Scottsdale will soon start development of a pretty place to teach what it preaches about water conservation and desert landscaping.
By late winter the city is to begin transforming six acres at Chaparral Park into a showcase of the biodiversity of desert plant life.
The Scottsdale Desert Xeriscape Garden will contain several thousand individual plantings representing at least 120 plant species, including trees, shrubs, cactuses, vines, ground covers, grasses and more.
The chief designer is landscape architect Christi Ten Eyck, whose work has earned a collection of awards for environmentally sensitive development.
Her projects include landscape designs for the recently renovated James Hotel near the Scottsdale Civic Center, the Heard Museum, Phoenix Art Museum, the Phoenix Civic Plaza Convention Center, the Desert Botanical Garden and the planned Arizona State University Scottsdale Innovation Center.
The Chaparral Park garden will offer a palette for exhibiting a full array of landscaping and structural elements to create a shady, colorful oasis, Ten Eyck said.
It also will feature a halfacre, terraced, miniwatershed installation by environmental artist Lorna Jordon.
The project isn’t primarily about aesthetic appeal. The garden, which will be next to the city’s new $78 million state-of-the-art water treatment plant, is to be a model of efficient use of resources and effective techniques for home landscaping.
More than half the water used in Scottsdale — and most municipalities — is used for residential landscapes, said Robyn Baker, a city conservation specialist.
"The garden’s mission is water conservation. Most people overwater their landscapes. So it’s the best place for us to learn to save water," she said.
Baker and other experts will be using the xeriscape garden for classes and workshops on how, where and what to plant to make landscapes more attractive, less expensive to maintain and attuned to the Sonoran Desert.
The garden’s sculpted, sloping contours will act as a "biosponge" that makes maximum use of drip irrigation. It will also capture and distribute rainwater and runoff from storm drains, Ten Eyck said.
Her design calls for specific types of native desert trees, shrubs, succulents and ground covers to be mixed in ways that establish a variety of "microclimates" that can provide cooling effects, shield homes from the sun’s glare or attract hummingbirds and butterflies.
The project is part of almost $5 million in improvements for a 32-acre park expansion. Other features will be two sports fields, a dog park and landscaping around a small reservoir. Chaparral Park will encompass 98 acres when complete.
The garden also will include paths, stone retaining walls, shade structures, information kiosks and a water fountain. It’s scheduled to open in the fall, Baker said.