living for one year with a finished landscape that, while nice, didn’t reflect her wishes, the wife decided it was time for a change. During the two-year-long building process, she and her husband had rented a house in Desert Highlands, so she was very familiar with the distinct styles of the area’s luxury landscape designers. “The best landscaping in the neighborhood was by Peggy
De La Garza,” she notes. “There’s a lushness about her properties. I’m very much a visual person, and her work just met all of my expectations.”

A large organ pipe cactus adds dimension to a planting bed, while a pair of potted Yucca elatas makes a bold statement next to the rustic wood and iron gates. Tangerine beauty crossvine and lantana soften the space and add pops of brilliant color.
Because the hardscape was already complete, De La Garza, a Phoenix Home & Garden Masters of the Southwest award winner, was able to concentrate on bringing in an array of native plants for a natural desert feel and flowers, vines and shrubs for a luxuriant garden sensation. In the transition space between the street and the home’s perimeter wall, as well as in the beds that run alongside the walkway that leads to the courtyard doors, she created elevations and brought in boulders for interest that goes beyond the greenery. “Nothing stayed the same between the street and the walls except for one ironwood tree,” she notes. “We recontoured everything.” She added a variety of cacti and native plants, such as yuccas, organ pipes, a giant saguaro and golden barrels, for graphic dimension. “Whether you’re driving past the house or walking up to the courtyard doors, the landscaping sets everything up perfectly,” says Giesen.

A large plant bed wraps around the front of the guest casita and along the entry path to the courtyard. Plants in a variety of shapes and heights add visual interest, including tall yuccas and organ pipe and totem pope cacti; spiky agaves; and spherical golden barrels, Moroccan mounds (Euphorbia resinifera) and lantanas.
But it’s what is beyond the rustic wood gates and in the backyard that allows the property to really shine. Guests enter into a secluded courtyard that exudes all of the charm of an authentic Spanish estate. “The house was always going to have a courtyard,” notes the wife. “My favorite home designs of all time always revolved around a courtyard. I love the intimacy of it, and I love being able to entertain in it.” Classic elements fill the space, including a quatrefoil-shaped fountain, expansive double-sided fireplace, arches dripping with verdant tangerine beauty crossvine and a tile-covered stairway alongside which are stepped ledges that hold custom-designed color-coordinated flower pots.

During the spring, the homeowners enjoy entertaining guests and throwing dinner parties in the courtyard. “In March, the arches are covered in these gorgeous orange blooms. I have to give my parties then so everyone can see them,” the wife notes with a laugh.

“If you look at authentic Mediterranean architecture, you’ll see that the stepped ledge for planters is one of its classic details,” says architect Scott Giesen. The homeowner had the pots custom-made to fit. The tiled stairs that lead to a deck above the casita, a potted yucca cane, tangerine beauty crossvines and iceberg roses add to the courtyard’s Spanish feel.
The main house wraps around the open quadrangle on the east, while a guest casita anchors its western corner. A covered breezeway connects the two spaces. “The breezeway serves a dual purpose,” explains Giesen. “It’s a great covered entry into the courtyard, but it’s also a great way to get from the main house to the guest house without having to walk in the elements.” A custom wood door leads to an intimate seating area hidden behind the tall tiled fireplace. “If somebody is staying in the guesthouse, they can get out there and enjoy the outdoors without having to be with me all day. And they don’t have to walk through the house to get there,” says the wife. An upper-level deck on the casita offers views of the Valley’s lights, while the distinctive shape of nearby Pinnacle Peak can still be seen from the ground.

In the courtyard, Giesen included a water fountain and a large, double-sided fireplace, which De La Garza accented with totem pole cacti. The tall chimney echoes the towering silhouette of nearby Pinnacle Peak.
The narrow backyard runs along the southeast side of the home and is divided into multiple zones: a covered living room complete with a fireplace and TV, a spa, a romantic garden setting distinguished by a checkerboard motif of pavers and artificial turf, an intimate covered nook off the master bedroom and a food garden with raised beds. From inside, glass walls on each side of the great room provide full views of both the courtyard and the covered living space.

The centerpiece of the yard is the quatrefoil-shaped spa that mimics the shape of the courtyard fountain. “I didn’t want a pool,” says the wife. “If we want to swim, we can go to the clubhouse. Plus, I didn’t want the upkeep.” To its north, the artificial turf also offers easy maintenance. The plot is simply furnished with a pair of wood park benches, on which the husband likes to sit while talking on his phone. A shallow stone trough filled with succulents creates a subdued and ever-changing focal point that leads the eye out to views of the McDowell Mountains to the east.

A custom wood door leads to a private sitting area behind the fireplace. “I wanted to include a little sofa and table, so if guests are staying in the casita, they can go out there and get away,” says the homeowner.
The original landscape architect flanked the setting with white iceberg roses. De La Garza accented the classic blooms with massings of annuals, blue plumbago and variegated flax. During the winter months, she lines the space with geraniums, a favorite of the wife. She also planted two mastic trees, which add privacy without blocking the views.

“I try to create what is called a lush desert,” says De La Garza. “I like to have splashes of color here and there.” It’s a style that fits the homeowners to a T. “I love sitting outside my bedroom and looking out at the garden,” says the wife. “I can see all of the yard and the colors against the trees and desert. There’s always something to look at with Peggy’s designs.”

Giesen agrees. “This was an awesome house when it was completed, but now it’s really come together. The landscape has become part of the home.”

Two raised herb and vegetable beds, surrounded by citrus trees, are tucked away at the southern end of the backyard. Beneath a window, kaffir limes bushes climb a trellis. The leaves of the plant are a common ingredient in Thai dishes.

The great room opens to a comfortable outdoor living space, which the homeowners use for dining and entertaining. To accent the room, De La Garza incorporated a selection of potted plants that thrive in the shade, including a tall multiarmed euphorbia, mixed succulents and a bushy pencil cactus.
“Every house needs a water feature,” says Giesen of the spa. “It’s good feng shui.” Blue ceramic tiles inside the spa play off the home’s Spanish Revival-style architecture, while long rough-cut stone tiles placed vertically on its exterior offer subtle contrast to the expanse of Chicago brick pavers.

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