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Have you ever made a discovery that was literally under your nose?  

I did.

Earlier this month, I embarked on a tour of low-water gardens that displayed sustainable design throughout the greater Phoenix area.  

The earlier parts of our tour showed examples of water harvesting using cisterns along with man-made arroyos.  Then we viewed a creative example of sustainable design for a beautiful parking lot that needed no supplemental water and little to no maintenance.


I mentioned last week that I had saved the best for last and I can’t wait to share with you this jewel in the midst of a desert city.

The last stop on our tour of low-water and sustainable gardens was the Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden.
 
The garden is just over 5 acres and sits hidden from the street next to Chaparral Park in central Scottsdale.

Over 200 different types of plants are used throughout the garden, all of which are drought-tolerant and well-adapted to our hot, dry climate.
 
My friend and fellow blogger, Pam Penick, came with me to this beautiful garden (you can see her at the top of the terraced planters).
 
One of my favorite parts of the garden included this innovative design, called the ‘Terraced Cascade’ which creates the appearance of water traveling down between terraced planters filled with Palo Blanco trees (Acacia willardiana) and Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata).  
 
 
 Water does flow down discretely hidden steps between the terraces during times of heavy rainfall toward the water harvest basin where it waters existing plants before flowing underground toward the nearby lake.
 
 
Raised planters were filled with flowering Ocotillo  as well as Birdcage Evening Primrose (Oenothera deltoides).
 
Birdcage Evening Primrose (Oenothera deltoides) in the foreground and Mexican Evening Primrose (Oenothera berlanderi) growing against the Ocotillo.
I must admit that I was surprised to find this garden in an area that I used to spend a lot of time in.
 
Years ago, before the garden existed, my husband and I would take evening walks around the nearby lake with our daughter.  Believe it or not, before there was a garden, there used to be a miniature golf course in this location. 
 
 
I love stone walls and would have some in my own garden, if I could afford them.  The stone walls were capped with flagstone and had rows of round stones, which added an unexpected touch of texture.  
 
 
From our vantage point, we could see to the other side of the garden where a tall, dead tree stood.  Trees like this are called a ‘snag’, which is a dead or dying tree.  This tree provides a home for hawks, which help keep the rabbit population down. 
 
Baja Fairy Duster (Calliandra californica) and Desert Marigold (Baileya multiradiata)
Gabion walls were used along pathways to created terraces to help slow down storm water in order to reduce flooding while watering the plants.
 
The demonstration garden is located next to a water treatment plant and part of the garden sits on top of a reservoir that contains 5.5 million gallons of treated water.
 
Deer Grass in the foreground.
 
One of the things that I enjoy about demonstration gardens is that they ‘demonstrate’ different gardening methods as well as showcasing plants.
 
In this case, I was impressed with the collection of plant species used, which aren’t typically seen in residential or commercial landscapes, which is a shame.
 
 
As we walked down the main path, we came upon a man-made, mesquite ‘bosque’.  The word ‘bosque’ is used to refer to stands of trees nearby rivers or washes throughout the southwestern United States.  Usually, you’ll find these bosques made up of mesquite trees.
 
This bosque was planted with Honey Mesquite trees (Prosopis glandulosa), which is simply stunning in spring when it’s bright-green leaves reappear.  A warning though – it has thorns.
 
Palo Brea (Parkinsonia praecox) trees and gabion walls line the main walkway.
 
Plants are maintained just the way I like them – no shearing or over-pruning.  
Gold Mound Lantana, Orange Bush Lantana and Pink & White Globe Mallow.
 
The main pathway parallels the local dog park.
 
 
There is little that can compare to the beauty of the  new spring leaves of mesquite trees.  I love how the coral-colored variety of Bougainvillea and the yellow flowers of Aloe Vera look like brightly-colored jewels along with the leaves of the mesquite.
 
 
Nearing the end of the trail, I couldn’t help but marvel at this beautiful garden and its creative design.
 
Throughout the garden were educational signs talking about a myriad of gardening subjects that were clearly illustrated by the garden itself including planning and design, plant care and desert habitat.
 
 
A large cistern was located on one end of the trail, which was filled with the average amount of water that a household uses in 1 week.  
 
