Magnificent Escape

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More than a backyard, this Cedar Creek home offers a landscape design that is a slice of Heaven on Earth.

Story by Ann E. Butenas       |       Photos by Matt Kocourek




What began as a simple request for mulch (discounted thanks to an online coupon!) magically transitioned into the makings of a stunning masterpiece. When the homeowner of this breathtaking abode, nestled in the winding tapestry of the Cedar Creek subdivision in Olathe, Kansas, had  the urge to simply spruce up the landscape around  her yard a couple of years ago, she had no idea the excitement that was in store for her.

Even though all JoAnn Fowler, the homeowner, initially wanted was mulch, when landscape designer Amanda White, MLA, of Rosehill Gardens stepped onto the scene to help clean up the existing, somewhat overgrown landscaping of the home, she realized it had greater possibilities written all over it.

“At that point, Fowler decided to just start with a clean slate,” stated White. “She told me to be as creative as possible.”

And off to work White went!

White and her team fully exercised their creative prowess when it came to taking an ordinary yard and transforming it into an extraordinary space, which throughout the process emerged looking less like a simple backyard makeover and more like a relaxing mountain retreat.



“With respect to the overall landscape, I tried to pick up on the character of the house,” explained White, referencing the craftsman-like façade of the home that highlights details reminiscent of the designs of famed American architect Frank Lloyd Wright.

“The biggest attraction of the house, in my opinion, is its mission-style columns, strategically placed throughout,” said White. “Our goal was to focus the space around the columns to anchor the house and the outdoor living space together through the architecture.”

To that end, White created the central focus of the backyard with the intent to capture the primal aspects of life – fire and water – and she did not miss the mark with the 12 foot fire trough that overlooks the three and a half feet deep pool, more commonly known in this type of setting as a “spool,” which is essentially a combination of a pool and a spa. As opposed to typical outdoor pools, the spool can enjoy year-round use, with its heated water supply and massaging jets in the spa.

“This definitely has a ski lodge influence in the colder months,” noted White.




Made specifically for Fowler, custom-sized benches were constructed contiguous to the fire pit and customized stone weirs were placed above the spool to allow the flowing water to fall directly upon her shoulders when she relaxes and unwinds. Whether gazing down between the stone columns above the spool by the fire trough or taking in the view from the spool itself, there is not a bad seat in the place.

Transitioning to the front of the house, the mountainous feel maintains its strong presence, as evidenced by the rugged walkway made of mason-laid flagstone that draws one’s eye to the pond at the top near the door from which water soothingly cascades down via a stream that runs underneath the walkway to another pond below. A striking stone bench fashioned from larger boulders is the focal point of the front porch.

“We notched those boulders to create a bench,” stated White, who noted that every boulder used throughout the landscape and spool/patio design was hand selected.




“Every aspect of the entire project was completely customized and detailed,” she said.

To further add to the Colorado-like ambiance, White brought in plant material indigenous to Kansas and Colorado, including Aspen trees, cedar trees, spruces and serviceberry trees.

“We also brought in 300 yards of soil to create berms, landscapes and undulations through the site,” she said.

Even the grass has its aesthetic purpose in that its placement provides soft curves around the home, imitating the natural flow of a river.

Relaxing in this veritable oasis of peace and solitude gives one the illusion of seclusion and it is difficult to believe that the backyard actually faces the front of the house of the neighbors behind her, with a street formerly fully in view.



“Before this project, there were no trees to provide screening and it was a wide open view to the entire neighborhood,” explained White. “We brought in about 150 yards of soil to berm it up around the new patio space while layering it with trees and shrubs. You wouldn’t know there is a street back there now.”

Various forms of up-lighting around the exterior of the home and throughout the backyard add a soft and inviting touch to the place in the evening.

White does not hesitate when expressing her gratitude for this project.

“I really enjoyed working with the homeowner,” she smiled. “She let me stretch my creativity and truly trusted the process and my direction. She is a designer’s dream.”

In the end, that unwavering trust allowed White and her team to go above and beyond even their own expectations, making this mountain retreat escape seem like a slice of Heaven on Earth.



Landscaping, landscape lighting, irrigation, and maintenance and all of the boulder placement: Rosehill Gardens     |     Fence: Quality Fence     |     Furniture: Family Leisure     |     Patios & stonework: Artistic Concrete Surfaces (ACS)     |     Pool: Designer Pools by Garry Bair     |     Stone: Semco Outdoor Landscape

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