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For The Garden

A Royal-Hued Ranch

Author: Lori A. Johnson
Issue: July, 2017, Page 32
Photos by Art Holeman

Shaded by a giant mesquite in the backyard, a recessed “secret garden”, created especially for Susan and Vern Goodmans’ grand-children, features elements from favorite children’s storybooks.
In Wickenburg, a colorful landscape charms children and adults alike

At first glance, Susan and Vern Goodman’s Wickenburg horse property, complete with barns, roping arena and a dozen head of steer, is exactly what passersby would expect to find on a remote desert road in this small town an hour northwest of Phoenix. But lavender prickly pear murals gracing the outer courtyard walls and niches filled with charming decorative elements that change with the seasons suggest that this is no ordinary ranch.

Susan tends to one of the several varieties of pink roses that bloom in her yard.
A Storybook Setting
Inside the property’s courtyards are visual delights around every corner. Susan’s passion for purple in all its shades and nuances dominates the many gardens that surround the house, as seen in the variety of flowering plants that line the patios, the colorful garden accessories and the vibrant furnishings that play host to family gatherings. Not to be left out, the couple’s grandchildren have their own space to play: a whimsical backyard storybook garden, complete with all the accoutrements for hosting tiny tea parties of their own.

The Goodmans purchased the property in 1996 as a winter retreat from their primary Utah home. In 2005 they retired to the desert permanently. “We are both native Arizonans, and coming back after our children left home was exciting for us,” Susan recalls.

The first order of business was a remodeling project that reserved plenty of space for expanded gardens. The south patio—the largest today and the setting for much of the couple’s entertaining—was originally located at the front of the house. Vern and Susan created an east-facing entry and added a front courtyard that welcomes guests and includes an indoor/outdoor fireplace tiled in Susan’s beloved purple hue.

Bouquets of fresh flowers cut from the garden serve as centerpieces for entertaining on the main patio. The furnishings were purchased used and painted purple to match.
During the remodeling process, the Goodmans learned they were about to become grandparents, and Susan’s idea for incorporating a children’s play area was born. She envisioned the large mesquite tree that was growing behind the house as the centerpiece of the space, so the couple sacrificed an enlarged master bedroom in order to keep the tree. They dug a recessed space beneath it for an expanded play area and to enhance Susan’s storybook theme. “I love children’s literature, so the classic book, ‘The Secret Garden’ by Frances Hodgson Burnett was what I wanted to base the design on,” she says. When the grandchildren visit, there are plenty of activities to keep them entertained. “We try to always read together in the garden when they are here, between tea parties,” Susan adds.

The plants Susan selected appeal to the children’s sense of adventure and fun. There is pink fairy duster, wooly butterfly bush and ‘Tiny Tangerine’ bulbine. “I love the garden to be fragrant, so I also chose plants that smell pretty, such as chaparral sage, lavender, rosemary and star jasmine,” she says.

Characters from the classic story “Charlotte’s Web” guard a custom-made spiderweb-shaped gate in the backyard.
Pretty in Purple
The regal hue figures prominently throughout the property. “I love the color purple because of my favorite plant, lavender,” Susan explains. Several varieties of the fragrant herb are found in a corner of the front courtyard. In early spring, a Texas mountain laurel tree provides its own burst of amethyst blooms, along with an enticing grape aroma that infuses the air. Potted plants and garden accessories contribute to the color story, including a few rare Talavera pots. While mauve is one of only six shades permitted for use in authentic Talavera, it is difficult to find.

Violet furnishings reign on the large south patio. Most are repurposed vintage pieces that were handed down from Susan’s mother and mother-in-law. The fireplace in the front courtyard was Vern’s idea. “I have always loved Mexican tile, so we special-ordered the purple tile to fit the theme. We can set up a table out there in winter and eat by the fire under the stars,” Susan says. To complete the space’s colorful furnishings, there is even a tiny matching bistro set in a fairy garden near the entryway—another nod to the grandchildren.

In the front courtyard, vintage chairs painted pink complement the indoor/outdoor fireplace, which is faced with special-ordered purple Mexican tile.
The multiple courtyards and gardens are separated by a variety of gates, including one with a flower motif that opens to the children’s garden and another playfully forged in the shape of a spiderweb at the back of the space, an homage to the story, “Charlotte’s Web.”

Friends and Family
While Susan cherishes sharing time outdoors with her grandchildren, she also makes use of the space for entertaining her friends as well. “I have tea parties for my ladies’ club with themes like ‘Bonnets & Butterflies.’ We all wore sun hats, and I had my welder friend make 30 butterflies out of horseshoes as yard art. We sold them and donated the profits to women in need,” Susan says. “We also did a ‘Books & Bonnets’ theme and sold books to benefit the same cause.”

Gardening in the desert is an ever-evolving project, and Susan takes each step in stride. “I enjoying spending time in the garden when I’m not on my horse,” she says. “I just love being out there.”

A metal serving stand, complete with tea service, is always ready for impromptu children’s tea parties. Framed passages from some of Susan’s favorite storybooks hang from the mesquite branches.

Lush plantings in the front courtyard beckon visitors to explore. A purple floral wreath and multiple varieties of amethyst-hued flowers hint at what’s to come.

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