A Rocky Setting is Re Imagined as a Luch, Multi-Level Paradise: When Dan and Julie Rohr bought their home in Paradise Valley, Arizona, it had been vacant for more than five years and needed a major overhaul inside and out. “What little landscaping that existed hadn’t been maintained, but we felt that the site held a lot of potential,” states Dan. The couple spent the next two years simultaneously renovating the house and yard, working closely with landscape designer Peggy De La Garza and architect Craig Wickersham.
De La Garza, of Trademark Landscape Inc., recalls her impression upon viewing the property: “It was full of rock piles.” But she, too, recognized the site’s untapped possibilities.
“When Peggy shared her vision for our landscape, I couldn’t help but get excited,” recalls Julie. The end result is a showstopper that captivated visitors on this spring’s Phoenix Home & Garden’s Grand Tour of Gardens.
De La Garza knew that erosion problems on the steep hillside lot had to be addressed. Also, the backyard felt cramped, with a small, awkwardly shaped swimming pool and tiny patch of lawn. “It would have been expensive to remove all that rock,” explains the designer. “Instead, we disassembled the piles of boulders and rocks and repositioned them throughout the landscape as retaining walls or desert washes to direct runoff.” De La Garza’s husband, Lorenzo, came out of retirement to design and implement the extensive rock work, which took months.
“Our backyard is long and narrow, so the varied elevations built into the hillside and the beautiful plants that Peggy incorporated create wonderful depth perception,” comments Julie. Relocating boulders and pushing back retaining walls expanded the yard’s width by 10 feet, allowing space for a new swimming pool, spa and fire feature. Grass was removed to add an expansive kitchen and dining area topped with a lattice-style roof.
In a front-yard setting, “curb appeal” is a term familiar to homebuyers and sellers. As a realtor, Julie extends the concept, discussing the value of a home’s “arrival experience” for homeowners and guests. “During renovation, Craig emphasized the importance of setting the tone when approaching our front door, with the goal of incorporating multiple levels of interest for all the senses.”
To refashion their home’s approach, fencing was removed and narrow steps widened. De La Garza salvaged desert trees for transplant elsewhere in the landscape and added date palms to frame the house. Planters of varied elevations were installed on both sides of the steps and filled with succulents and flowers.
While eyes are captivated by the profusion of plants, the sound of trickling water delights the ear. At the top of the steps, an impressive stone water wall draws visitors toward the front door. “With the desert’s intense heat and all the boulders on our property, hearing water trickling down the wall lends a soothing element,” says Julie.
The careful redesign of the landscape hasn’t gone unnoticed. “Neighbors out for a stroll compliment the improvements, and two guys on bikes stopped to ask if they could be photographed in front of the steps and colorful planters,” recalls Dan. “It’s gratifying to us that the landscape is appreciated and enjoyed.”