Take a surprising journey though this lush private garden tucked into the corner of Coral Gables, Florida.
Lush Private Garden
Dana and Quentin Nason bought a 1929 Coral Gables house in the "Old Spanish" style characterized by clay tile roofs, stucco facades, and other Mediterranean features. Though both it and the accompanying garden needed work, potential oozed from every wall and leaf. Dana recalls, "Our wish list included an oasis-like pool, lots of color, great views from all over, spaces for privacy, and a lush, tropical feel." To realize their vision, they called on the Palm Beach landscape architecture firm of Sanchez & Maddux . The result is an amazingly peaceful and verdant garden that makes the surrounding neighborhood seem very far away. Let's examine its elements.
This garden reads like a mystery novel. Peer through the open gate at the coral stone path that leads from the parking area behind the house, and you are hooked. You must discover what surprises lie beyond. The fact that you can't see everything from this one spot or any other is intentional. "There's nothing more boring than entering a house or garden and seeing it all," states Jorge Sanchez. "We like to make you walk from one space to another. If something catches your eye and tempts you a little bit, it stimulates your interest."
If lawns aren't feeling the love these days, don't blame Jorge. In his opinion, this spacious central lawn is the key to the entire garden. "The lawn is the interior frame that makes the space," he explains. "That green void really gives character and dimension to the plantings and the structures around it." Additionally, fine-bladed grass proves the perfect foil for the gigantic leaves of elephant's ears at its edge.
Attention to detail integrates this pool with the overall landscape. Soft, cool grass runs right up to the water's edge, creating a more natural environment than harsh concrete would. Tiles on the pool's floor color the water a deep blue. A trio of coral stone fountains topped with variegated false agaves adds color, texture, and the sound of splashing water. A planter on the far end adds a focal point. On each corner, coconut palms leaning out over the water give the Nasons their oasis.
Dana loved the idea of an outdoor room where the garden and the house come together. Residential designer Rafael Portuondo worked with Sanchez & Maddux to add a new loggia to the back of the house with views into the garden from three sides. “The loggia is our favorite room, and we spend more time there than anywhere else,” says Dana. “It feels completely private, like our own small luxury hotel."
The Parterre Garden
Geometric planting beds (parterres) in the front yard showcase annuals, perennials, and evergreen shrubs. A gorgeous purple-flowering bougainvillea vine is trained against the home's front wall. The formality out front contrasts strikingly with the flowing beds in back. This is a garden with two distinct faces.
Framed by palms and elephant's ears, this shell-studded birdbath nestled into a bed of caladiums serves as a focal point.
Driveways nearly always consist of utilitarian carpets of blinding-white concrete, but doing that would have been a crime in this yard. Instead, two tracks of cut stone were placed on the diagonal between straight courses of stone that were run from the street to the porte cochere and the parking area in back. Soft, green grass grows between the stones, reducing heat and glare. Fully functional and also beautiful, it creates a grand approach.
Tips from the Pros: Sanchez & Maddux
From left: Brian Vertesch, Jorge Sanchez, and Phil Maddux