Hacienda Del Sol

An Interview with Hacienda Del Sol Gardener Melanie Zettel

Get to know a little more about our talented Gardener and learn some of her tips for desert gardening.

Our talented Gardener, Melanie Zettel has always loved the creativity and the challenges that come with desert gardening. One step into our grounds and it’s clear Melanie knows what she is doing – no matter what season it is! Learn more about our green-thumbed mastermind below.  

The Inner Courtyard & Cactus Blooms

An interview with Gardener Melanie Zettel:

How long have you worked at Hacienda Del Sol?
I have worked here for three years. 

What do you think is our most unique plant at Hacienda Del Sol?
I would say some of the fruit trees we have here on property like the Variegated Lemon and the Sapote. The Variegated Lemons have really beautiful yellow and green striping on the outside and are actually pink on the inside. It might not look like a regular lemon but it tastes refreshing and full of that lemony, citrus flavor.

Variegated lemon tree at Hacienda Del Sol

What is your favorite part about working here? 
The team here is very open to creativity and exploring different ideas, which is great. Frank Hughes, one of our owners, is in charge of coordinating various outdoor and gardening projects and he a real pleasure to work with. He is so capable of seeing projects come to fruition, he is very organized and efficient! 

Do you have a favorite garden area in the resort? 
Usually my favorite part is whatever we are currently working on! At the moment we’re working on a hydroponic system for our greenhouse. We will be able to grow our own fresh tomatoes. We’re also working on a new white garden where we can grow seasonal, scented white flowers. 

What exactly is a hydroponic system?
Basically, we will be growing specific types of plants like tomatoes and peppers, in nutrient rich water rather than just in soil. Since the plants have all the nutrients they need in the water, it helps them grow quickly and produce more. Water can also be reused so we will end up using less water which is great for the desert environment! 

What is your favorite part of desert gardening?
Giving things a lush appearance in the desert is my favorite part, it seems to contradict the desert environment. 

With all the varities of cacti and succulents, there's no shortage of beautiful green colors at Hacienda Del Sol

Where do you think is the best place to take photos at Hacienda Del Sol?
Well it depends – there are so many great spots! I’ve seen some really beautiful pictures taken in the vegetable garden with the Nasturtiums in bloom and the Catalina Mountains in the background.

Nasturtiums add color to the Chef's Garden

What is your favorite thing to grow?
It’s hard to pick just one thing! I love to try different varieties of plants. I just planted Turkish Eggplant in our vegetable garden and we’re trying some Lime Basil and Banana Mint in the herb garden too. I also like growing the fresh microgreens in the greenhouse we use in the restaurant, it’s a really nice mix of flavors and textures. 

Desert gardening can be so colorful

What is the most challenging part of desert gardening?
There are so many challenges in the desert. Our seasons are short and can be quite erratic. Our temperatures roller coaster from extreme heat, winds or cold snaps which can all hinder growth. When the weather cooperates then the insects and javelinas seem to take their turn creating havoc! 

With delicious fruits like pomegranate on site, it's no wonder desert critters make their way to our grounds

What advice can you give to locals who want to create their own gardens here in the desert? 
As many would say, keep it simple and stick with plants that grow well in your area. If you love gardening and have the time for it then you can definitely be more adventurous with your choices. Of course, that will require more effort and energy to get good results. 

What are some plants that typically do well in our Tucson environment?
Some plants that do well are of course varieties of cacti and succulents. Purple Queen tends to do really well here too. Sometimes gardening is all about experimenting with different things and seeing what works best for you and your yard.

The Outer Courtyard and Purple Queen at Hacienda Del Sol

Get inspired to create your own garden, stop by and see our beautiful botanical gardens, vegetable gardens and greenhouse. Or sample some of our fresh-grown herbs, fruits and vegetables in The Grill or on the Terraza Garden Patio & Lounge. You will quickly see why Historic Hotels of America named us in the Top 25 Gardens in America in 2018 and 2019.

See you soon.

For more desert gardening tips and inspiration, check out our Pinterest page.