The Eclectic Garden
AN ORDINARY LANDSCAPE BECOMES EXTRAORDINARY WITH THOUGHTFULLY DESIGNED PLANTING SPACES
Kim and Chris McWaters love Arizona’s boundless opportunities for enjoying the great outdoors, so when they first visited a Whisper Rock Estates home in north Scottsdale, they were drawn to the area’s natural desert terrain and mature stands of stately saguaros. The large property offered open space to walk and explore, and the home featured multiple outdoor living areas showcasing an eclectic blend of Southwestern, Mediterranean and European design elements.
After purchasing the home, however, the couple discovered that accessing some spots around the property could be awkward. Existing fencing lacked gates to the natural domains, while several hardscape elements were inconveniently positioned, such as a large fountain that splashed water in the path of foot traffic. Also, planted sections lacked the visual potential offered by the Southwest’s unique plant palette. Thus, the homeowners asked landscape designer Mark Wdowiak of Desert Foothills Landscape to enhance the appearance of the grounds, as well as
their ability to interact with it.
“The McWaters wanted to spend time enjoying their surroundings, so we created natural passages around and through existing boulder outcroppings and dry stream beds,” Wdowiak explains. Adding gates allowed guests to meander in different directions to discover “hidden
treasures,” such as veined white quartz that appears on the site.
“Kim and I really enjoy the home’s seating areas in different sun exposures, because we can be outdoors any time of day and be protected from harsh sunlight,” comments Chris. One cozy nook—tucked between two wings of the home—looks upon a steep, rock-strewn hill. Seated in comfy chairs looking up-slope, the couple is treated to views of birds and other creatures on “Rattler Ridge,” their name for the highest point in the Whisper Rock development.
Although this secluded spot offers great bird watching, the slope’s plant material was sparse until Wdowiak transformed the space into a botanical work of art. “I chose to utilize all of the existing rock, incorporating it into a cohesive arrangement by strategically adding boulders and
numerous specimen cacti and succulents,” he remarks. “The goal was to create a sense of depth with different plant shapes, structures, textures and colors, ultimately drawing the eye up the slope.”
Wdowiak chose species that would tolerate the relatively narrow space’s three different sun exposures and survive winter cold snaps. He added Argentine giant, golden barrel, organ pipe and saguaro cacti, as well as agave, blue euphorbia, desert spoon, ocotillo and yucca. The owners also positioned two sculptures from their previous home on the slope.
Wdowiak performed equally artistic makeovers on planter beds lining the courtyard and near the Spanish Colonial entry gates. The exposures are difficult here as well, explains the designer, so using cacti and succulents that display year-round color eliminates the need for flowering plants that may struggle in that locale.
“Mark values collaboration, so we were involved as the project evolved,” comments Chris. “He has great communication with his crew, and we experienced no headaches with this renovation. In fact, I tell friends that I was happy to write him a check.”