Desert Landscape Design Palm Springs
Image by David Mark from Pixabay
Landscape Design

Desert Landscape Design Palm Springs

The top photo is of the street-scape garden. The driveway is flanked by planting areas and sidewalks. The bottom images are planting details for this area.
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Image: Bottom Left: Jerry Haper; Other Images: Steve Martino

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Image: Steve Martino

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Image: Steve Gunther

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View across the reflecting pool to the lounge area and swimming pool beyond. The fireplace to the west and the shade structure to the south form the edges to this outdoor room with mountain views beyond.
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View to the guest casita’s terrace and water feature. The room and terrace have views to the mountains, the water helps mask the street sounds beyond the hedge.
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The tall photo is the reflecting pool with its island planter and a relocated palm clump. In the top right photograph, the lounge chairs are focused on the mountain view. The bottom right photograph shows the stylized canyon planting.
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View from the cactus garden’s fire pit. Water from the table flows towards the fire put. Frosted glass walls provide privacy. The translucent shade structure is beyond.
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The tennis court fence is made up of two foot square fiberglass panels that overlap vertically and horizontally to create changing shadow patterns. They float separately from each other and allow breezes to flow through the fence.
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Palm Springs is a city known for its love and appreciation of its “Mid-century” modern architecture and history. The project strives to be the “New-Century Garden” by utilizing contemporary materials, technologies and attitudes to create a bold new and unique desert experience that reflects the design and social history of Palm Springs while showing a desire to celebrate its rugged desert region as a model for design in this new century.

It’s like a mid-century modern Hadrian’s Villa in Palm Springs! A very sculptural planting scheme and a beautiful color palette. It’s amazingly well built. ”
—2012 Professional Awards Jury

The client, a designer himself, wanted a stunningly gorgeous environment with a variety of places to entertain at all scales from intimate parties to large fundraising size events. His instruction to the landscape architect was to create an outdoor environment that was “groovy, cool and sexy.” This high style garden strives to accomplish these goals while transcending the region’s social landscape, represented in its lawns, palm trees and golf courses.

This is a new house and garden is built on 1–1/2 acres in the chic Old Las Palmas neighborhood in Palm Springs. The project was the second collaboration for the owner and the landscape architect who had developed a productive working relationship on a previous remodel of a mid-century-modern house. The client expected the highest level of design and also expected the project to raise the bar for outdoor living and desert style.

This desert house and garden’s two themes are water and light. The main outdoor space has dramatic views of the San Jacinto Mountains as its backdrop. Space seamlessly flows from one area to the next and the pocketed sliding glass doors reinforce the indoor-outdoor connection. Every room in the house opens to an adjacent garden. The gardens set a dramatic focal point from all spaces in the house. Depending on the room, the garden view changes from intimate to dramatic.

A house in this exclusive neighborhood typically turns its back on the street by surrounding the site with a tall hedge at the property line that is only broken by tall driveway gates into the property. The landscape architect wanted the garden to make a contribution to the streetscape and serve as a demonstration garden that showcased desert plants to the public rather than have the garden totally hidden behind the walls. To create an entry garden, the entry gates were set back 44feet from the curb, atypical for this neighborhood. Pedestrian walks were offset on both sides of the drive to create an 85 foot wide by 44 foot deep entry garden that showcased desert plants.

The client entertained regularly and used the house for fundraising functions. He requested generous outdoor space, a distinctive pool and water features, a function lawn, an intimate fire pit area, a tennis court that would double as an outdoor dining and event area, and an outdoor shower.

Palm Springs with its ample water supply has been long known for its culture of lawn and golf courses. The landscape architect found this context challenging as he wanted this project to relate to the nearby desert canyons rather than the golf courses and yet crucially retain some of the unmistakable Palm Springs traditional landscape character.