The Cactus Gardens

In the early stages of the Carraro Heights development, a Russian gentleman by the name of M. Moktatchev, fondly known as Mokta, appeared at Alessio Carraro’s doorstep with a proposal.  He offered to build a cactus garden.

A well-traveled man, Mokta had personal contacts all around the world and was able to acquire various desert related plant specimens from Australia,Central America, South America and Africa’s Sahara Desert.  These were in addition to the cacti he planted from California, Colorado, New Mexico and Arizona.

With the help of Alessio Carraro and his son Leo, Mokta planted over 500 species of cactus.  He carefully labeled each cacti with its common and Latin name.  One of the most eye-catching features of the gardens is the white river rock that lines the gardens. These rocks were collected from the Salt River which was on the southern end of Alessio’s property.  The gardens include two concrete-lined ponds, a horseshoe area and a game court.

During the Tovrea-era items added to the gardens include a large concrete patio just east of the castle, a rose garden, an aviary and a reflecting pool.

The Garden Today

Although many of the original plants did not survive through the years and most of the physical structures require restoration, the grandeur of the gardens is still apparent today.  In 1998, the City of Phoenix began the first phase of the Garden restoration.

Architects studied historic photographs of the garden to determine which plants had been used originally.  Over the course of a year, they planted 400 Saguaros and 1,000 smaller cactus.  The new plants were planted  less densely to allow for proper growth and development and the City installed irrigation systems, split rail fencing, driveway lighting and returned the river rock to it’s original white color.

Upcoming Community Garden Days in 2017
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8:00 AM to 11:00 AM
Friday, January 20
Saturday, January 21
Friday, February 17
Saturday, February 18
Friday, March 17
Saturday, March 18
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Saturday, April 22
7:00 AM to 10:00 AM
Friday, May 19
Saturday, May 20

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The Future of the Garden

The master plan for the Garden is focused on returning the plantings and garden features to the original 1928-1932 layout as envisioned and designed by Alessio Carraro and his gardener, Mokta.  The current Master Plan includes an Interpretive Theme Wall and Trail.  Although a Master Plan is in place for the Garden, the continued development and Garden restoration depends greatly on funding from the private sector and community.