Familiar native plants where I live - desert marigolds, sotols. Unfamiliar plants to where I was visiting - an unknown-to-me agave species.
Some of you know that I work and travel some. As a solo practioner, it is tough to balance and get it all done, and still have a semblance of a life. I might get behind on taxes one month, give a program at a conference another month, only to lose a client that wondered where their design was, and then gain some small and interesting projects after that. Plus take another load of photos that I'll use some day, very soon.
And you can bet I need some inspiration, or I'll fail at all the above, plus the myriad of other things I didn't even mention.
Inspiration. My second "Grand Tour of Gardens" provided some of that, courtesy of the excellent periodical, Phoenix Home and Garden. In metro Phoenix, of course, the closest large city to my home in Albuquerque, at a mere 6 hours / 400 miles. Having taken 1200+ photos on a recent trip to the "Valley of the Sun", I'll attempt to focus on a few things in each garden works in a few words, and let you ponder other depths you are seeing.
Every city in the southwest is unique; some more than others, while some are more like certain places than others. All are interconnected, while each has its own natural and manmade personality.
Especially when perception is shunned, and reality is embraced...the reality of physical geography...landform, climate, and species. I don't dabble at the surface, towing some party line. Adapting reality is my thing.
Phoenix is in the Sonoran Desert, and being quite different and warmer than my Chihuahuan Desert, there are effects we simply cannot create. Yet, there are effects we can easily create or adapt. That should lead one to let this inspire and inform what we can do better.
Bright sun and intense heat during summers call for relief. Deep, dark yet airy entries work their magic.
I met the wonderful architect, who originally hails from the largest city in the Chihuahuan Desert, Ciudad Juarez CH. Exposed adobe bricks and rocks all work their durable magic here.
Cool and dark, looking into warm and bright.
Still sheltering, but more open than the front, for a different flavor of outdoor living.
This deep blue color works, but I would especially enjoy sitting out here on a spring night before summer begins its extended stay, the square firepit warming the air. Just looking up at the stars, hearing some coyotes.
Those huge urns, the pink flowers contained in them, the materials and layout, and attention to detail throughout this property, overruled what is wasteful for me. I also liked the owners leaving out a book on what is either a favorite dog, a dog like theirs, or a hint to would-be plunderers!
Ahh...a tight design, an olive tree, and comfortable seating. It's 72F, and there must be a glass of cabernet and fresh bread for me.
Back to more desert plants, and a gracious, inviting, and dark / cool entry. The potted agaves on pilasters do not hurt, either.
The Phoenix area uses low garden walls quite well. Those are seen as unnecessary where I live, while other items of the busy and desertiphobic are not. Money does not buy taste, only more of whatever taste one has. Here, "it's all good", I'm happy to report!
And it buys simple, inexpensive materials like concrete, used well.
As well as stone, again, used well (is this a type of adoquin stone?):
Trips to Africa?
Cool winter days or spring and fall nights by the firepit?
But this use of incongrouous materials on the spa / pool is not my thing. Right word choice, proud weiner dog owner?
Minor detail. This man exudes dignity and graciousness, and ends a mostly nice garden visit so well. Onward!
An appealing paver layout always grabs me, such as this one.
Pope John Paul II, or so I was told.
This formal space with tree roses and the nicest fountain on the tour moved me.
House #6...the last on the tour:
A few blogger compadres just might like this succulent heaven. Count me in, too! Extraordinary spaces from an ordinary property.
Unfortunately, I missed meeting the landscape architect, Thomas Park of Xerophytic Design. But I felt him in the subtle, spare details that express the power of the Sonoran Desert, plus other allied ecoregions.
His is great aggregate material use, to define path from planter in understated elegance. See the steel edging and borders? I didn't think so. Reducing to only that which is necessary always adds design power!
Tropical meets standard Arizona pool meets Canary Islands meets Sonoran Desert meets global desert. Yes!
The shadows here from all the sculptural plants, in this clear and piercing desert light - priceless!
I enjoyed the Sunday garden tour. But more things to enjoy and get inspired by, as I engage in sensory endulgement. And a cool Monday morning ride in the northern reaches of Mesa, on a delightful, rolling trail via mountain bike...
With former colleague, still friend, Dan. I stayed with he and his wife Lori during this trip, and we got to catch up. A brutal few years...
Heard of nurse plants? This Ironwood once protected a younger Saguaro. And our unique southwestern desert sky.
The number of photos at each house do not really indicate any preferences. I actually just felt like showing those photos, as this is only scratching the surface. Great design elements abounded everywhere, as well as some elements or design I didn't get into, as well.
Design is not all subjective; there are real, proven design principles.
It is refreshing to see so many designs that strive and care about excellence. I'm privileged to be a designer who does care - allied with the like-minded, even if most are elsewhere and I don't know them in person.
As to these gardens, and others during my Phoenix trip, expect to see more posts on their details in the future!
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To read more past Garden Designers Roundtable posts, click HERE. And please join me in visiting the insights of my compadres!
First, our guest for the month:
Fern Richardson: Life on the Balcony: Orange County CA
Next, my fellow roundtablers:
Susan Morrison: Blue Planet Garden Blog: East Bay CA
Susan Cohan: Miss Rumphius’ Rules: Chatham NJ
Scott Hokunson: Blue Heron Landscapes: Granby CT
Rochelle Greayer: Studio G: Boston MA
Rebecca Sweet: Gossip In The Garden: Los Altos CA
Lesley Hegarty, Robert Webber: Hegarty Webber Partnership: Bristol UK
Genevieve Schmidt: North Coast Gardening: Arcata CA