Gardening Wright in the desert

Frank Lloyd Wright's Taliesen West

IMG_2780I’m a huge Frank Lloyd Wright fan – since high school in fact.

I took a high school field trip from Binghamton, NY to the Museum of Modern art in New York City. I remember seeing an architect’s scale model of a home. It was the late 1970s. I was into building models of antique cars and Apollo spacecraft at the time (there’s a contrast for you!). I remember how cool and futuristic the home model looked – like something out of The Jetson’s or a sci-fi movie. Over a waterfall of all things! I remember walking around it and seeing a model of an antique car sitting in its driveway. The juxtaposition was startling. Reading the info on the model, it turns out it was Wright’s Falling Waterdesigned in 1935!

Over the years, I’ve been fortunate enough to visit Falling Water in PA; Wright’s home, Taliesin, in Spring Green, Wisconsin; NYC’s Guggenheim Museum; and obviously, the Martin House and Graycliff in Buffalo. And I’ve visited Wright’s winter home and school, Taliesin West, in Scottsdale, Arizona, twice. These are photos from our trip there earlier this year.

Wright’s Graycliff, here in Buffalo.

I am just recently off the board of Wright’s Graycliff, a house museum just outside Buffalo he built for the Martin family as a summer cottage, in the late 1920s. I spent six years on the board as a vice president and chair of its Marketing Committee. I loved helping to promote the site. Extensive garden work is being done there now and I’ll post abut it in the future. It’s one of the few Wright designs where there are drawings, in Wright’s own hand, of the landscape design he planned. Landscape architect Ellen Biddle Shipman, America’s first woman landscape architect,  reworked some of Wright’s landscape at Graycliff, and much was lost over the years of different ownership, but it’s all being restored now.

IMG_2758But here is Taliesin West, in Scottsdale, just 20-some miles outside Phoenix.

It’s one of his greatest architectural achievements and one of the best examples of his Organic Architecture – using local, naturally occurring elements as an integral part of the design. Wright used it as his winter home and school from 1937 until his death at 91 in 1959.

As much online research as I could do turned up NO information on the gardens though. I was hoping to at least be able to mention what some of the plantings were in the landscape, but I found no info, no plant lists, no blog posts or anything regarding eh gardens at Taliesin West. I find that surprising as the plants – trees, shrubs, cactus and succulents are integral and integrated into the house’s interior and exterior.

IMG_2789I really can’t even comment on the plants as they are from an entirely different plant palette than I’m used to. We don’t grow a lot of desert flora here in Buffalo.

The plantings are integrated into the architecture with built-in planters, inside and outside. There is a sculpture garden with rotating exhibitions, and the largest area of gardening is the xeriscaped garden in “front” of the main house, designed as a fire barrier from the scrubby desert the property sits within.

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