“KEEPING IT SIMPLE“
AN ARIZONA GARDEN SHOWS HOW TO BANISH CLUTTER AND CHAOS FROM YOUR LIFE. OR AT LEAST YOUR BACKYARD!
BRIAN KISSINGER HATES CLUTTER
Blame it on growing up in a house full of knickknacks – his parents were antiques dealers. That’s one reason the landscape designer and horticulturist was attracted to the 1960’s modern house in Paradise Valley that he shares with partner Todd McCandless. The home’s clean lines inspired the garden renovations. Kissinger’s mantra: Provide enough detail to make the garden feel like a relaxing retreat, but not an iota more. Less clutter, less stress. Isn’t that what we all crave?
RECLAIM YOUR ENTRY
Every garden needs at least one area where you can shut out the world. Surprisingly, Kissinger’s entry courtyard is that spot. Why it works with its front gates closed (frosted glass panes let in light), the courtyard becomes a private outdoor room. A canopy of date palms shade a small collection of subtropical plants and helps cool the space in summer.
Adapt The Idea – Don’t have a whole courtyard to play with? Block off a corner near your entry with a trellis, train a vine to clamber over it, then tuck a bench behind.
USE A NEUTRAL COLOR PALETTE
The patio floor is unpatterned concrete in pristine white. The chairs and tables, from the 1966 Collection by Richard Schultz (richardschultz.com), are also white.
Why It Works – Neutral colors are restful to look at, and here, they frame views rather than compete with them.
Adapt The Idea – Try pewter-colored furniture with blue-gray cushions on bluestone pavers, or teak with sandy peach fabric on Arizona flagstone.
CREATE AN OASIS
Kissinger’s oasis is a pool with date and Bismarck palms behind.
Why It Works – A place that indulges your senses and feels like an escape can be as relaxing as a spa visit or an island vacation.
Get The Feeling – Find a scenic spot away from the house. Set up a Bali-style teahouse (eastwestteahouse.net), or just sling a hammock.
MAKE A PARK OUT OF A PATH
Kissinger made his entry path feel more like a nature trail rather than a garden walk. Thyme grows between steps; boulders, cactus, and rosemary fringe the path’s edges.
Why It Works – Even before his guests get to the house, wide steps (made of concrete aggregate) encourage them to slow down and enjoy the garden.
Adapt The Idea – If your yard doesn’t have enough sun for thyme, tuck Corsican mint or Japanese sweet flag between your steps or pavers; both have scented foliage. Stagger your pavers to slow the “journey
LIMIT YOUR PLANT SELECTIONS
Give the stars of each bed – such as these barrel cactus – enough room to show off. Then restrict the supporting cast to a few plants that complement them. Stone mulches cover the bare soil, emphasizing the clean, graphic look.
Why It Works – Well-spaced plants, arranged by kind, are more calming than a chaotic jumble of different types. You can appreciate each one’s form more easily.
Adapt The Idea – If cactus won’t be happy where you live, plant a grid of carex, deer grass, or Phormium tenax Jack Spratt’.
ADD OBJECTS WITH MEANING
An Indonesian Buddha’s head is especially symbolic in this garden – Kissinger has taken up Buddhism.
Why It Works – Meaningful treasures remind you to slow down and live in the moment.
Get The Feeling – Tuck favorite finds from your travels or flea-market forays beside rocks or among shrubs.
USE ONE PLANT PER POT
Kissinger set one plant into each white ceramic ‘Cylinder’ container, from Gainey Ceramics (gaineyceramics.com).
Why It Works – A single plant with a bold, sculptural shape is easier on the eye than a mixed planting. And a white pot allows it to shine.
Adapt The Idea – You don’t have to buy large, expensive specimens like Kissinger did – try smaller agaves or ferns instead.