Landscape Management Award Winning Landscapes: A villa in the sun
A journey to Italy inspires a homeowner and challenges his landscaper to bring a little of Old Tuscany to the Old West
September 1, 2008
By Daniel G. Jacobs
Thousands of people visit Europe every year and return home with souvenirs and photos of their travels. For one Nevada resident, though, that wasn’t enough: He wanted to bring home the look and feel of the Italian countryside.
With photographs in hand and a clear vision, the homeowner approached Dan Bishop, chief operations officer of XL Landscape, Las Vegas, and expressed his desire for a landscape that reminded him of his recent journey.
Bishop, along with Pete Battisti, XL’s design development manager, worked with the owner and the homebuilder to create a plan that would make any Italian feel like he was looking at the motherland. Perched on a hill, the corner lot in Henderson, NV, transformed from an arid turfless plot into a Tuscan villa complete with grapevines and a stone archway — resembling an actual surviving remnant from an allied World War II bombing run.
“A lot of homeowners don’t have any ideas,” Bishop says. “They kind of know what they want, but they don’t know how to interpret it. We were lucky enough to start with a good base, have a good client with some great ideas. We got to take our paintbrush over them.”
XL’s brush strokes filled the canvas with a number of points of interest. Grapevines hang in the atrium next to the fountains. There is a breezeway, with (Lady) Banks rose climbing to a second-story casita. Leave that area and you pass the pool “and there’s this amazing built-in barbecue that leads to that stone archway,” says Bishop, who expects XL to record revenue of $9.5 million this year.
The archway was one of the most difficult challenges. The company only had the homeowner’s photos to go on. Bishop turned to a stonemason the company uses to create the structure.
“We ended up incorporating that into the back yard,” Bishop says. “It is identical to the actual structure that was overseas. It turned out really well.”
Through the archway, a visitor travels over a bridge that spans a dry riverbed complete with pieces of pottery. A little further on is another seating area. Continue through the north side of the property, where XL installed pavers that trace a meandering walkway past a wall fountain. A different style of pavers was used to create the driveway.
The company created a number of focal points around the home. And because the homebuilding and landscaping coincided, Bishop and Battisti were able to work with the homebuilder to ensure that everything meshed.
“You could pull up a chair and sit in one of six different places on this property and feel like you’re in a (different) tranquil environment,” Bishop says. “You don’t feel like you’re in Las Vegas when you’re on this property. It seems like something out of the Mediterranean.”
Early on in the project, XL installed a double boulder retaining wall to work within the property’s massive slope.
“We carved a bottom row of boulders and then tiered it off and put another row in,” Bishop explains. “In that row, we made some nice planting beds. We have the rosemary creeping over the boulders. It layered the front yard. It was the foundation for what we were able to do. Once we designed that boulder wall, the ideas were coming at us.”
XL did much of the hardscaping and all of the softscaping, using some 15 different species of trees and plants. In many of the plantings, XL was able to use authentic Italian materials, including cypresses, olive trees and crepe myrtles. Other times, XL was forced to substitute native vegetation.
“We were able to use a significant amount of hardy plant material that does well in this valley,” says Battisti. “We were able to make that connection while giving the property an authentic look. That was my biggest challenge — to correspond plant material that does well to promote the longevity of this project. Another big challenge was giving the appropriate aesthetic, to really convince the client of the type of plant material we use in this valley. We did a successful job in the way the lot was set up.”
Among the native plantings XL used are Japanese boxwoods for hedging, Russian sage as accents on the hillside, mock orange, Indian hawthorn, star jasmine, lantanas, heavenly bamboo, rosemary, red fountain grass, Vitex and chaise trees.
Because the company was able to create a site without turf (laws in the state limit turf), the project earned recognition at the 2008 Southern Nevada Water Authority Landscape Awards. The Nevada Chapter of American Society of Landscape Architects honored the landscape with the Award of Excellence.
It’s not about the awards for Bishop and Battisti, though they use the project to show potential clients how beautiful turfless landscaping can be. For Battisti, who is studying for his Landscape Architecture licensing test, it’s about working with a vision and creating something that will continue to delight for a long time.
“Landscape really is a living thing,” Battisti says. “The beginning has to have a vision to be a successful project. It doesn’t stop there; it has to trickle all the way to the end. Because that landscape is a living thing, you have to be flexible to change with the landscape as it gets older so the quality of the project really doesn’t go south.”