Inspired landscape architecture at Cavalliere Park in Scottsdale


While touring low-water gardens in Phoenix and nearby Scottsdale, Arizona, in early April with my friend Noelle Johnson, aka AZ Plant Lady, we stopped at Cavalliere Park. Constructed in 2012, the park is a model of sustainability and is a 3-star SITES-certified project.

Aside from all that, I really liked the look of the place. The angular roof of a long shade structure, which shelters restrooms and a playground, is tilted up and down to mirror the jagged mountains in the distance.


Rusty steel on the roof and rock-filled gabion walls echo the colors of the surrounding rugged landscape. Native plants were chosen for their ability to survive on their own in harsh desert conditions. A play lawn that’s part of the playscape area is artificial turf, which never needs watering. All of the materials were chosen with the goal of requiring less maintenance, thereby reducing long-term costs. You can read more about that on the Sustainable Sites Initiative website.


Two existing mesquite trees in the parking area were saved with the help of a steel-edged island that preserves the original grade around their root zones. This circular island bed is the beautiful focal point of the parking lot.


Native saguaro cactus, yuccas, and flowering perennials fill the understory.


Gabion retaining walls line stormwater retention ponds, and concrete benches with modern lines are positioned for views of the basketball courts and distant mountains. A trio of steel plates with cut-out windows caught my eye. How I wish I’d walked over to see what view is framed when you look through all three at once.

All material © 2006-2014 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

6 Responses

  1. Another place I missed when I was in Scottsdale last December. I’m already making a list for my next visit *THANKS TO YOU* :-).

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Noelle Johnson was the one who led me to all these interesting places in Phoenix and Scottsdale, Gerhard. I’m grateful to her for taking a day to show me around. —Pam

  2. Bob Pool says:

    I would almost kill to have a saguaro cactus.

    In the third picture there is a dash of red, a bloom I would imagine, and I was wondering if you happened to notice what plant it was? Red just seems out of place for desert blooms to me.

    • Pam/Digging says:

      They’re pretty awesome, aren’t they? Not worth killing for though. ;-) Have you tried growing Argentine saguaro in a pot? I’ve seen those on tour gardens here in Austin, and while not as impressive as Sonoran saguaros, they’re still great-looking. Vivero Growers carries them, I think.

      I studied my photo at high resolution, and I’d have guessed that the red flower was an aloe or dyckia bloom except that this is an all-native garden, and those aren’t native to the U.S. So maybe it’s a penstemon? Now I wish I’d taken a closeup. —Pam

  3. TexasDeb says:

    Just when I resolve not to let my affections be grabbed by somebody else’s garden spaces or gardening style (To Thine Own Garden Be True!) you post this and honestly, these shots leave me a little weak in the knees. I grew up in a house with a mesquite tree thriving on one side of our otherwise standardized St. Augustine/Austin lawn. I believe keeping them corralled into the middle of a parking lot is much better placement. Loved the look, hated those thorns!

    • Pam/Digging says:

      Corralled is how I prefer to keep some of my spikier plants, Deb, and for the same reason. Some of the most thorny plants are also the most beautiful, but it can be tricky to place them so you don’t endanger yourself. —Pam

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