Skip to main content Smithsonian Institution

Catalog Data

Former owner:
Rhuart, John Holmes  Search this
Shirley, Joseph  Search this
Shirley, Nancy Rhuart  Search this
Phillips, Janet  Search this
Rubin, H. Victor  Search this
Flores, Joe  Search this
Francis, Phil  Search this
Francis, Sue  Search this
Flores, Joe  Search this
Hernandez, Eduardo  Search this
Collection Creator:
Garden Club of America  Search this
Archival materials
Las Palmas Altas (Phoenix, Ariz.)
United States -- Arizona -- Maricopa County -- Phoenix
Scope and Contents:
The folder includes worksheets and photocopies of articles.
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--).
Related Materials:
Las Palmas Altas related holdings consist of 2 folders (12 35 mm slides and 10 digital images)
Collection Restrictions:
Access to original images by appointment only. Researcher must submit request for appointment in writing. Certain items may be restricted and not available to researchers. Please direct reference inquiries to the Archives of American Gardens:
Collection Rights:
Archives of American Gardens encourages the use of its archival materials for non-commercial, educational and personal use under the fair use provision of U.S. copyright law. Use or copyright restrictions may exist. It is incumbent upon the researcher to ascertain copyright status and assume responsibility for usage. All requests for duplication and use must be submitted in writing and approved by Archives of American Gardens.
Gardens -- Arizona -- Phoenix  Search this
Collection Citation:
Smithsonian Institution, Archives of American Gardens, The Garden Club of America collection.
AAG.GCA, File AZ003
See more items in:
The Garden Club of America collection
The Garden Club of America collection / Series 1: United States Garden Images / Arizona
Archival Repository:
Archives of American Gardens