This garden echoes the desert around it

Simplicity of design gives this Scottsdale, Arizona, garden a Zen-like serenity. The property enjoys views of Black Mountain and a desert panorama.

To blur the boundaries between the garden and the surrounding desert, designer-builder Peter Magee of Magee Custom Homes (480/575-5254) used a few tricks: A giant “window” in a wall on one side of the patio frames views in that direction; the infinity-edge swimming pool, surfaced with black Pebble Tec ( or 800/937-5058), drops off to meet the desert.

Sonoran Desert Designs planted the site lightly to enhance ― not compete with ― these backdrops. A gnarled 150-year-old ironwood tree (brought in with a crane) and a large agave in a stone pot add drama to the hardscape; beyond, mesquite and other native shrubs provide a subtle transition zone between garden and desert.

DESIGN: Sonoran Desert Designs, Cave Creek, AZ (480/595-6400)


Borrow desert views. Create a seamless transition between your garden and the wild areas by using some of the same plants that grow there naturally.

Use plants as sculpture. Place cactus and succulents where their forms show off to the best advantage ― as well as where they’ll capture backlighting from the sun or cast shadows across paving. For drama in the evening, light them from beneath. Or cluster bolder plants like saguaros of different heights against a painted wall.

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