Friday, June 22, 2012

Space, The Landscape Frontier!

 Say what you like about, the devil lives there, it's hot, water guzzlers, it's really hot.....Jan Brewer.  Hey, it's all true!  But I have to admit one thing about downtown's pretty cool.  Let me be more specific....the area around the Convention center is eye candy.  Let's look and see what's going on in this area that makes this part of Phoenix glow!:)
During our convention center fun, I was also looking forward to snapping off some shots from several of the garden spaces around this block area.  The above picture was taken from the 15th floor of the Hyatt.  As we look across the way, we see an area full of date palms. One of the complaints about Phoenix is that it is a city of concrete. And because there is so much concrete, the sidewalks and roads absorb all that 100+ heat and augment the temps by even more.  At night, instead of cooling down like Tucson does, the heat stays!!  Plus many of the people are transplants from green belts in the states.  They bring their water guzzling ways and plant many non native species which increases our states use of the water.  And does bother me:)  So let's look at what works here.  I don't think you have to sacrifice anything to achieve that "look".
We have to think about what will survive and create an oasis to appeal to the senses.  Look at these planters.  There are a variety of palms including the Canary Palm and the Mediterranean Fan Palm. I will be adding this to our landscape in the next month because as you may or may not's time to put your palm trees into the ground!!!  How cool is that!  Okay maybe I'm a bit too excited about all of this, but I seriously love landscaping in the desert.
And there's more.  But here is a LOVE about Phoenix.  Check out this shot.  Cactus in the front and skyscraper in the background.  Now that's hot!
Sometimes the need for art is overlooked in the landscaping design.  While I'm not so crazy about this sculpture, I would have to say that it makes a statement.  From the wrong angle, this fisherman appears to be peeing in the water.  However, I do like the roadrunner on the rock.  That's pretty cool. 
Lets's look at some of the plants here that are true survivors of our intense summers and at times, cold winter nights.  The most cold sensitive of this bunch is probably the Canary Palm(center, pic below). From left to right(below), you see the Mediterranean Fan Palm, Red Yucca(huge hummingbird favorite with its red/pink flowers.....and a popular plant in Tucson), Agave, Canary Palm(in the middle), and the very sexy Mexican Bird of Paradise.  More on that plant in a sec.
For now, let's combine the element of, plants, water, and an area to relax.  Space is everything.  And I think this is perfection. 
The downtown area of Phoenix uses its space very well.  Any little opening is utilized according to the shade from building etc to create a greener feel for visitors or Arizonans like myself.....and I do appreciate good landscaping.
Now many of you LOVE this plant. It's one of the top searches for Las Aventuras.  And I can understand's fern like and has the most brilliant orange blooms. It's also bushy in appearance and makes a bold statement in landscape.  And this delicate looking plant is one of the TOUGHEST in the desert.  Very little water is required, but I do give it a little extra to grow quicker.  In Phoenix this plant doesn't die back unless their winter is severe.  In Tucson, the Mexican Bird of Paradise is cut back to the ground.  In spring, it will send out its first shoots from the ground.  And remember, the more sun it gets; the more blooms you'll have.  I highly recommend this plant for beginners who want something that will survive.  Xeric to the max and will make people drool all over your yard.  And that's good because any extra moisture during this dry month of June is good for the plants:)
Let's move on.  Space.  It's the topic.  You'd think that I'd be better at it.  But the simple truth is, I'm not.  I love birds and wildlife in my garden.  Therefore I create a lot of area for the birds to hide etc.  Bird landscaping is a bit different in design from a clean landscape design.  Both are cool, but I like waking up to birds in the morning.  I have some work I've been doing around El Presidio coming up in several weeks.....I can't wait to show you.  There's so much going on here that it's difficult not to throw all of it at you all at once.  But that might be too much:)  Let's just say it's an exciting time here.
Some cacti and succulents do better in Phoenix than in Tucson.  An example of this is found behind this jazz player.   While you may see things like the San Pedro etc, you won't find many succulents.  The simple fact is that Tucson gets too cold and you'll end up losing these plants creating a huge mess.  Our historic freeze last year proved fatal for many of these beloved plants.  Remember that if you are working with Euphorbs(especially the African kind), you'll need to take care with the milky sap that will sometimes ooze from a broken piece.  You'll get a nasty burn/rash on your skin.  Always wear gloves when handling these plants.   In fact, I love when a cacti or succulent grows like this.  I have such a cluster in my own side garden and I wrapped that sucker up from last years historic freeze.  Today it stands tall and beautiful like it has for over a decade.  It's in the headlining pic for Las Aventuras. 
Rainbow Bush/Portulacaria afra 'Variegata'
I mentioned succulents.  Gorgeous plants that add a lot of appeal to any garden or art design.  However they thrive in moderate climates like San Diego along the coast. But several do extremely well here in Arizona....mostly in Phoenix.  This(above pic) is the hardiest of the succulents that I experimented on here in Tucson.  It endured our cold nights and LOVES our heat.....with a little bit of water.  It's usually placed along a drip line with a little shade, but not too much.
 When space is tight, there is always a solution.  Date palms, Lantana, Red Yucca, name it.  If clumped together in the right combo they can make your home or business pop! The nice part about many of our xeric plants is that they clump or are very structural in nature. 
 This pic above was taken at night.  A warm summer breeze with the skyscraper in the background.  Nice!
And voila!  There you have it.  Desert design, IMHO, at its best!  People seem to love it as does the local wildlife.  More tomorrow.....


