Seamless garden flow

Turn a sunken courtyard inside out by bringing in a natural landscape

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Seamless garden flowSeamless garden flo

Rough-hewn moss rock accented with woolly thyme and creeping veronica makes this entrance seem like an extension of its surroundings.

D.A. Horchner

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Hilltop Homes provide great view –along with some unique challenges. By the time you’ve tucked a house into one of these rocky sites, there’s often little natural landscape left. So designers must find creative ways to reconnect the steep, denuded slope to its setting.

At this stunning hilltop site in the Tesuque Valley north of Santa Fe, landscape architect Faith Okuma designed a series of stone terraces to gracefully link the upper section of the property with the lower section, which drops down 25 feet in elevation. Rain and irrigation runoff from the upper terrace helps support a small patch of blue grama grass lawn just below it.

In turn, runoff from the lawn percolates down to a sunken courtyard at the lowest level, keeping it cool and moist enough to support aspens and coral bells.

Okuma chose flowering plants to enliven a long walkway that connects a guest parking area with the front door much higher up the slope. The concentrated color holds visitors’ attention until their dramatic arrival at the top of the winding path, which overlooks the Sangre de Cristo Mountains and Tesuque Valley. Typical Santa Fe courtyard plants are used in a looser way so they evoke the landscape around them. “Instead of feeling isolated,” Okuma explains, “the house becomes part of its surroundings.”

Design: Faith Okuma, formerly of Design Workshop, Santa Fe; 505/982-8399



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