Natural stone formations adorn this garden

Ancient obelisks on a South Pacific island? Olmec monoliths in the Mexican jungle? No, just an ingenious solution to a storm-damage problem in Paradise Valley, Arizona.

When a large palo verde tree in Madge Kunkel’s backyard was severely injured in a summer storm, she had to have the tree removed. That left an unsightly 200-square-foot gap in the landscape. She sought guidance from designer Steve Sternke; he suggested that, instead of replanting, they treat the space as a sculpture garden, using natural stones rather than manmade art. Before arranging the pieces of Hass granite, Sternke dug foundation holes deep enough to bury about a third of their length, leaving up to 7 feet aboveground. After the stones were hauled into place by a heavy-duty hand truck, “we still had a lot of tweaking to do so the most attractive planes were exposed,” he says.

Coarse decomposed granite covers the ground around the stones, and clumps of white-flowered bush morning glory (Convolvulus cneorum) add soft contrast.

DESIGN: Steve Sternke, Magic Gardens, Phoenix (602/279-1207)

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