Southwest style: Cactus on guard

They form a sculptural screen along this Phoenix garden wall
Nora Burba Trulsson

While touring the home of architect Luis Barragan in Mexico City, interior plantscape designer Craig Pearson took note of the way Mexican fence post cactus (Pachycereus marginatus) were used on Barragan's landmark property. "In Mexico, they often plant the cactus close together so they grow into a living fence," explains Pearson.

Inspired by that visit, Pearson used the sculptural cactus to flank the entry gate at a Phoenix home owned by Pamela Ellison. Instead of planting them in a straight line, though, Pearson added interest by clustering and staggering the cactus along the wall that separates the brick driveway from the front courtyard. Given a little bit of water, the cactus should grow about 1 to 3 feet a year; at that rate, they will eventually tower over the 8- and 10-foot-tall sections of the garden wall.

To soften the effect of the upright cactus, Pearson placed two terra-cotta urns planted with fortnight lily (Dietes iridioides) on either side of the gate. Plantings of Mexican honeysuckle (Justicia spicigera) and sage, plus more terra-cotta urns and a metal lion sculpture, round out the scene. In the spring, bright yellow blossoms of littleleaf palo verde (Cercidium microphyllum) spill over the garden wall.

DESIGN: Craig Pearson, Pearson & Company, Scottsdale, AZ (602/840-6447)