BY DEBBY LARSEN
PHOTOGRAPHY BY MATT VACCA
The owners of a midcentury-style home wanted to create a landscape that would honor the design aesthetic of the house. They contacted Landscape Designer Kathryn Prideaux of Prideaux Design to re-envision their barren, 1,500-square-foot backyard. She reached out to Cimarron Circle Construction Company to build the pool, and Sonoran Gardens Inc. for the green spaces.
The plan was to retain one key existing element — the brick walls. They were in good condition, which helped with the budget, and also complemented the home’s architecture. However, the walls’ original wood panel inserts were too worn to save. They were replaced with rusted steel panels set within a one-inch frame. Continuing the rusted steel aesthetic, a new self-closing gate and steel screen panels were fabricated and placed at opposite ends of the garden.
The patio’s support beams were replaced with four-by-four-inch square steel posts. An integral color concrete patio with a pebble-etched finish was installed and extended to the pool’s edge. A small area adjacent to the pool features stabilized decomposed granite defined by steel strap edging. Prideaux’s jewel-like design of this raised-edge pool takes center stage, with its turquoise glass tile exterior and pebble finish interior. The stunning contrast between the rusted steel components and the glass-tiled pool creates a modern vibe.
Prideaux chose drought-tolerant plants in her design, such as Yellow Bird of Paradise and Palo Verde “Sonoran Emerald.” The shrubs included Artemesia, Desert Milkweed, Gopher Plant, Deer Grass, Lady’s Slipper and Rosemary. Agave “Blue Glow,” Weber’s Agave, Grass Tree and Mexican Fencepost added sculptural elements to the space.
Now, the backyard encourages entertaining and relaxing, plus it creates a beautiful space to view from indoors.
Landscape Design: Prideaux Design, Prideaux-Design.com
Garden Contractor: Sonoran Gardens, Inc., SonoranGardensInc.com
Pool Contractor: Cimarron Circle Construction Company, CimarronCircle.com
If you visit Eileen and Robert Durazo’s Foothills home, you’ll enter a stately courtyard, at the center of which stands a large, gently flowing fountain. Plants surround you, from bougainvillea that climbs the courtyard walls, to potted varieties such as asparagus ferns and flowering bushes. On either side of the front door stand two topiaries, shaped into spheres.
The backyard is equally colorful, providing a gorgeous frame for the Catalina Mountains that sit to the north. This yard has evolved through the years, and will continue to do so, as it is Eileen’s passion.
“We moved here 15 years ago,” she says. “We had to do a lot of work to the backyard.”
That renovation included adding a retaining wall to better secure the large mesquite trees growing on a slope on the western half. In addition, Eileen and her husband incorporated a grass lawn and a built-in barbecue. A large mesquite tree, which sat outside the backyard, was removed because it blocked the view.
The Durazos and their guests aren’t the only ones who enjoy this oasis. They get bobcats and javelina because they’re near a wash. Snakes also are a concern, though Eileen has only encountered non-poisonous king snakes that like to hang out and get water.
In its past, the home was popular with celebrities, too. “It has a little bit of a history,” Eileen says. “Melanie Griffith and Don Johnson rented it while Johnson was filming a movie here. Apparently, there were lots of parties.”
That movie was the smash hit Tin Cup, the iconic golf film that has become something of a movie legend. Scenes were shot at The Westin La Paloma Resort & Spa, as well as the Tubac Golf Resort.
Just as you cannot make a big-budget movie by yourself, it’s nearly impossible to tackle a major landscaping makeover and its continued maintenance alone. For help, Eileen turns to her friend Edd Ruiz, who co-owns Old Pueblo Petal Pushers. Their friendship goes back many years to their days as parents of Salpointe high school students. Ruiz worked in the insurance industry and later for a manufacturing firm before branching out into his current company, which he co-owns with business partner Gina Scherer. Together, Ruiz and Scherer create flower arrangements for special events, offer landscape design services, and build container gardens for clients.
With help from Ruiz in the selection process, Eileen plants a dizzying array of flora throughout the year. Kale, pansies,
flowering cabbage, foxglove, delphinium, alyssum, hollyhocks, geraniums, lantana, plumbago, trailing vines, and bougainvillea can all be found in the Durazos’ yard at some point during the spring and
early summer months.
Although Ruiz assists with seasonal planting advice, Eileen does much of her own gardening, spending many hours doing basic maintenance like deadheading. However, she also has landscapers come in once a week for general upkeep.
She says that gardening in the Sonoran Desert can be hard. “I have to pay a lot of attention to the sun — what gets direct sun and what doesn’t. Plants have to be moved a lot and changed out for that reason.”
She isn’t afraid of trying new things. She notes that her landscaper often will offer her plants that other people have decided they don’t want. “They’ll bring them here and we’ll give them a shot,” she remarks.
Old Pueblo Petal Pushers, Edd Ruiz and Gina Scherer, firstname.lastname@example.org
People who claim that the desert landscape is boring have never been here in spring when the cacti blossom into a palette of many hues.
BY DEBBY LARSEN
Cacti are one of nature’s dichotomies; their thorny sculptural spheres, spiraling columns and flat paddles are paired with beautiful tissue-paper-like flowers, creating a glorious contrast.
Some species, such as the ubiquitous prickly pear, cover the landscape with displays ranging from yellow to pink. Most species of cacti bloom in April, while others are late bloomers, extending the colorful show.
Beavertail Prickly Pear (Opuntia)
Low-spreading and slow growing, this cactus has blue-gray pads covered in tiny brown barbs rather than spines. It displays lovely pink to magenta blooms.
Torch Cactus (Trichocereus)
Trichocereus hybrids are columnar cacti that are admired for their brilliant flowers in a range of colors. Some cultivars produce magnificent displays in flushes (the period when all of a plant’s flowers are in bloom) over time.
Hedgehog Cacti (Echinocereus)
Heavily spined and short statured, this cactus forms dense, low-clustered mounds. It produces large, brightly colored flowers, such as this variety, called Claret Cup.
Easily recognized as the iconic sentinel of the Sonoran Desert, this slow-growing, columnar giant reaches up to 50 feet. A corona of large, night-blooming, white flowers appears in May, followed by red edible fruit in June.
Fishhook Barrel (Ferocactus)
This basketball-shaped, long-lived cactus has ridges of curved red or yellow spines. Yellow or orange flowers form a crown, followed by a crop of yellow-pineapple-shaped fruit with many tiny black seeds.
Staghorn Cholla (Opuntia)
This very spiny, tree-like cactus has rod-shaped branches that are favored by native birds for nesting. The cholla species should not be planted in high-traffic landscape spaces!
Small and spherical in shape, this species is covered with tiny spines. A ring of pink flowers appears at one time, followed by a circle of oval-shaped, red fruit.
Santa Rita Prickly Pear (Opuntia)
This low-growing, clumping variety has flat, round, reddish-purple pads and fewer spines than others in its family. The pads’ hue deepens when stressed by drought or cold.