A Garden Arises From a Mountain of Trash

Newly planted cacti

During a visit to a park, I came upon a beautiful little garden that rests on top of 2.2 million tons of trash.  This small succulent garden is but a very small part of the park which rests upon a recently closed landfill.

beautiful little garden

Newly planted cacti, aloe and agave.  Ocotillo stand in the background. In the background, you can see that the walls are made of wire encased stones.

This landfill was closed in 2005 and the new park has not officially opened.  However, that did not keep me and my husband from exploring.

beautiful little garden

A collection of Mammillaria backebergiana. Many of them were getting ready to flower.

beautiful little garden

 Close-up of the flowers beginning to open. I love how the flowers form a ring around this little cactus.

We hiked to the top of the park, (or should I say, the top of the trash heap), which is the second highest point in the city.  Once at the top, it is very easy to view the surrounding mountains (Superstition, San Tan, South Mountain, the McDowell’s and Four Peaks).

beautiful little garden

A collection of Green Strawberry Hedgehog (Echinocereus enneacanthus engelmannii) and young Aloe.

beautiful little garden

There is just something I love about a boulder with lots of character like this one.  They add so much texture to the garden and you don’t have to water or prune them.

The canal runs by the park and paths for both bikes and horses encircle the park.

beautiful little garden

Mammillaria macdougalii 

As you can see from the photo above, contrary to popular opinion, cacti and other succulents do best when watered initially until they become established.  By using drip-irrigation, it is very easy to just plug up the emitters later or put on an adjustable emitter.

*Note how the emitter is not placed up right next to this cactus – it is placed a little ways away to help keep the roots from rotting. 

young Agave

A young Agave desmettiana and the Mammillaria receive water from the drip-irrigation system. The plantings in the far background look very sparse, but will grow very  quickly. 

Mountain of Trash

 I love how recycled, broken concrete was used to build the walls of this garden.

I love that used recycled, broken concrete was utilized to make the walls of this succulent garden.  

A Garden Arises From a Mountain of Trash

The garden is covered with canvas shade panels which look like they can be easily removed once the cacti and other succulents become established.

*Many cacti and succulents do best when temporary shade is provided when they are moved and transplanted.

I had a wonderful time visiting, but all too soon it was time to leave….for the grocery store.

A Garden Arises From a Mountain of Trash

But, I will be back soon….

*Please click the following link for more information about The Paseo Vista Recreational Area

Noelle Johnson, aka, 'AZ Plant Lady' is a author, horticulturist, and landscape consultant who helps people learn how to create, grow, and maintain beautiful desert gardens that thrive in a hot, dry climate. She does this through her consulting services, her online class Desert Gardening 101, and her monthly membership club, Through the Garden Gate. As she likes to tell desert-dwellers, "Gardening in the desert isn't hard, but it is different."
28 replies
  1. Carol
    Carol says:

    What a great idea! I wonder if there are desert plants that can help break down toxins that may be in the soil from who knows what kind of trash might be under there? It is terrific! I am sure well thought out. Now if only we could create less trash! I do love those cacti! How tall will they get? I hope we can see this again when it is more established. Thank you Noelle for this great post. Carol

  2. Liisa
    Liisa says:

    What a wonderful transformation, Noelle. And lucky you were able to visit before it officially opened. 🙂 There's that Agave desmettiana again, screaming "Buy me! Buy me!" 🙂

  3. Nicole
    Nicole says:

    Lovely to see a landfill being "beautified" and put to good use. Interesting to see how they establish the young plants. It must be hotter and drier there than here as here we don't need to shade the young cacti ( unless very young/small) or provide supplemental irrigation.

  4. leavesnbloom
    leavesnbloom says:

    Thats amazing – I love to see plants in their natural habitats . Can't wait for you to go back again so I can see how big those cacti have grown – I am only used to little ones as windowsill plants here.

  5. Teresa
    Teresa says:

    What a beautiful place. It looks like it was well thought out and planned. Cactus can be so interesting. They aren't around here too much for obvious reasons.

  6. fairegarden
    fairegarden says:

    Thanks for showing us, Noelle. I always have admired those wire rock filled walls. They seem so easy and still are beautiful. Are they easy to construct? The shade covering, the concrete walls and the plantings are all so artfully done, most excellent. The grocery's not bad either. 🙂

  7. Janet
    Janet says:

    We have a covered landfill in Virginia Beach that is called Mount Trashmore…what a great name!
    Love the planiings and care that yours has. Those cactus that are getting ready to bloom are really sweet.

  8. Gail
    Gail says:

    Noelle, this is a wonderful garden…especially considering it's over a landfill! Gail ps I do love how recycled concrete looks so fantastic…

  9. Martha Z
    Martha Z says:

    A great use for a landfill. It looks to be as much demonstration garden as park. People could get a lot of ideas for xeriscaping walking through there.

  10. susie
    susie says:

    What a great garden! I love those Mammillaria, how big do they get? I also love those stone walls with the wire mesh around them, are those also concrete. They had pillars similar to them on HGTV's design house this year. Thanks for the visit.

  11. Rose
    Rose says:

    What a great way to transform a former landfill! I'm going to see if I can visit this spot on my next visit to my daughter's. She's not into gardening, but the "bark park" would certainly interest her and my granddogs:)

  12. arizonaplantlady@gmail.com
    arizonaplantlady@gmail.com says:

    Thank you for your comments. I hope that more cities decide to utilize former landfill areas in this way so that they continue to benefit the community, just in a different way then being a collecting area for our trash.

  13. Andrea
    Andrea says:

    It is an awesome dessert garden. How lovely those cacti are even if they are newly planted. Thank you for posting those which are non-existent in the tropics, only in small pocket gardens.

Comments are closed.