Some communities push back the wilderness and impose a homogenized identity on the landscape, but not so in Paradise Valley, a small town in the Phoenix area. While in other parts of the region the desert is losing ground to development at an alarming rate (one source estimates 1 acre per hour), Paradise Valley residents are proud of their Sonoran surroundings—home of the famed saguaro cactus—and fight to maintain its integrity. As one of the wealthier communities in the area, the lots are large, which enables the town to give nature plenty of elbowroom. And the views of nearby Camelback Mountain are stunning. As landscape architect Christy Ten Eyck says, “It’s one of the few places where you really feel like the Sonoran Desert is alive and well.”
Facing Camelback Mountain, this Paradise Valley, Arizona, garden by Christy Ten Eyck uses desert-friendly plants to frame the view, including an ocotillo and barrel cactus on the left and a soft border of deer grass. Photo by: Steve Gunther.
Based in both Phoenix and Austin, Ten Eyck was called in to create a garden at the Paradise Valley home of an architect couple who had just built a studio addition on their 1960s home; she was given free rein, though a limited budget—always an interesting challenge. So she kept the design simple, sustainable, and savvy, and paid attention to the land while looking for ways to be creative and appropriate with materials, including a little recycling where the opportunity arose.