Green-minded green thumbs recycle plants

I’ve heard of recycling paper, compost, grass and other things but a gardener recycling plants? That’s how Robin Huhn and Gary Solomon landscaped their yard. They were one of the winners at this year’s SNWA Landscape Awards in the do-it-yourself category.

Before these do-it-yourselfers purchased the home, the front yard was all grass on a steep slope. The owners seldom mowed the lawn, so water constantly ran down the street. This couple stopped that. They removed the lawn and in went their Sonoran type landscape.

These scavengers are always looking for dilapidated plants. Gary goes about town asking homeowners if they want to get rid of those rundown plants.

“Some gladly give them to me while others look at me like I’m crazy,” he says. “Some of those contacts still call me now wanting us to recycle their plants. … We think outside the box at our house.”

Gary and Robin especially like saguaros. They have 11 dotting their yard in a hodgepodge design to match their personalities. But then again that’s the way Mother Nature does it in the desert. The saguaros vary in heights to fit in with their Sonoran landscape along with recycled barrel cactuses, ocotillos sennas, agaves and aloe plants.

To demonstrate their love for saguaros, Gary found the skeleton of a dead saguaro. “I placed it in the center of our music room between two baby grand pianos. We filled the skeleton with recycled Christmas lights found at a consignment store. The lights were peeking through the skeleton.”

The couple can be ruthless. No plant is sacred in their yard; if they don’t like one, it’s gone. This keeps their landscape constantly changing except for their saguaros. They love them, as the plants are so commanding. People stop by to take photos of their saguaros and become curious about plants inside their home.

Their recycle theme carries through the house, which is loaded with discarded houseplants they’ve nursed back to health.

At nurseries and garage sales, Gary and Robin scavenge unwanted sick plants. When visiting friends with houseplants, they snip cuttings to restart at home. They have pothos along with ficus, dieffenbachia, dracaenas, rubber plant and mother-in-law’s tongue scattered throughout the house.

The pool is the courtyard’s center focal point; everything else revolves around it. There are several conversation areas throughout the landscape, as the couple likes to entertain.

At the landscape’s far end, they have created two mesas. To accent them even more, they built two rock outcroppings to create the feeling of a larger yard. They’ve placed several conversation areas on the different levels.

At the backyard’s far end are two African sumacs. They provide shade from the blistering afternoon sun. They also create privacy and anchor the yard.

The do-it-yourselfers have a high wall along the edge of their courtyard. They hired a designer to develop a mural with these instructions, “You can do anything you want, but the mural has to be done with recycled materials.” This mural dominates the courtyard, remaining vibrant even when the yard lacks color.

Several containers of different shapes, sizes and colors line the courtyard. You might have guessed it: The containers are filled with recycled plants, which always cause lots of conversation.

Gary and Robin turned the top of their garage into a roof garden. This unique spot allows them to view the Strip as it comes alive at night. They are planting vines to spill over and soften the bare walls.

Gary hand waters the courtyard and houseplants.

“Our dogs kept eating the drip irrigation lines so I now do the watering. I know exactly how much each container takes, so it doesn’t take me long to water.”

Gary said, “When we go on vacation, someone moves in to water our plants. I spend two days teaching the person. It doesn’t take me long to tell if the irrigator did a good job when we return, as I have to spend extra time bringing plants back up to snuff.”

The naturalists let their houseplants grow naturally. Gary concluded, “I don’t believe in doing a lot of trimming,” as he pointed to pothos wandering all over the house.

Linn Mills writes a garden column each Sunday. You can reach him at or call him at

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