Resort at home

Magical ideas from a Phoenix garden
Kim Nelson

Relaxation is easy when your garden has all the ambience of a desert resort. As the last rays of sunlight play across Camelback Mountain in the distance, Earl and Sandy Jarred of Phoenix light a fire on the patio, then recline on comfortable cushions. Lights glow in the planting bed, illuminating brushlike desert spoons and brilliant bougainvilleas. Music wafts from speakers concealed in manmade boulders throughout the garden; its sound blends with the gentle rush of water spilling from a wall fountain into the pool. Bold yet simple, the Jarreds' garden sets the stage for a vacation at home. But like any remodel, getting their landscape to this point took vision.

After they remodeled their home, the Jarreds needed a contemporary garden to match. Their property, perched on a former golf course at the edge of Phoenix's historic Royal Palms resort, had a swimming pool that was showing signs of age, a back lawn that sloped awkwardly, and a neighboring RV garage that intruded on the dramatic view.

To create sleek new areas for outdoor living, the Jarreds contacted landscape architect Michael Dollin and landscape designer Sunni Jackson of Urban Earth Design. Working with contractor Paul Stark, Dollin and Jackson leveled the lawn area and replaced the pool with a clean-lined lap pool. A low wall separates the pool from the lawn and doubles as a recirculating fountain.

Along one side of the pool, fast-growing Indian rosewood trees (Dalbergia sissoo) screen the garage. And a mix of vibrant, heat-loving plants ― including 'Barbara Karst' bougainvillea, desert spoon (Dasylirion wheeleri), emu bush (Eremophila maculata), Mexican grass tree (Dasylirion longissima), penstemon, and rosemary ― embellishes the gentle slope adjacent to the lawn. Two tall palms anchor the plantings and create tropical silhouettes against the Arizona sky.

The dramatic lighting, bold furnishings, and sleek gas fireplace complete the picture-perfect space.

DESIGN: Michael Dollin and Sunni Jackson, Urban Earth Design, Phoenix (602/285-0214)

CONSTRUCTION: Paul Stark, P. Stark Builders, Scottsdale, AZ (602/956-5597)

Resort style

Although the Jarreds' garden has a distinctive desert look and uses a palette of heat-loving plants, it's filled with ideas that can be incorporated into any garden in the West.

Exterior design: Cathy Stark, C. Stark Design, Scottsdale (480/563-9336); and Carol Irvin, Ann Carol Interiors, West Hills, CA (818/347-4644).

Wall fountain. A low wall between the pool and the lawn serves as both a "room divider" and a dramatic focal point day and night. On its pool side, the wall is faced with Mexican glass tiles in two shades of blue. The tiles are arranged in a wave motif, echoing the contours of the distant mountains. Water spills in glassy sheets over the copper-topped wall, as well as from three keyhole notches along its façade. At night recessed lights reflect in the pool's still waters.

Graphic paving. Black and maroon Mexican beach pebbles, set in mortar in a mosaic pattern, create the illusion of a handwoven rug beside the pool. The Ancient Stone concrete tiles that surround them are cooler underfoot than other types of concrete.

Clean-lined built-ins. The contemporary fireplace and seat wall are covered in travertine; its sandy hue blends well with pavings, walls, and the nearby planting bed's decomposed granite.

Outdoor accessories. In the evening, candles in glass vases on the hearth add to the garden's festive mood.