United States, Arizona, Maricopa, Phoenix, Arizona, Maricopa County, Phoenix
Las Palmas Altas (Phoenix, Ariz.)
The first gardens at Las Palmas Altas were the creation of John Rhuart, who noticed similarities in the climates of Arizona and South Africa and brought to Arizona tropical and subtropical varieties he had seen growing in South African gardens. The three acre property on the warmer side of Camelback Mountain was undeveloped until Rhuart moved there circa 1960, building a ranch style house and a swimming pool with glass mosaics of fish on the bottom. Fencing and garden artifacts were brought from his family home in Phoenix as well as 36 mature Mexican fan palms, now 100 feet tall. Boulders from road construction up the mountain were brought to this property and used to build nearly fifty small irregular terraces connected by a descending path. A redwood Japanese teahouse was moved from Phoenix to Las Palmas Altas and sited near the swimming pool. Hedges of oleander and olive protected more sensitive jacaranda, seven species of orchid trees, and 100 bougainvillea plants comprising 67 different species. Brightly colored beds of tropical and subtropical African daisies, anemones, nasturtium and ranunculi were planted in terraces contrasting with plantings of cacti, yuccas, agave and other desert plants.
Since 2002 the current owners have been researching and partly reconstructing Las Palmas Altas, consulting Rhuart family archives and photographs as well as records at the Phoenix Desert Botanical Garden. It took six months to remove 30 tons of overgrown plants and brush but they uncovered rare saguaro seedlings, dragon trees, bougainvillea with 12-inch diameter trunks and enormous agaves. Desert natives, South American cacti and South African aloes are grown now with more modest plantings of colorful annuals. Modern irrigation has been installed where practical in some parts of the garden but hand-watering is still a daily, time-consuming task.
John Holmes Rhuart and Joseph and Nancy Rhuart Shirley (former owners, 1962--); Janet Phillips and H. Victor Rubin (former owners, 1991-1998); Phil and Sue Francis (former owners, 1998-2002); Joe Flores (gardener, 1962-1989); Emigdio Hernandez (gardener, 2003--).
The folder includes worksheets and photocopies of articles.
This property is featured in "Gardens: Desert Haven" by Katia Bojilova-Beebe published in Architectural Digest December 1979, pp. 114-119; "Desert Becomes Tropical Haven" by Judy Peitzmeier published in The Scottsdale Daily Progress March 20, 1982, p. 10; "Phoenix Native's Dedication Yields Subtropical Paradise" by Dayna Lynn Fried published in The Arizona Republic March 21, 1982; Las Palmas Altas" by Maire Simington published in American Horticulturist December 1983, pp. 28-31; Gardens: Architectural Digest edited by Paige Rense, The Knapp Press, 1983; "Las Palmas Altas: TLC Brings a Historic Landscape Back to its Original Glory" by Cathy Cromell published in Phoenix Home & Garden December 2005, pp. 184-191