Landscape designer Chad Roberts adds his own brand of magic to a house in Arizona with gardens of varying heights. Using native plants he capitalises on the stunning natural beauty of the region.
Landscaping in the desert is always challenging but Arizona-based landscape architect Chad Roberts has the experience and enterprise to literally work green magic. With a Bachelor of Science degree in Landscape Architecture, Chad Roberts founded his own firm ‘Exteriors by Chad Roberts’ which brings to life both private and public gardens in the region.
A private client in the town of Paradise Valley, Arizona commissioned Exteriors CR to design their 1.7 acre lot. With spectacular views of Camelback Mountain, the house and property had natural beauty in abundance.
The client, an avid traveller and art collector wanted to incorporate some of her extensive collections into the landscape scheme. Roberts’ solution to this brief was to design a series of gardens inspired by the owner’s collections. The mountain-view and the Arizonian sunsets also added to the inspiration.
Roberts started ‘with a concept plan which outlined and defined these spaces while still maximising the excellent views.’ The team used specific regions like the Cinque Terra (the rugged coastline in Italy’s Liguria region), Italian villa and the Andalusian courtyard as references.
“The style of the garden reflects our Spanish history in Arizona and also compliments the style of the structure of the house,” says Roberts.
To create the “collection of gardens”, several smaller individual gardens were designed. The moonlight garden used blue and silver plants to reflect the moonlight; the butterfly and hummingbird gardens used plantings specifically to attract these creatures. “Each space is unique in feeling and style, yet they seem to merge effortlessly with each other and create a cohesive composition,” he adds.
The gardens were made a little more personal by using some of the owner’s collections directly into the landscaping. The entry fountain, for example, was turned into a focal point using a large collection of glass rocks. The ice-blue, turquoise and other multi-coloured rocks bring a startling coolness to the otherwise Spanish-influenced garden with its trailing flowers and birds-of-paradise plants.
The team also took care to select boulders to use in the project that matched the view of Camelback Mountain. “The colour needed to be a near perfect match to the distant mountains to help “connect” the mountain to the garden,” says Roberts.
For the garden, Roberts designed Travertine pathways; apart from that he sprinkled throughout the property, hand-carved Cantera stone pots (the stone is quarried in Mexico and Central America), fireplaces, stucco finishes and several fountains.
For one such fountain, Roberts repurposed antique floor tiles to form an eye-catching colourful backdrop for five gushing spouts. Retention basins in the rear and front of the house (required by local code to hold large volumes of rainwater) were camouflaged so that they fit in seamlessly with the landscape.
The swimming pool was also designed to be a focal point and “create calmness in the garden”; with its infinity edge it becomes a perfect mirror to reflect the mountains. Boulders were set into the pool to highlight that connection.
Throughout his projects, Roberts chooses to use native plants that need little or moderate use of water. Plants are used as sculptural accents or focal points as well. Tall, dramatic trees like palms (Phoenix dactylifera ‘Medjool’) and citrus trees are planted strategically around the gardens.
Plants were also chosen for their colour, in order to blend them in with the desert landscape – in this case more green and yellow ones are on display. A profusion of flowering plants like Caesalpinia Mexicana (Mexican Bird of Paradise), Canna ‘Tropicana’ and the dramatic Pedilanthus macrocarpus (Lady’s slipper) dot the gardens. Light brown stones and pebbles around the plants add to the design.
With an orangery, a Tuscan terrace and a tropical grotto, this landscape design manages to use every inch of garden space to make the most of the spectacular desert landscape and the clear Arizonian blue skies.
Text By Chryselle D’Silva Dias
Photographs Courtesy Michael Woodall