Sunday, May 10

Progress on the West Courtyard

Here is the courtyard on the west side of the house.  It is accessed through the French doors in the Dining Room, and also from the Arizona Room. The previous owners had made a sweet little fountain corner where the deck drops off, shown here:


Despite Ken’s shrewd and legendary negotiation skills, we could not convince the sellers to see the value of leaving the fountain for us!

Inspired anyway, we went fountain shopping even before the closing on the house. Then, BONUS! Ken’s family pitched in to give us this great new corner fountain as a housewarming gift! Then our friend Carl moved back to Oregon and donated quite a few tubs of plants from his condo terrace.

This is what our west courtyard has looked like for about a year:


Charming, eh?  I didn’t think so either.  Then, one morning about 6 weeks ago, looking out the kitchen window at this view while washing dishes, I said, “Enough! We have this potentially great space that could be a real outdoor room that we could use everyday and it’s been completely dormant since we bought this house a year ago. Let’s make this project a higher priority and get to work on it!”

We’d already gotten a good, albeit piecemeal, start on it, but we were ready to give it our full attention until it was done.

Last Spring, we removed (bucket by bucket) all the hundreds of little stones -- the last owners’ aesthetic preference. Why did we do this, I mean stones do really well in the desert heat!  Because, well, we’re crazy gardeners from climes afar and we feel you can never have too much area available for plants, right!?

Also, last summer, Ken re-laid the flagstone path that leads off the deck and around the Arizona Room to the backyard. It had been laid directly on the dirt and the flagstone kept breaking when you walked on it.  So he brought in some sand for a nice soft foundation and refurbished the whole path – nice!! Also, in the fall, we had a large dead sycamore tree removed that was right in the middle of the courtyard.

And a couple of months ago, we had some yummy ambience lighting installed a that I posted about here.


We knew the deck needed re-finishing, so we finished that job a few weeks ago, which you can read about in this post. The Arizona sun had a field day with that maroon paint job the previous owners had done:


We sanded off the remnants of the paint (7 hours!) and then applied a timber oil stain:


Talking with our friend Marla Ruane, artistic Landscape Designer extraordinaire, she suggested covering the two walls on either side of the fountain with some artful metal trellises which she would design.


She also suggested painting the wall a brilliant deep indigo blue, similar to what she did here for a client of hers in this photo. While we weren’t up for the blue, (it IS gorgeous, isn’t it!), we DID like the idea of painting the wall and also the idea of the trellises. So we tried a few colors in the terra cotta family:


The one on the far right won -- Valspar’s “Hubbell House Rio Grande Mud”. What a name! It looks like the stucco wall will use 2 full gallons to do 1 short and 1 long accent wall. Slow going, as the texture of the wall is so deep. I think we’re up to 9 hours.

Next, we brought in some landscaping rocks – glacial rock for the borders and feather rock for the large accent boulders at the base of the tree. And a truckload of planting mix. And some flagstone re-purposed from the original layout. This part went surprisingly fast. Here’s what we have so far:



This Friday is plant shopping day and Marla will be our host and guide! We’ll be bringing home a boatload of plants!


She has suggested Liriope spicata, aka lilyturf, to fill in this bed – we love this idea!  It’s a dark green ornamental grass that is technically a member of the lily family. The blooms look like small purple (or pink) hyacinth. It can be invasive, so I am not totally sold yet, but maybe it acts differently in the desert.

After that will be the trellis installation, and then furnishing the deck – I have been trolling Craig’s List daily for weeks now for a great find!.We’ve had great luck with Craig’s List so far, so I remain optimistic!

Then, we’ll attack the area on the other side of the deck. This morning, Ken gave us a good push towards completion on this area by pruning the dwarf lemon tree, raking, weeding, and hauling in some border rocks and planting mix.

Phew! All in a day’s work for that man! I sooo appreciate him!! And all before noon! Of course, he WAS up at 5:00 AM!

Here are two “Before and During” shots.

Looking south, before:DSC_0067

Looking south, progress pic:DSC_0077

Looking north, before:DSC_0079

Looking north, “during”:DSC_0076

This area is now ready for plants and new irrigation lines! But not today. Time for a margarita, a pizza and a movie rental – Slumdog Millionaire!


  1. Your courtyard looks like a wonderful retreat. I wonder if your "Hubble House Rio Grande Mud" is a reference to Hubble & Hubble Art/Architecture firm. I love their creativity!

  2. What a transformation! Love the west courtyard color and fountain and can picture sitting out there on a cool evening.