Four Landscape Projects That Prove We Live in Paradise

Landscape projects we love.

By Ilene Denton April 2, 2014

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David Young, landscape architect, DWY Landscaping Architects

THE PROJECT: Modernizing the back-yard pool area of a residence in Harbor Acres to complement the home's open, clean, light-filled interior.

THE CHALLENGE: "The pool was this weird, amorphous shape with brick edging; kind of clunky and without good form," says Young. "This is an active young family, but the owners didn't go out there as much as they thought they would." The designer ripped everything out except the existing covered pavilion and started fresh.

THE PROGRAM: Young installed three central elements—a 48-foot-long lap pool, a nine-foot shallow lounge area with five inches of water in it, and a 10-foot concrete pad. He surrounded them with 24-inch pre-cast concrete shell pavers and added a pool cage two stories tall so that it's up and out of view.

THE FOLIAGE: Young selected a simple plant palette of bromeliads, mondo grass and irises. "We treated it in a very organized way," he says, "with some heliconia behind the long fountain wall for color—they'll push on up to 14 feet—and a line of bamboo behind the pool cage to screen the adjacent property."

THE BIG SPLASH: "There's a lot of stuff packed into this little back yard, and the owners use all of it," says Young. The pool was designed for volleyball and basketball nets. A small yoga pad at one end is used as a contemplation space. There's a 52-inch flat-screen TV outdoors under the pavilion, and a grill on the other side of it.

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Timothy J. Borden, ASLA, landscape architect, Borden Landscape Architecture

THE PROJECT: A brand-new home with a half-acre on the water on an oak-canopied Siesta Key street.

THE CONCEPT: The British West Indies-inspired home, with its tabby shell courtyard wall, lends itself to a tropical feel. "The homeowners love color, so I chose lots of flowering plants like gingers, costus, heliconias and dwarf variegated primrose; it has small purple and white flowers that bloom throughout the year," says Borden. A variegated ponytail palm in the courtyard and gold sedum—a brilliant lime green succulent groundcover—add more color. He also planted purple fire spike for its "fantastic six-inch plume in pinkish purple."

THE BIG PLAY: The owners are a young family with two children, and they wanted to provide space for them to play—hence the large grass lawn and long driveway. "One son skateboards a lot," says Borden. "When I proposed the grass strips [in the driveway], I was concerned whether he would he be able to get to the street, but he learned to jump them."

FUTURE GROWTH: Dark purple bougainvillea planted in the columns between the garage bays eventually will grow up to the overhang off the master suite. And a 16-foot royal Poinciana in the front yard will fill out and provide shade in a year or two. "That was an absolutely requirement of mine," says Borden. "It's statuesque, and I wanted it to speak on its own without any fluff around it."

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Joe Mantkowski, designer and LEED Green Associate, ArtisTree Landscape Maintenance & Design

THE PROJECT: A corner lot in The Oaks Bayside. The owners had completed a major interior remodeling and wanted to update their landscaping to complement it.

THE CONCEPT: "The homeowners loved the enormous shade trees in this quiet neighborhood and wanted to incorporate that lush, soft effect into their back yard," says Mantkowski. After expanding the pool deck, he chose fragrant Confederate jasmine for the pergola columns and slow-growing Sandankwa viburnum around the perimeter of the pool so that views of the lovely rear yard would not be obstructed. Silver European fan palms, foxtail ferns and black beach pebble filled the pool deck planting areas. "The pool area literally looks like it's been draped in greenery," he says.

THE WOW FACTOR: What looks like a twig tower adjacent to the spa is really a steel fire torch the owner purchased overseas. When lit, "It catches fire six feet tall," says Mantkowski.

THE REACTION: "It was mind-blowing to see the aesthetic transformation on the pool deck from stamped concrete to ledgestone and Indiana limestone," says Mantkowski.

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Michael Gilkey and Gavin Cain, landscape architects, Michael A. Gilkey, Inc.

THE PROJECT: A remodeled canal-front home on Siesta Key's Jungle Plum Road, owned by a young professional couple.

FIRST IMPRESSION: At the front entry, a colonnade of feathery Veitchia palms creates a canopy over the ipe wood deck. "The owners wanted a Balinese-inspired property, so we took up the pebblecrete driveway and created what seems like a river of mondo grass under this beautiful wood deck," says Gilkey. "In Bali, we'd be walking over water [to reach the front door]. Here, because of the [existing] live oaks, it didn't make sense to have a koi pond." Instead, a blue ceramic fountain provides pleasant white noise.

REAR VIEW: In the back yard, to give the homeowners privacy but retain their long views down the canal, the landscape architects raised the grade to match the pool deck, then created a boulder revetment and garden that meanders along the seawall.

THE HUNT: "The homeowner collected palms that nobody else had—lipstick palms, lacula palms, Thai gold coconut palms—but that hard freeze three or four years ago killed every one," says Gilkey. "We replaced them with more appropriate, yet still unusual, tropical palms: a petticoat palm, an old man palm with big scraggly hairs going down the side of it. In the back yard we planted oil palms that will eventually get to 30 or 40 feet. From the water they give scale to the house."

THE HEAT Instead of traditional landscape lighting, a fire pit and 10 tiki torches were installed in the back yard. "The fire gives you great ambient light—a beautiful, warm glow—that you can't do with traditional landscape lighting," says Gilkey.

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This article appears in the April 2014 issue of Sarasota Magazine. Like what you read? Click here to subscribe. >>