Desert Lot’s Rebirth
A barren Arizona plot is transformed with native plants and vibrant hues
The mission: to landscape a boldly contemporary, Luis Barragán–style home in a way that would complement the natural drama of the surrounding Sonoran desert. The only problem with the plan was that the previous owner had erased almost all evidence of the desert from the Paradise Valley, Arizona, property. The current homeowners wanted the lot to look as it had 20 years ago, when one of them used to hunt for quail there. So they asked landscape architect Steve Martino to bring back the desert.
Martino trucked in dozens of mesquite, palo verde, brittlebush, and other natives and arranged them to create habitats. He also helped the homeowners choose Barragán-style colors for their walls. And he designed two new elevated reflecting pools; the simple concrete boxes are another Barragán tribute.
Design: Steve Martino & Associates , Phoenix (602/957-6150)
Five great ideas from this garden
1. Take full advantage of expansive views. The outdoor dining room is nearly wall-less, providing desert vistas in most directions.
2. Utilize built-in seating, such as the ledge around the reflecting pool. “It minimizes the need for furniture and gives a clean, modern look,” says Martino.
3. Look to real life for color schemes. It’s easier to start with a flower, leaf, or fabric color you admire and find a paint color to match than to start from paint chips, Martino says.
4. Try out bold paint colors. Martino paints big pieces of foam-core board so his clients can see how colors look in sun and shade and at different times of day. “It eliminates most of the scariness,” he says.
5. With a collection of pots (whether empty or planted), use different sizes and shapes, but don’t allow much variation in material or color tones. “That unifies everything,” says Martino.