  1. From what I ca see PHoenix is a pretty city. I love the palms, the Canary palm is pretty. And nice if they can tolerate drought conditions. The statues are cool, especially the road runner. I am hoping to see them one day. I like the desert landscaping looking forward to seeing what you have done to your place. Great post and photos, have a great weekend.

  2. What a great area. Love all the planters and sculptures. I think road runners are cool. I've only seen one once. I could wander around there and enjoy the planters.

  3. Wow! - gorgeous photos Chris. I love the way you are creating a garden thats also good for wildlife. The Mexican Bird of Paradise is beautiful.

  4. It's wonderful to see how much you love your very hot climate. The cluster of palm trees is gorgeous. The temperature in Montreal has been stuck at 90 F all week, making me dream about winter.

  5. One of my spekboom, has just happened to be a golden-leaved variety. I hadn't realised before that the Portulacaria afra is available in varieties.

  6. Well-stated, and to think I've never been to downtown Phoenix except in the 1980's briefly to see my brother's old workplace. Nice spaces and they can really get away with a greater abundance of palms and columnar cacti.

  7. as we head into HOT and DRY here, i think i need a mexican bird of paradise! :)

  8. You do realize that one of the things that sets of these colours of the plants are the background colours of the hardscape and building's architecture. That should be a clue for everyone planning a design in their own yard or property. GET VISION of the FUTURE. Not everyone can do that though.

    There is a hotel over in Scottsdale where where I went in 1989 for an automotive convention where I represented Coors-Biotech on a Citrus Solvent we produced. The point here is there was this really kool indoor gardens between the buildings that was enclous by a green house roof. It allowed them to grow tropical plants that couldn't take the extreme heat or cold that is common to that region in winter. Below is ONLY an example of what I'm refering to. This is not the actual place.

    Example of what I'm talking about - Scottsdale Hotel

    On another note, it was Pheonix itself whaere I first saw that Poinciana. Usually in the Freeway medians and other landscape on and off ramps. I still love that shrub.



    1. Hi there Kevin,
      That is a really amazing image. I've seen several places like this before in different areas. Design is tricky and at times takes a little tweaking....but overall, it's a lot of fun to look at what people have done around our areas. Best ideas come from these gardens.

  9. Interesting plants, those bright orange flowers are the best.

  10. There is a subtle beauty to desert plants. When done correctly, they are breathtaking.

  11. Love that brick colour, the palm trees and, of course, the cacti (I'm a cacti lover!).

  12. Looks like a fab place to live - although I don't think I could stand that much heat, not used to it you know!!! Here in Scotland we get mainly rain and definately not that kind of heat.
    It looks like such a colourful place and that orange flower is absolutely stunning.
    Many thanks for commenting on my blog - I really appreciate it. :)

  13. I've never been to the Phoenix convention center, but from your pictures I can see that landscaping around there sure is beautiful. I like sculptures a lot!

  14. Beautiful but I'll stick with winter and snow. Heat is not a happy place for me. July and August are my limit.

  15. My sister lives in Phoenix and just told me about the Mexican Bird of Paradise. I love it and will look to be adding it for color in my cactus garden! Great post.

  16. To wspaniale, że wokół olbrzymiego budynku są takie piękne rośliny i zabawne rzeźby w wodzie. Z pewnością ciekawiej wygląda. Pozdrawiam.
    It's great that around the huge building are such beautiful plants and funny sculptures in the water. Certainly looks interesting. Yours.

  17. I love this post, Chris. Can you tell me something colorful that would be good to use around the pool? Compact, won't clutter up the pool, heat tolerant, needs little water. Does such a thing exist???

    I also love it when people from Tucson have something nice to say about Phoenix. :-)

    1. Hello there!! How are you dealing with this heat!!!??? I am not doing so well. For the past several days, I have been locked up into our place....yesterday I didn't even leave the house!!! I want to get out and do some birding but it's too unpleasant right now:( The beach would be perfect right now.

      I love Phoenix gardening because some of the plants that look bad here in the winter, look nice all year round in your part of the world. The Mexican Bird of Paradise is a perfect choice for around the pool. It won't have much litter and very little water is required once established. I also like red yucca. It's really easy to maintain. No bougainvilleas, etc. I don't know what kind of shade you have but if you do have some, certain succulents or cacti will do well there. Everyone things that a cactus will grow in the desert but many require a bit of shade getting started. I also think agaves look great around a pool. In fact, this entire photo shoot is around a pool area. But for color....the Mexican bird of paradise is one of the 3 in the family. There is a yellow variety that is taller and bushier and another one that is yellow/frilly. Another fantastic plant here is the Orange Bells that is bushy orange and will eat up the sun. Texas Ranger is a nice purple. These of course do need to be pruned and if it does get cold, they will drop leaves. And of course, the standard lantana for groundcover. Again, you guys have some really great garden shops.Hope you are doing well and it's great to hear from you!


Thanks for stopping by!