Last summer, a fire at a nearby business spread to Govinda’s Natural Foods Buffet and pressed pause on a 30-year run of vegan/vegetarian lunch, dinner and Sunday brunch buffet service.

By Kimberly Schmitz

Just short of five months later, the soup was back on in time for Thanksgiving festivities. The fire ran along the back of the building, damaging the kitchen and storage areas. A lot of food and most of the infrastructure of the 1950s building housing the restaurant was damaged. What most would consider a tragedy, proprietor/ manager/cook/hostess Sandamini Devi (Mother Sandamini to some) regards as a blessing on many levels. “Thank goodness, the damage was pretty minimal. Nobody was hurt. In that sense, this was kind of a cleansing,” Sandamini explains and adds with a chuckle, “The insurance process was a bit slow, so that also was the first real vacation I’d had in 30 years!”

Govinda’s is now sporting updated gas and electric lines, a storage room that doesn’t leak, a new walk-in fridge, and renovated bathrooms. In the dining room, guests are now welcomed by refreshed walls, tables, décor, and even a few more seats. Sandamini says, “I certainly wouldn’t have chosen this. But because not a blade of grass moves without the sanction of God, from a spiritual aspect, this was all for the good.” Devi is most grateful for the support from the community. “I was pleased and so proud of our Tucson. People donated money, clothes, food – there were donations in many forms. People even came to help clean up. In times of difficulties, you see and really appreciate those who come to your rescue.”

As expected, buffet and spiritual services are still going strong. Wednesday through Saturday lunch buffet is open 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. and Tuesday through Saturday, Dinner is 5-9 p.m. with Sunday brunch buffet served 11 a.m.-2:30 p.m. Vegan and vegetarian dishes from around the world are presented throughout the month with Tuesday evening exclusively featuring dishes from India. All cuisine served on Wednesday, Thursday, and Friday is Vegan. Long-time fans and the vegi-curious are all welcome to dive into scrumptious potato and cheese quesadillas, veggie and tofu manicotti, dreamy lentil soup, splendid samosas, curries and chutneys galore, and more at this blessedly renewed Tucson vegetarian/vegan favorite locale.

The Pros Who Know: Citrus State of Mind

Desert Treasures Citrus Groves has been a Tucson treasure since 1947, when local residents could purchase fresh citrus and dates directly from the original 25-acre parcel located along Orange Grove Road. The property experienced a renaissance when it was purchased by Peter Larsen in 1972. He sold his products to local residents and wholesale customers.


The family tradition has continued through the second and third generations — son-in-law Chris Duggan and grandson Liam Duggan. More than 30 varieties of citrus and, more recently, dates are grown on the remaining ten acres and are offered seasonally at local farmers markets.

Tips & Trends

• White Marsh grapefruit is most prolific and available through most of the year, as they stay on the tree throughout the year, their sweetness improves over time. The Ruby Red grapefruit is prized for its dark pink flesh.

• Blood oranges, such as Sanguinelli, Moro and Tarocco, are the most requested orange, known for their deep red skin and flesh.

• Unusual hybrids have been developed, such as Mineola tangelos, Temple and Ortanique tangors that are prized for their juice content and tangy flavor.

• Mandarins are very popular. Dancy, Gold Nuggets, Murcotts, Kinnows, Honey, Fairchild and Daisy can be found early in the season.

• Unique and specialty citrus varieties, which are difficult to find in grocery store, include kumquats, limequats, mandarinquats, cocktail grapefruit, and pomelos.

• Navel oranges are sweet and seedless favorites that arrive early on the market. Cara Cara is a sought-after pink hybrid navel.

• Arizona Sweets and Diller Oranges are the most popular.



Oro Valley Farmers Market and Rillito Park Farmers Market,


Tucson Lifestyle Magazine Brick

A little-used yard got a complete re-do to become a great space for entertaining.



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,

Garden Contractor: Sonoran Gardens, Inc.,

Pool Contractor: Cimarron Circle Construction Company,

Beautiful landscaping that flourishes throughout the seasons is only part of the appeal of this oasis.

The front entry of Eileen and Robert Durazo’s home is flanked by sculptural topiaries and cascading blooms

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 walled entry courtyard is graced with clusters of containers overflowing
with colorful annuals.

