MANY PEOPLE TRAVEL TO TUSCANY and fall in love — with the light, the landscape, the colors, the people. After Chuck and Kathie Poindexter were smitten, they returned to Escondido and transformed their home — inside and out.
Since their house was built in 1998, they’ve been tinkering with the landscape. The final incarnation, begun last July, now is an outdoor haven that reminds them of the hills and vales of Tuscany; it’s studded with olive trees, Italian cypress and cozy areas for them to sit and enjoy their sprawling scenery — the 13th hole of the Eagle Crest Golf Course.
Nestled in the San Pasqual Valley, which has more temperate weather than the rest of Escondido, their home became an environmentally friendly retreat — and a terrific party house (“Now the guests never want to leave,” quips Chuck).
Garden competition judges Mary James and Judy Wigand were impressed, noting that “this Mediterranean garden is unified front to back, with a variety of succulents and water-wise plants, water features, hardscape and outdoor-living features — a lot packed deftly into a small space.”
The Poindexters used professionals to install the hardscape, irrigation, fire feature and other elements, but they selected and installed all the plants, pots, lighting, boulders and accessories themselves. They’re proud of every element — from the drought tolerance, low-flow water and minimal maintenance to the boat-shaped gas fire bowl they painstakingly designed and had custom made of steel with a natural rust finish, resting on a rock slab, suspended between two boulders.
The landscaping wraps around the house, ornamented with unique iron pieces, including trellises, a retaining wall and various re-purposed vessels. Kathie’s beloved roses share space with Mediterranean plants, succulent and rock gardens, and lemon, lime and pineapple-guava trees. Potted plants and container gardens are strategically placed. Add in three fountains, and you have a feast for all the senses: evocative colors, textures, scents and sounds. The birds like it, too.
An outdoor kitchen, coupled with separate dining, bar and family-room living spaces, create “a complete house,” as Kathie puts it, and a perfect entertainment spot. At night, the look is transformed by copper lighting that adds a russet glow and spotlights the attractive plants.
“We’re very exacting in what we want,” Kathie admits. Design consultant/collaborator Shellene Mueller, whom they met at the San Diego County Fair several years ago, agrees.
“They’re perfectionists,” Mueller says. “But I prefer clients to know what they want. The more involved they are, the better the outcome. We were all obsessed over the fire bowl; that’s where we spent our greatest amount of time, getting the shape and design just right. My husband (Carl Mueller of Rustica Garden Works) fabricated it, with feedback from the Poindexters every step of the way. It was an ordeal. But they love it, and in the end, that’s all that matters.
“I think of their garden as a series of outdoor rooms. It’s a small yard, but every inch of the space is utilized — with great flow, and a really nice, comfortable, relaxing feel. I’d call it ‘European eclectic with rustic elements.’”
And more than a touch of Tuscany.
Gardens of the Year: By Pat Launer • Photography by Bob Wigand