Her passion is plants, his art.
Together they’ve created a whimsical series of themed gardens on land tucked in a mountainous north Scottsdale neighborhood.
“We both love creating things,” DeLea Rene says of herself and partner Andrew Zehr, an architectural designer and artist. “This property is very personal to both of us.”
His talents are displayed in the house redesign, a work in progress, and garden sculptures fashioned from concrete, glass and ceramic.
Her gift is seen everywhere else — the greenhouse, cactuses and succulent area, courtyard, rose garden and dry river bed environment. When the garden tour is over, Rene plans to open the property as a demonstration garden by appointment. Her desire is to help others learn plant varieties and gardening techniques that are gentle on the environment. Rene, who received her master gardener certification in 2003, is also a licensed residential and commercial landscape contractor.
“I call this the Fort Knox Vegetable-Herb Garden,” says Rene, stepping inside the greenhouse. Posts holding the wood and wire mesh structure were submerged in concrete to inhibit bunny invasion. A shade cloth protects plants from the intense rays of the sun. In the greenhouse’s center are trellises, which soon will be weighted with tomatoes. Already they’ve supported beans and grapes. Culinary herbs are doing well — cilantro, basil, oregano. And the peppers “just keep coming up,” she says.
Outside the greenhouse, Rene walks to the cactus and succulent garden. A rocklined path weaves past Argentine giants, Arabian lilacs and Rio Salado mesquite, the latter lacking thorn and leaning tendencies like Argentine and Chilean mesquite, respectively.
“This is an area where people can get close to the plants,” says Rene. Varieties seen here are desert adapted as opposed to indigenous. “I feel as long as they conserve water they are OK to use.”
In the demonstration courtyard, flowering purple plum, Hong Kong orchids and lobelia combine to create an explosion of color. Rene admits to a propensity for purple, lime green, yellow and orange. “Vibrant attracts me,” she says, smiling.
The rose garden, an indulgence she admits, reflects her Nebraska roots. Unlike other plants found on the property, roses are high-maintenance, though “not as much work as grass.” They are positioned outside her bedroom window, and she enjoys waking to their blooms.
Back on the property’s west side, the dry creek bed and its plants are fed by recycled water. Here more traditional trees are found, including peach, lemon and flowering pear. Sprinkled along the bed are globe mallow, butterfly bush and passion vine. A damp, shady spot was created for visiting wildlife.
“One of the most important things in landscaping is having a plan,” says Rene. She has one from the get-go, making adjustments when needed. “Creative people are always thinking so things can change. But in the long run a plan will save you time and money.”