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,

Romi Carrell Wittman

This 80-year-old home and its landscape have seen many changes over the years. And the current homeowners aren’t quite done yet.

Graceful queen palms enliven the courtyard garden while bright bougainvillea covers the walls.

When Marty and Renee Capanna decided to purchase their home in a historic Tucson neighborhood back in 1980, they loved not only the house, which was built in 1939 in the Spanish revival style, but the feeling of community that infuses the area.

“This neighborhood is very alive,” Renee says. “Our passion is living where we can walk to games, restaurants and the Rincon Market. We take full advantage of all those things. We even walk downtown to restaurants for dinner and take the trolley home.“

At just 1,380 square feet with two bedrooms, the Capanna home was compact and offered relatively little storage space. Over the years, the couple expanded the footprint by 1,000 square feet, including the addition of a second story master suite and a family room at the back of the home.

As the Capanna family grew — the couple raised their two children here — they took on renovating the home in stages. In fact, the kitchen has been completely remodeled twice, most recently in 2015. Kim Rosborough of KR Interiors was the interior designer for that project. SHM Construction was the contractor for the project.

“Renee loves to cook and entertain,” Rosborough comments. “It’s fun to put together something you know the client will appreciate and use.”

Additional kitchen cabinetry was included to increase storage space.

Renee wanted white cabinets, so Rosborough designed the kitchen in a neutral palette. The white countertops are honed granite from Arizona Tile, while the backsplash is a glass mosaic from Artesana Tile. Rosborough added a peninsula as well as a wall with dove gray built-in cabinetry to increase the amount of storage space. A bay window and custom table became part of the makeover, giving the space a natural gathering area.

“The idea was to create a seamless flow from inside to outside,” Renee explains.

The Capannas turned to Phil Van Wyck of Van Wyck Projects for help reimagining the home’s outdoor spaces. Previously, the front yard was fairly basic, all grass with a small patio. Van Wyck turned it into another living area.

“We had to install all new windows,” Renee says of the project that started the outdoor renovation. “That inspired the addition of the French doors and the patio off the kitchen.”

The Capannas were concerned that, with two doors at the front of their home, visitors would be confused as to which entrance was the home’s front door. To address this issue, Van Wyck added a pillar and an overhang to subtly demarcate the home’s front door from the kitchen entrance.

“Remodels have boundaries,” Van Wyck observed of the design process. “You have to work within that.” Renee says her main goal was to add some privacy, while at the same time allowing interactions with passersby. As Renee put it, “We didn’t want a fortress.”

Beautiful chocolate brown flagstone guides visitors from the front of the home, to the side and rear yards. The side yard features a wonderfully private space with a Jacuzzi and outdoor shower. “People call our side yard enchanting,” Renee remarks.

Landscape Designer Phil Van Wyck designed the outdoor living spaces, including this private spa retreat.

Van Wyck designed all the hardscapes in the front, side and backyards, and he installed the permanent plants, including the trees and shrubs. Additionally, he is responsible for the ironwork that appears throughout the outdoor spaces, from the beautiful curved gates to the sconces and lights, and the water and fire features.

Wendy Lee of Garden Designs by Wendy installed all the pots and flowering plants, which she updates seasonally. “I call her Magic Wendy because she brings magic to the yard. She is a true artist with the flowerpots and all the plants around the fountain,” Renee says. “Wendy did the desert landscape on the north side of the wall and people stop every day and compliment it. They want to know who our designer was.”

Marty Capanna does the regular maintenance of the yard himself. “He loves to work in the yard and takes a lot of pride in it,” Renee reveals.

As with most homes, the renovation and remodeling process aren’t complete. “We’re still not finished,” Renee adds. “We do it little by little.”


KR Interiors,

SHM Construction, (520) 349-3761

Arizona Tile,

Artesana Tile,

Van Wyck Projects,

Garden Designs by Wendy,

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About Us

Tucson Lifestyle

Tucson Lifestyle Magazine is Tucson's only glossy, monthly city magazine, targeting Southern Arizona’s affluent residents. With over 35 years of publishing experience, Tucson Lifestyle is committed to showcasing the people, places, local flavors, and attractions that make our city unique.


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