Imagine finding yourself stepping back in time, surrounded by small adobe homes and extensive historic gardens – all in modern-day Phoenix.
The Phoenix Homesteads District dates back to the 1930s and is the only adobe neighborhood in Phoenix. Mature pine trees line the streets interspersed with Mexican fan palms creating a green tunnel that beckons you to explore further.
Small adobe homes sit on large lots with large, mature trees and shrubs.
The homes were built in the ’30s, and 40’s so residents could grow much of their food and own small livestock.
The purpose of my journey to this historic neighborhood was to visit a local artist and her picturesque gardens.
This historic garden jewel is located on ‘Flower Street.’
I came to visit this special place at the recommendation of a client who told me about a resident artist, Suzanne Bracker, who not only had a beautiful garden but creates wonderful pieces of art.
As I pulled up to her home, little did I know that the historic garden was just the beginning of the wonderful things I would see.
Suzanne met me by the curb in front of her home to lead me on a journey of inspiration and discovery.
Just a few steps into the garden, it’s apparent that Suzanne loves to repurpose items in her garden. The curved pathway at historic garden jewel is located on ‘Flower Street.’ garden entrance is edged with broken concrete, often referred to as ‘urbanite’.
The property consists of two 1/4 acre lots. The adobe structure that used to serve as a garage/shed, straddles the original property line.
Queen’s wreath vine (Antigonon leptopus) and lantana grow on large river rocks within wire (gabion walls). The bright blooms of bougainvillea provide a welcome pop of color.
An old, gnarled tree root sits among vines and adds both color and texture contrast.
A Peruvian apple cactus (Cereus peruviana) grows through a giant bush lantana (Lantana camara) that is trained up as a small tree.
After only 5 minutes in this artist’s garden, I could tell that I was on a journey of the unexpected and could hardly wait to discover more.
The garage/shed is now an artist’s studio where pieces of Suzanne’s work are on display.
The original adobe wall can be seen inside the studio. Adobe walls (made from mud and straw) keep buildings cool in summer.
You can see the bits of straw mixed in with the adobe as well as a small note in a crevice just waiting to be discovered and read.
Evidence of Suzanne’s interest in a variety of artistic mediums is immediately apparent.
And jewelry. Her talent is evident in almost everything she touches.
As we ventured back outdoors, Suzanne revealed a particular spot she affectionately calls her “graveyard”.
Underneath the shade of a large carob tree, the ‘graveyard’ is an area where the broken clay heads from Suzanne’s clay art find a place to rest.
This is a novel way to repurpose items that otherwise would have found its way into the trash.
Weights from old windows in the house now hang from metal trellises alongside snail vine.
Small crystals from old chandeliers now decorate the trellis and cast small rainbows wherever they catch the sun’s rays.
Peach-faced parrots, who live in the wild, stop by the bird feeder under the carob tree.
Sprays of delicate purple flowers from a large skyflower (Duranta erecta) shrub, arch over the garden path.
Along flagstone pathways, a flash of blue and green color catches my eye. Where most of us would throw out a few leftover glass beads, she uses them for a touch of whimsy.
As I enter her home, the original kitchen catches my eye – there’s no granite countertops or stainless steel appliances here.
Although small, this 1930’s kitchen is functional and very cute.
Back outdoors, there is still more to see in the garden.
Plants aren’t the only thing that provides color in this garden – the buildings are painted in vibrant shades of blue and purple.
Old oil cans, a kettle, and creamers find new life as garden art.
As I walk through the garden, we come upon a shady oasis, underneath the massive canopy of an old Lady Bank’s rose – this is the same type of rose as the famous Tombstone Rose.
A colorful rooster and his chickens enjoy the shade from the rose.
Gold lantana grows among round step stones. The sizes and location of these step stones were poured in place. Their shape adds another artistic element to the landscape.
One of the many enjoyable aspects of this garden are the ‘garden rooms’ interspersed.
Among the garden paths, there’s always something to discover like these old, antique, toy cars. These were left by the previous owner and Suzanne put them on top of an old tree stump to add another fun element.
At the end of our garden journey, we pass by a jujube (Ziziphus jujube) tree, which tastes a little like apple.
The second house on the property has a lovely Rose of Sharon tree in front along with some interesting garden art.
True to the historical roots of this home, the concrete pipes that decorate the front are made from old irrigation pipes used for the flood irrigation This practice is still common throughout parts of Phoenix in older areas.
This garden still uses flood irrigation – the same as in the 1930s.
The blossoms of a small, Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) add whimsical beauty with its flowers that change color as they age.
Gardens that both surprise and inspire us are a real treasure – especially when found in the middle of a city.
Suzanne’s garden is a historic jewel. I am grateful for the opportunity to have met her and observe how her artistic talent extends to everything she touches.