Around the outer border of the cistern is an American Indian saying that says:
 
“THE FROG DOES NOT DRINK UP THE POND IN WHICH HE LIVES”
 
Those are words that all of us who live in the dry, southwest should all ponder…
 
*******************
 
The Scottsdale Xeriscape Demonstration Garden is located at Hayden and McDonald Roads in Scottsdale.  It is open from sunrise to 10:30 at night.
 
I hope you have enjoyed these posts of our tour of sustainable, southwestern landscapes in the greater Phoenix area.
 
Pam and I drove about 170 miles in one day and we weren’t able to see all of the great examples of sustainable landscaping.  However, if you are interested in seeing examples of sustainable gardening, then I would recommend starting at the Desert Botanical Garden, which is filled with arid-adapted plants that thrive in our climate with minimal water and fuss.
 
If you haven’t visited Pam’s blog, Digging, I encourage you to do so.  Many of the plants that she grows in Austin do well in our climate too.  Did I also mention that she is an author?  She has a fabulous book called Lawn Gone!: Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard, which I highly recommend.

Did you have the opportunity to get away for awhile this summer?


Our summer has been a bit tough this year.  The reason is that my son, Kai, had hip surgery (his 5th) and was confined to a wheelchair this summer.  He was in quite a lot of pain for the first few weeks, which thankfully subsided in July.


We were blessed to go on a family vacation toward the end of July before school started.  Every year, we go on a trip with my mother, my siblings and their families.  This year, we decided to go to Pinetop, Arizona.


We got on the road and started heading east from Phoenix.  The mountains of the high desert were beautiful along Salt River Canyon and we could see swimmers below.

Believe it or not, I have never been to the Eastern part of our state even though I have lived here for over 27 years.

Parts of the highway wound back and forth.

As we neared our destination, I began to see the pine trees that promised cooler weather.


We finally arrived at the cabin that my mother had rented for us all to stay in.

It was quite big – 7 bedrooms and plenty of bathrooms to go around for 5 individual families.

We stayed on the bottom floor so that Kai could get around easily.


A few of our mornings were spent going for walks.

We love to walk outdoors, but in the summer it is tough because of the heat.  So this was a real treat for us.  
If I were at home, I would be busy writing, gardening, managing the kids and/or consulting instead of taking a walk outdoors on a beautiful morning.  Pure heaven!


There were some beautiful gardens in the surrounding neighborhood.


This was my favorite garden. 
Did you know that you can grow these flowering perennials in the desert?  It’s true.  The only difference is that they will bloom in spring rather then in summer.


We didn’t see any wild animals, but did pet a friendly cat and saw a horse getting new shoes.


This kids favorite house had a model train track set up throughout the entire front yard.


The kids were interested in the model trains and small buildings while I like to observe the miniature landscape plants.



This is one vine that you probably will not find growing in the low desert.  This is a lovely Clematis vine and I have grown one before years ago when we lived in Phoenix.  The problem was – it never flowered because it was too hot.

I haven’t grown one since.  


We passed this bountiful vegetable garden.


I love this terraced garden, don’t you?


You don’t have to rely solely on flowers for color in the landscape.  I love the trailing ivy underneath these oak trees.

Besides our walks, there was fun to be had back at the cabin…


The kids had fun racing monster trucks down the driveway every evening after dinner.

It was nice for Kai to be able to participate in racing without having to run.


Gracie enjoyed sitting on the porch and reading her favorite book.


On rainy afternoons, grandma kept the kids busy with art projects.


During the week, each family was responsible for making dinner for everyone.  It was nice only having to cook once the entire week.

After dinner, the big kids would carry Kai and his wheelchair upstairs to play.

They would ‘charge’ the bad guy armed with a plastic gun and a cushion for a shield.


They usually triumphed over the villain.


Of course, we made sure to spend time fishing.


My husband kept our fishing line untangled and our hooks baited.


We spent quite a bit of time enjoying the peace and quiet of fishing.


Unfortunately, there was a little too much peace and quiet since we didn’t catch any.  Not even a nibble.


On our last day, we hiked around the lake enjoying the beauty of the woods.

We had a wonderful trip and 2 days after we returned home, it was time for the kids to start school.

**Thank you for letting me take you along on our summer vacation.**

NOW FOR THE WINNER OF THE “MINIATURE GARDEN BOOK” GIVEAWAY

And the winner is….

Junk Loving Girl!!!

Thank you all for entering.  If you didn’t win, head over to Timber Press where you can enter to win a copy of the book AND a miniature garden kit!