This charming landscape was a joyful, creative collaboration between the homeowners and many others
By Carol Brock | Photos by Vicki Mellott/Metamorphic Gardens Inc.
Isn’t it rare when things just naturally fall into place, particularly in a home project?
That’s how it happened for Lisa and Jim Scatena, after they had to redo the landscape at their historic home on University Hill. It all started with the 2013 flood—and a birthday wish.
“After the flood, we had an underground spring which rerouted beneath our existing patio and house,” Lisa explains. The couple ended up with water in their basement after every rainfall, and had to demolish the patio to assess the situation. Three sump pumps and an “underground albatross of a water conduit” later, they successfully mitigated the problem.
“We all came together with such heartfelt creativity that heart was literally built into this landscape.”
See the results of their collaboration below
With the patio needing reconstruction, the couple toyed with the idea of going beyond a simple replacement. “We let our imaginations run wild with ‘We’ve always wanted ____,’ and then filled in the blank with ‘outdoor kitchen, fireplace, naturalized perennial gardens, heated walkways.’ If we didn’t go for it then, we knew we probably never would,” Lisa says.
A remodel of that magnitude required skilled professionals from many arenas. The Scatenas turned first to one they already knew: Vicki Mellott of Boulder’s Metamorphic Gardens Inc. “I had helped them landscape a garden at their Newlands home in 2004,” Mellott recalls, “but this time I was like, ‘I’d love to help you, but I’m over the top with other jobs.’”
But when Jim asked Lisa what she wanted for her birthday, her one-word reply was ‘Vicki.’ He told Mellott about her request. “So we began a new adventure together,” the landscaper says. Other pros and their teams soon joined Mellott on the adventure, including Conrad Gonzalez, Elton Randall, Jim Lutter and Rick Markwardt, among others.
“It was a creativity dream team,” Lisa says. “Everything was a product of their levels of expertise melded with respect for one another’s input. It was pure joy working with every one of them.”
Mellott says the collaboration is evident in the end product. “We all came together with such heartfelt creativity that heart was literally built into this landscape. With Lisa and Jim, we forged something so special, it just emanates heart.”
The landscape’s unexpected details set it apart from the humdrum, Lisa says. “So many perennial beds, kitchens and fireplaces look the same to me these days. It was important to create charm and personality with unique touches that made the landscape feel as if it had been present since the house was built in 1923. Given the scale of the project, it would have been easy to lose the warmth and character that exude from this space.”
Lisa spent hours at salvage yards searching for those touches, like the garden gates from the Swat Valley in Pakistan (home to Malala Yousafzai); the hand-forged bronze light sculpture from Italy; the fireplace’s 100-year-old Moroccan sandstone arch; and the carved Indian pillars that support the massive mantel.
“The whole project turned out to be way more than I figured,” Jim says, “but things were well thought out every step of the way by very creative folks. The garden is where we want to be, and it always seems to fit the time of year, like a hidden oasis.”
As a sanctuary from her busy medical practice, Lisa says the garden couldn’t be more peaceful, functional and perfect. “It makes me smile.”
1The Patio’s Main Entry
Large terra-cotta pots flank the patio’s main entry into the home. The pots harbor creamy hydrangeas that overwinter in them. Deep-burgundy coleus, trailing ivy, English thyme and ‘Kent Beauty’ ornamental oregano grow underneath the hydrangeas. The step is interspersed with buff and red sandstone and lit by rope lights. An akebia vine grows up the copper downspout. The festoon lights stay up year-round.
2Old World Meets Historic Boulder
The stone in the 1923 home set the tone for the new landscape. “There is an attention to detail seen more often in earlier historical periods,” Mellott says, “where charm and character set the mood. I would venture to say the look and feel of this space is Old World meets historic Boulder.”
The hand-built fireplace has a grotto pictured on the right that houses a Venetian mask. The wood pieces supporting the mantel came from India, and a 100-year-old Moroccan sandstone arch embellishes the fireplace. Rich Delia of Aspen hand forged the artistic gas fireplace logs, which emit tremendous heat. The cozy, intimate setting features European-inspired furniture from Ballard Designs, headquartered in Atlanta. Hurricane lights are perched throughout the garden to enhance the Old World charm.
4Variety of Seating
Boulders set into the stone patio give kids fun places to sit. A network of veining conduits runs underneath the patio, carrying water and electrical options to every area. Jim Lutter of Landscape Construction in Boulder and Rick Markwardt of Ram Electric LLC in Erie “did the impossible,” Mellott says, networking the various areas with irrigation zones, lighting and radiant heat. “There’s uplighting, rope lighting, back lighting, festoon lighting and 110-volt outlets for future options. The overall lighting effect is truly magical.” “Planting pods” cut directly into the stone patio for plants to grow through, like the boxwoods and flowers pictured by the boulders, soften the flagstone surface and help define the different areas.
5The Front Garden
The front garden bed blooms throughout the growing season, with a progressive profusion of crocuses, phloxes, tulips, coral bells, roses, alliums, delphiniums, coneflowers, Joe Pye weed, rudbeckias, anemones, hydrangeas, spireas, and other plants and shrubs. “The constant flow of plants always surprises me,” Lisa says. “It reminds me of a perfectly orchestrated fireworks show that ushers in the season’s newest colors. Your eye shifts from one area to the next with each passing week as the perennials peak.”
6Found Wood and Hand-built Stone Walls
Conrad Gonzalez of Gonzalez Stone Masonry in Longmont hand-built all the stone walls, the massive fireplace and the outdoor kitchen. He also incorporated found wood into the stonework. Jim is the “master griller,” so the couple needed a gas burner, sink, refrigerator, wine cooler, trash and recycling spaces, and a sitting bar in the kitchen. “My favorite spot is the kitchen,” Jim says. “I get to burn meat, serve refreshments and chat with friends while a nice fire roars in the fireplace.” Elton Randall of Elton R Construction in Boulder did the kitchen woodwork and covered the cabinets and doors with barnwood left over from construction on the garage. Lisa and Jim found the decorative wood pieces at Eron Johnson Antiques, a Denver architectural salvage shop.
7Tall Perennials and Pear Trees
Plantings of Joe Pye weed ‘Gateway’ and Rudbeckia ‘Herbstsonne’ lean across the stone wall and screen the front porch from the street. “These tall perennials have a substantial presence, with long-lasting seed heads that turn a tawny brown and remain regal until the first wet, heavy snow,” Mellott says. Two large pots contain fruiting pear trees—a nod to Lisa’s great-uncle, who used to own a pear and cherry orchard in northern California.
This rope-lit walkway leads from the garage to the garden. It was once icy and treacherous in cold weather, but radiant heat now makes it safe year-round. Lisa found the hand-forged bronze light sculpture in Italy, and Gonzalez built a wooden base for it to sit on. “The back 40,” as Lisa affectionately calls the naturalized garden on the right, required heavy cleanup after the 2013 flood. Hostas, Japanese maples and ferns now thrive in the shady space. The smaller garden on the left is home to Swiss chard, cooking herbs and a pumpkin patch, as well as a chocolate rosebush and ‘Golden Elf’ and ‘Orange Rocket’ spireas.