The seating area by the front entry sports shade-loving plants like sweet woodruff, beacon silver nettle and Jack Frost false forget-me-not. “The circular wall was here, but I put the tile in it to mimic rain going down, because it was just a plain stucco wall,” Ofer says. (Photo by Paul Hartman/ Changing Landscapes)

A serene garden that’s interactive

By Carol Brock
Photos by Paul Hartman/Changing Landscapes

Weeks before architect Charles Haertling sketched a design for the Lawrence Caldwell house in south Boulder, he camped on the property with his son, Joel. The Flatirons loomed footfalls away and certainly inspired Haertling’s organic, midcentury modern design. “There’s more excitement and movement in curves than in straight lines,” Haertling has said.

So when the home’s current owners, Ofer Shaul and Troy Tate, wanted the landscape to embrace Asian motifs that reflect the home’s circular shapes, they turned to acclaimed Boulder landscape architect Tom Altgelt.

“We wanted the garden to be very interactive, very natural, very peaceful.”

“Because of the shape of the house, we wanted a feeling of movement” in the landscape, says Shaul, who collaborated closely with Altgelt on the design. They envisioned the house as a giant ship sailing through the landscape (although Asher, Shaul and Tate’s 12-year-old son, sees it as the Starship Enterprise).

White rocks piled by a side of the house cascade down a slope that merges into a waterfall. “The white rocks are like white bubbly foam when a ship sails,” Shaul says. When it rains, water spills from the flat roofs and washes into the “foam,” becoming a live stream that propels the ship through the landscape. The home’s living room floats high above a patio, with a roofline that mimics a ship’s prow.

Asian motifs abound in the stunningly serene landscape, which boasts natural boulders, buff sandstone and red moss rock, much of it recycled from the original landscape. “We wanted the garden to be very interactive, very natural, very peaceful,” Shaul says. Altgelt’s design showcases water features and perennials and plants that overflow the premises: Japanese maples, weeping cherries, cypresses, Siberian irises, hawthorns, honeysuckle, wisteria, bamboo and hundreds of others.

The terraced waterfall spills into two ponds, where koi swim peacefully from pond to pond via an underground pipe. Chickens Tweety, Penny, Pumpkin and Yang scratch at the ground by their coop, and Bruno the cat and Trixie the dog romp the paths encircling the home. Their twins, Asher and his sister Ella, do homework in the exquisite Japanese teahouse, where they often enjoy tea with their fathers.

Asian motifs abound in the stunningly serene landscape.

“The garden lines outside parallel the lines of the house,” Shaul says. “You see the midcentury lines repeated in the landscape elements, but with a Zen feeling.” Asian motifs and midcentury designs go hand in hand, he adds, as midcentury borrows from nature’s organic forms.

When it came to reshaping the landscape, Paul Hartman of Longmont’s Changing Landscapes, was up for the challenge. His crew moved tons of soil and rock, recycling much of it into the new landscape. The stupendous hardscape leads to places for resting and contemplating the voluminous mountain views. The project was two years to fruition. “It’s a unique landscape,” Hartman says. “Amazing, really.”

The resurfacing, rockwork, lighting, irrigation and drainage systems had to be installed before any planting could begin. Changing Landscapes still maintains the property, switching out plantings and endlessly weeding in the growing season.

Shaul is pleased with the results. Reflecting on the garden’s aesthetics, he says, “It’s the energy that I live my life by, the quietness, the peace. It’s just how I want to be.”