The Hanging Gardens of Scottsdale

The balconies at the Optima Camel Ridge Village in Scottsdale are lush with a specific palette of plant materials.

The balconies at the Optima Camelview Village in Scottsdale are lush with a specific palette of plant materials.

This is not your typical green roof.  When the Optima company decided to build luxury condos in Scottsdale they wanted to provide a lush environment to set themselves apart from other housing in the Phoenix area.  Their solution was to plant the balconies and common areas on all levels of the complex.

Fountains, benches, and of course plants populate the rooftop gardens.

Fountains, benches, and of course plants populate the rooftop gardens.

Dozens of different plants from the native Arizona trees you might expect to birds-of-paradise and hibiscus are all used in different areas.  The different areas of planting space are broken up into 5 different zones from full sun to deep shade.  As horticulturist T.J. Lenick explained, before construction even began they knew that they would have to perform some trials to see what plants would thrive in the shallow rooting zone and different light conditions.  At a different site, they constructed mock beds to test different plants.  The winners were used in the final design while the losers were sent to the compost heap.

Breezeways and other common areas provide space for trees.

Breezeways and other common areas provide space for trees.

The plantings were installed beginning in 2005 around the condos which range in price from 300k to 2 million dollars.  Homeowners must maintain plants on their balconies (or hire a landscaper) and must choose from plants within the palette designated by Optima.  The buildings are clad mostly in glass and Sedona stone to provide views of and mimic nearby Camelback Mountain.  The results speak for themselves.  The complex of buildings stands out like an oasis in an otherwise desert landscape.

Plantings provide color, shade, and privacy.

Plantings provide color, shade, and privacy.

Keeping the plants alive takes some work.  Drip hoses and irrigation sprayers come on for short periods multiple times during the day to use the water as efficiently as possible and reduce evaporation.  Salts can build up in the soils since there are relatively few rain events so occasionally the beds are flushed out to prevent damage from salts.  While some of the deepest shade spots are proving to be difficult, Oasis is working to keep them attractive by adding boulders and reducing the plant material for a desert meets Japanese garden look.  The evolving landscapes and lush plantings make the 14 acre, pedestrian-only campus worth a visit if you are in town.

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