Garden of Inspiration
A MICHIGAN COUPLE CREATES A MAGICAL OASIS IN THE DESERT
Digging in the dirt since she was old enough to hold a shovel, Anne Silver has toured myriad gardens with her mother in the U.S. and Canada. Two years ago, she reluctantly agreed to leave the lush landscape of Michigan behind when her husband, Cary, proposed a move to Arizona.
And today, while their garden is the showpiece of their neighborhood, Anne is quick to admit the transition to dusty terrain was not easy. “I can appreciate now that there are a lot of shades of green and brown,” she reflects, “but we moved here the summer we had all the haboobs. There was dirt everywhere, and all I saw was brown. My mother was a flower nut—she had beautiful gardens and did the flowers for our church. One year, I weeded her garden as a Mother’s Day gift and I took out all sorts of things that weren’t weeds. She passed away before she was able to see our garden, but she was truly our inspiration.”
Sparse with plants and covered “wall-to-wall with flagstone,” the grounds offered little charm when the Silvers purchased their north Scottsdale property. So they called on Marc Vargas of Desert Foothills Landscape to create the “amazing garden of their dreams.”
In addition to a lot of color and texture, the couple wanted a look that would draw interest, and spaces that would function as an extension of the residence. But before starting the renovation, the homeowners removed walls inside the home that obstructed views and enlarged windows that eventually would frame various outdoor focal points. Then work began on the exterior spaces.
The first hint of the remarkable garden comes just inside the front gate. Vargas transformed the area into a welcoming courtyard where wind chimes jingle in the soft breeze and fish swim lazily in a boulder-strewn water feature. The sheltered environment is rich in plantings, from fragrant star jasmine and roses to bristly organ pipe cactus.
The backyard was designed with comfort, privacy and beauty in mind. Flagstone pathways lead to inviting and stylish spaces, including a hummingbird and butterfly garden, a fireplace with banco seating and an aloe garden. The grounds incorporate a variety of colors, textures,
heights, shapes and fragrances, with specimen cacti, succulents and flowering plants thriving under dappled sunlight. Vibrant mosaic pottery and tile murals custom-made in Mexico add to the charm.
To make the outdoor space as inviting as an indoor room, cozy furnishings and thoughtfully selected accessories were brought in. “I wanted this to be a magical oasis in the desert, which is why there are crystals, minerals, bells and little surprises adding sparkle throughout,” Silver
Because the yard is so functional and inviting, it’s no surprise that it gets used daily. “We are happy to share our garden but we are not huge entertainers; we really did this for us,” remarks the homeowner.
“I received the ultimate compliment a few weeks ago when some neighbors were over and asked if I was a floral designer because of all the arrangements inside and out. One of the ladies said, ‘Don’t you know? She’s the flower lady!’
“My mother is smiling.”
Choosing Plants for the Desert Garden
Pick flowers that are going to thrive in their environment, suggests Anne Silver. She also warns homeowners, especially those who are new to the desert, to “beware of the pokeys”—that being all the thorns and spikes cacti tend to have.
Plant selection is crucial, notes Marc Vargas. “Select the right plant for the area, making sure there is adequate sun or shade.” The expert also says proper pruning is essential. “You want to keep plants under control, particularly ground covers, so that they don’t encroach on other
“Select an assortment of plants for year-round color as well, ensuring that something is always in bloom,” recommends Cary Silver.
Author: Judy Harper – Phoenix Home&Garden – April 2013 – “Garden of Inspiration”