Playing plants off painted walls

A colorful walled garden
Nora Burba Trulsson

Phoenix-based landscape designer Debra Burnette loves color and sculptural plants. Clients Rachel and George Klink found they shared these passions after Burnette created a walled garden at their home near the Phoenix Mountains Preserve.

Burnette positioned 7-foot-tall stucco-on-block walls to shield the house front from a crowded neighborhood and a two-story home next door. She covered the walls with rich shades of flat exterior latex paint. Then, in beds at the bases of the walls, she arranged plants chosen for their color and form.

She painted one wall yellow (Sunbury from Frazee Paint & Wallcovering) and used the shadier portion as a backdrop for two succulents, bronze-leafed Kalanchoe orgyalis and bright green Crassula 'Campfire'. Along the sunnier part of this wall, Burnette planted heat-tolerant agaves, bat-faced cuphea, and a Sonoran palo verde (Cercidium praecox) with chartreuse bark.

A patio wall on the side of the house is painted deep purple (Nocturne from Frazee), a tone accented by the white blossoms of Gaura lindheimeri and the yellow flowers of Caesalpinia platyloba, a small tree native to Mexico.

On the opposite side of the house, Burnette heightened a low wall that runs across the end of a swimming pool. She painted the wall red (Chinese Pagoda from Frazee) and used it to show off clumps of deer grass (Muhlenbergia rigens), a perennial that minds its manners in poolside plantings.