Desert Botanical Garden and Taliesin West

Postcard From the Sonoran: Tackling Desert and Design in Phoenix

Photos by Ryan Benoit

Today I start a new job (!) and have my first big deadline of the semester, and also — what’s that? — Ryan has just informed me that the Super Bowl is happening this Sunday. (If your yard isn’t covered under two feet of snow and you’re thinking about entertaining outdoors, here’s our guide to throwing a bash for the Big Game.)

Right now we’re feeling nostalgic for our 2010 visit to Phoenix, AZ, the host of this weekend’s Super Bowl XLIX. (Or superb owl ex-licks, as I’ve been calling it in my mind.) During that trip we explored Taliesin West in neighboring Scottsdale, Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and a triumph of architecture and desert landscaping. The grounds, which also serve as the campus for the Frank Lloyd Wright School of Architecture, are a wonderland of dramatically angled eaves and low-ceilinged, shade-maximizing shelters. (The shorter the legs on a conference room table, the more people stay awake during meetings, apparently…) We also toured the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, where drought-tolerant beauties thrive against the arid terrain and the teasing lagoon-blue sky.

Taliesin West featured on The Horticult.

Taliesin West is located in the foothills of the McDowell Mountains in northeast Scottsdale. It was Frank Lloyd Wright’s winter home and studio and continues to be an architectural campus. Tours are available daily except for holidays.

Desert Botanical Garden featured on The Horticult

We each practiced our “cactus power pose” in the forest of saguaros at the Desert Botanical Garden! Great way to get your game face on…

During our trip we learned about the enduring magic of the saguaro, the region’s iconic cactus. Famed for its multi-armed silhouette and reaching upwards of 70 feet, the tree-like saguaro (Carnegiea gigantea) grows sloooowly from seed, an inch a decade, sprouting its first arm after 75 to 100 years. The average lifespan of a C. gigantea, whose flower is the official state blossom, is 150 years. But some specimens make it to over 200.

Four and a half years ago, these visits invigorated us. They shifted our aesthetic forever, presenting new (to us) possibilities for blending sculpture, horticulture and assertive human-made lines. If you find yourself in and around Phoenix this weekend, we recommend taking a time-out inside these inspiring sites…

—TH

Sonoran Super Bowl.

The Desert Botanical Garden is about 24 miles (25 minutes) from the University of Pheonix Stadium in Glendale (home of Superbowl XLIX). Taliesin West is located about 37 miles (40 minutes) east of the stadium in northern Scottsdale. We stayed in Scottsdale during our visit to the Phoenix area back in the Fall of 2010.

Taliesin West

Taliesin West featured on The Horticult.

About the region, Frank Lloyd Wright said: “Arizona needs its own architecture… Arizona’s long, low, sweeping lines, uptilting planes. Surface patterned after such abstraction in line and color as find ‘realism’ in the patterns of the rattlesnake, the Gila monster, the chameleon, and the saguaro, cholla or staghorn – or is it the other way around—are inspiration enough.”

Taliesin West featured on The Horticult.

Taliesin West featured on The Horticult.

Taliesin West featured on The Horticult.

We looked like babies back then!

Taliesin West featured on The Horticult.

We love the cloud-like green branches of the region’s palo verde trees. These green giants are Sonoran Desert natives and in the spring, these trees burst with yellow blooms.

Taliesin West featured on The Horticult.

A yucca borders the edge of the house’s triangular pool. Frank Lloyd Wright bought the property in 1937 and personally designed almost every aspect of the property.

Taliesin West featured on The Horticult.

Taliesin West featured on The Horticult.

Another view of the architectural campus. Taliesin West is listed as a National Historic Landmark.

Taliesin West featured on The Horticult.

Desert Botanical Garden

Desert Botanical Garden featured on The Horticult

Desert Botanical Garden featured on The Horticult

An agave patch.

 

Desert Botanical Garden featured on The Horticult

Desert Botanical Garden featured on The Horticult

Ferocactus pottsii, or Potts barrel cactus

Desert Botanical Garden featured on The Horticult

The yucca leans theatrically.

Desert Botanical Garden featured on The Horticult

Desert Botanical Garden featured on The Horticult

Stapelia gigantea or carrion flower.

Desert Botanical Garden featured on The Horticult

Carnegiea gigantea or Saguaro cactus.

Desert Botanical Gardens featured on The Horticult

Desert Botanical Garden featured on The Horticult

Desert Botanical Garden featured on The Horticult

Desert Botanical Garden featured on The Horticult

Is there anything cuddlier than a teddy bear cholla (Cylindropuntis bigelovii)?

Desert Botanical Garden featured on The Horticult

Opuntia.

Desert Botanical Garden featured on The Horticult

Desert Botanical Garden featured on The Horticult

  • Jillian Brooks

    I was one of the architecture students at Taliesin West in 2010. I’m glad you got to experience such a unique place. I miss the sunsets there. If you ever go back, be sure to hike up Camelback for one of the most amazing views, and hikes you’ll ever see.

    • Jillian, firstly, that is SO COOL you were a student there. Seeing Taliesin West as a visitor is so exhilarating, we can only imagine the experience of going there regularly to pursue your passion. And we hope to hike up Camelback on our next visit!