Hummingbird House | Paradise Valley USA | Colwell Shelor Landscape Architecture

Image Credit | Bill Timmerman

This landscape jewel in a tiny, previously unused space between curving planes of house walls, once a forgotten space, has become a treasured outdoor room, abound with color, form, texture, art and nature. The garden showcases and celebrates desert morphology and the astoundingly beautiful genus that thrive in the harsh arid environment. The design balances the client’s desire to honor and respect the geometry of the original architecture designed by Will Bruder, whilst creating a contemporary courtyard that provides a place to retreat and relax, but is also viewed from within the residence as a living sculpture.

Image Credit | Bill Timmerman

The Hummingbird House is sited on the declivitous embankment on the north side of Mummy Mountain. The incline along the road features nearly vertical walls of exposed schist. Matching boulders were salvaged , transported to the property and sited to appear to naturally flank the walls to allow for establishment of native trees and shrubs, providing a dense growth for privacy and reduce erosion. The landscape on the perimeter of the property was restored, re-vegetated and enhanced to seamlessly blend into the surrounding flora of Mummy Mountain. After less than a year, native and colorful shrubs and cacti spill onto the driveway, teeming with hummingbirds, quail scurrying across the drive, and rabbits foraging for food.

Image Credit | Allyssa Williams
Image Credit | Allyssa Williams

This colorful, native landscape alongside the entrance drive gives way through open rusted pipe fencing to a more formal landscape in the art-centric courtyard. Here, a spare use of materials creates a modern aesthetic – concrete, rusted steel, sculptural plants and a ground plane of Dichondra. The artfully formed concrete risers unite the previously bifurcated levels of the guest rooms and master bedroom; rusted steel slot planters with simple, yet deliberate plantings slide past one another.

Image Credit | Bill Timmerman
Image Credit | Bill Timmerman

Mayme Kratz’s brilliant resin gabion wall stitches together the courtyard and house wall, providing a magnificent focal point in the garden. The circular concrete tree planter provides equilibrium at the end of the outwardly curving courtyard space. Mature Palo Verde and Ironwood trees, with their twisted branching have been preserved, becoming a powerful backdrop for the gardens and a constant vocabulary throughout the property. The majority of the new plants can thrive on rainwater alone after establishment.

Image Credit | Bill Timmerman
Image Credit | Allyssa Williams

The Dichondra “lawn” requires no mowing, the gardens require no fertilizer, little to no pruning, and conversely provide a rich and lively habitat for a multitude of wildlife. The landscape architect sensibly re-used and relocated plant material to appropriate microclimates throughout the site; species that are more vulnerable to frost have been located in sheltered microclimates near the house or under the protective filtered shade trees. The two gardens, one formal, one natural, are stitched together as the sculptural palette slowly disintegrates into the untamed desert environment. The design expresses a judicious balance of intervention and restoration, of reshaped space, redirected views and ultimately an abundant interplay between flora, light and shadow.

BEFORE | Image Credit A. Draizin

Hummingbird House | Paradise Valley, Arizona, USA | Colwell Shelor Landscape Architecture

Landscape Architect | Colwell Shelor Landscape Architecture

Architect | DeBartolo Architects
Resin Wall Artist | Mayme Kratz
Landscape Contractor | Desert Coyote Landscaping
Steel Gate/Walls | Arlon Lewis
Lighting | Creative Designs in Lighting

Text Credit | Colwell Shelor Landscape Architecture
Image Credits | A. Draizin, Bill Timmerman,  Allyssa Williams

About Damian Holmes 3344 Articles
Damian Holmes is the Founder and Editor of World Landscape Architecture (WLA). He is a registered landscape architect (AILA) working in international design practice in Australia. Damian founded WLA in 2007 to provide a website for landscape architects written by landscape architects. Connect on Linkedin at