New desert garden respects Tucson tradition
Plants and materials evoke area's roots
Landscape designer Debra Huffman wanted the garden for her new home to blend into its older Tucson neighborhood, so she used traditional plants and hardscape materials that evoke the area’s roots.
To create privacy from the street, for example, Huffman installed an old-fashioned ocotillo fence. Stems of 6-foot-tall ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) were woven together with wire to make fence sections, sunk about 6 inches into soil mixed with sand, and lashed to steel crossbars on posts to provide extra stability. Huffman sprays the fence with water once a week; most of the ocotillo has taken root, sprouting leaves and red-orange blossoms. She also commissioned forged steel gates and trellises by Tucson sculptors Dan Lehman and Daniel Ptasnik.
To serve as the focal points of her front yard, Huffman relocated an existing date palm and planted a sculptural gray-green Agave weberi, both of which typify the region’s flora. She also wove in some recent introductions to the Southwest, including Acacia berlandieri, a lacy shrub with fernlike foliage and creamy white puffball flowers in spring, and Bulbine frutescens, a low, shrubby South African native with succulent green leaves and yellow flowers from fall through spring. Pink penstemon and red-and-blue-flowered bat-faced cuphea dot the garden as well. By using unthirsty, desert-adapted plants and installing an efficient drip-irrigation system, Huffman’s monthly water bill is $30 to $40–far less than the neighborhood average.