Unveiling a Historic Garden Oasis
Step back in time in a busy city. Completely surrounded by small adobe homes and extensive historic gardens – all in modern-day Phoenix.
A Glimpse into Phoenix Homesteads District
Phoenix’s Only Adobe Neighborhood
The Phoenix Homesteads District dates back to the 1930s and is the only adobe neighborhood in Phoenix. Mature pine trees line the streets. They are interspersed with Mexican fan palms. This creates a green tunnel that beckons you to explore further.
Small Adobe Homes and Bountiful Gardens
Within this district, you’ll find small adobe homes nestled on spacious lots, adorned with towering trees and lush shrubs. These homes, constructed in the ’30s and ’40s, are designed to facilitate food cultivation and small-scale livestock ownership.
An Artistic Garden Gem
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.’
A Meeting with Suzanne Bracker
I came to visit this special place at the recommendation of a client. She told me about a resident artist, Suzanne Bracker. She has a beautiful garden but creates wonderful pieces of art.
The Garden’s Creative Touches
Suzanne met me by the curb in front of her home to lead me on a journey of inspiration and discovery.
The Garden’s Creative Touches
Repurposing Art in the Garden
Just a few steps into the garden, it’s apparent that Suzanne loves to repurpose items in her garden. The curved pathway and historic garden jewel is located on ‘Flower Street.’ The 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. The tree adds color and texture contrast.
A Peruvian apple cactus (Cereus peruviana) grows through a giant bush lantana (Lantana camara). The lantana is in the shape of 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 is 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. You can also see a small note in a crevice. It is awaiting discovery.
Unveiling Outdoor Art Galleries
From Mosaics to Jewelry – A Garden of Artistry
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”.
A Unique Garden ‘Graveyard’
Repurposing Clay Artifacts with Creativity
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.
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.
This 1930’s kitchen is functional and very cute.
A Treasure Amidst the City
Plants provide color. The buildings are painted in vibrant shades of blue and purple as well.
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.
One of the many enjoyable aspects of this garden are the garden rooms.
Among the garden paths, there’s always something to discover like these old, antique, toy cars. Suzanne put them on top of an old tree stump.
At the end of our garden journey, we pass by a jujube (Ziziphus jujube) tree, which tastes a little like apple.
Legacy of Flood Irrigation
Concrete Pipes as Garden Artifacts
The second house on the property has a lovely Rose of Sharon tree in front along with some interesting garden art.
The concrete pipes adorning the front of this home harken back to its historical roots. They were crafted from aged irrigation pipes originally used for flood irrigation. A practice that remains prevalent in certain older neighborhoods of Phoenix. These concrete pipes serve as enduring relics.
Today, they stand as a testament to the enduring traditions of this region. Their presence lends a unique historical charm to the property.
This garden still uses flood irrigation from the 1930s.
The blossoms of a small, Rose of Sharon (Hibiscus syriacus) add whimsical beauty with its flowers that change color as they age.
Suzanne’s Garden: A Historical Gem
An Artistic Oasis Preserving History
Gardens that surprise and inspire us are a real treasure.
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.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."