House of Desert Gardens

Award of Excellence - Residential Design
Colwell Shelor
This project demonstrates landscape architecture's extraordinary power to go beyond the pictorial - to unite the ecological, sensory, and spatial characteristics of a site and create a lasting place of integrity and meaning. Located on a 7-acre property at the foot of Camelback Mountain, a prominent landmark linking Arizona cities Phoenix, Paradise Valley and Scottsdale, the site has a cross slope of 50’ in the north-south direction. Residential landscapes in this desirable neighborhood of Paradise Valley are typically surrounded by thick non-native hedging bounding all sides and an interior of manicured, water-intensive shrubs and lawns in the Mediterranean style. The existing landscape on this property was no exception. The client entertains regularly and uses their home and property for fundraising functions, and desired a water-efficient landscape that was reflective of their passion and advocacy for desert plant life. As a result, the site was transformed into one of conservation and discovery; and reconnected integrally to its local and regional context. Each of the collection of garden galleries emanates a distinct landscape essence; each turn on the pathway presents a new focal point, whether coming upon a majestic Cordon, a worn garden gate framing a gallery of Agaves, the twisted form of an Ironwood, a field of Yuccas or the rich texture of rock walls contrasted with sculptural cacti or draping Bougainvillea. Individually, the diverse gardens demonstrate a rich interplay of complimentary plant species from arid regions around the world; collectively, the gardens provide a year-round show of marvel cascading through the landscape. Throughout the seasons, the garden comes alive through the of unique collections of diverse plants species, from the large clusters of showy chartreuse flowers on the Gopher Plant, enormous white blooms adorning the Night Blooming Cereus, brilliant yellow hues of the Palo Verde trees, to the bright red tubular flowers producing abundant nectar for the birds and bees on the Silver Torch Cactus. The year ends in a crescendo of color in the Aloe garden, when one after another of the dozens of species bloom for months on end.

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