Courtyard Garden

brick path lined with blooming multi-colored flowers and arched walkway
Tumacácori visitor center garden

NPS Photo

How It Was

Missions took their garden design from Spanish tradition, which itself incorporated garden design from Arabic, Moorish, and Roman architectural tradition. Combined, a Spanish garden incorporated a walled courtyard with a central fountain, often including water channels in the four cardinal directions, that promoted shade, fragrance, and color. In the mid-1700's when the first church was constructed at Tumacácori, there was undoubtedly a garden similar to the one located at the visitor center today.

Duell, a trader who visited the Tumacácori mission after it was abandoned, described the walled area that then existed to the east of the Tumacácori church as having, "...full grown fruit trees...peaches, pomegranates, quinces, etc….oriental appearance with white dome and deep green trees...gave an Asiatic effect. The high garden walls and beautiful baths still in as perfect a state as when left...Tumacácori was more fortunate than its neighbor to the north, San Xavier del Bac, and must have possessed a beautiful garden. Evidence of an irrigation system and partial garden wall was visible." Early travelers through the area commented in supplementing their food supply from the more than fifty peach trees in the Tumacácori mission garden. Many mentioned unharvested fruit and seeds littering the ground.

These gardens featured mostly plants imported from Europe and brought to the New World by the padres. Each of these plants would have had enough value for settlers to import them from Europe, or to adopt them from the surrounding area– the value of cultural, religious, or symbolic importance, medicinal or food value, shade, or simply beauty.


How It Is Now

The courtyard garden at Tumacácori was built in 1939 as part of the visitor center's New Deal era construction. Its design aesthetic, like many of the adjacent visitor center architectural details, mirrors that of the missions in New Spain.

The sun dried adobe garden walls were completed in October of 1937. Following the completion of the visitor center building that December, the first plants were introduced into the garden. Several fig trees -- cuttings from a Black Fig in Amado that was believed to have come from the original Tumacácori Mission orchard -- were planted in March of 1938.

The following year, in March of 1939, sixteen young men employed by the Civilian Conservation Corps (CCC) began construction of the patio garden. A section of the east garden wall was removed to allow access by their dump truck. The crew brought in topsoil, building materials, and some large trees, including olives, pomegranates, and an apricot tree. Between 1939 and 1940, CCC crews also laid out and installed the brick walkways and created the fountain and adobe benches still in use today.

Of the original garden plantings, the olives, ornamental pomegranates, and apricot tree survive. None of the original figs remain. Both ornamental and fruiting pomegranates from original 1930s plantings can be found on the north side of the visitor center (the side facing the mission church). At least three native mesquite trees were left in place and continue to grow in the garden to this day.

All About Fruit Trees

diagram of courtyard garden with numbered spaces
Botanical Common name Location
Prunus persica 'Bonanza II' Miniature bonanza peach 1
Borago officinalis Borage 2
Tagetes lucida Tarragon 3
Vitus vinifera Mission grape 4
Laurus nobilis Bay laurel 5
Achellia millifolium Yarrow 6
Philadelphus microphyllus Little leaf mock orange 7
Poliomintha maderensis Lavender spice 8
Ceanothus greggii Desert ceanothus 9
Salvia clevelandii Cleveland's sage/Chapparel sage 10
Zauschneria latifolia Hummingbird bush 11
Lavandula dentata 'Goodwin Creek' Lavender 12
Rosa arizonica Arizona rose 13
Hemerocallis Day lily 14
Prunus serotina Chokecherry 15
Potentilla fruticosa Bush cinquefoil 16
Lobelia laxiflora Sierra Madre lobelia 17
Glandillaria goodingii Gooding's verbena 18
Agastache wrightii Sonoran hyssop 19
Rosa damascena semperflorens Autumn damask rose 20
Rosa gallica officinalis Apothecary or Gallica rose 21
Rosaceae fendleri Fendler rose 22
Artemisia ludoviciana Wormwood sage 23
Glandularia pulchella Moss verbena 24
Iris Iris 25
Vitex Monk's pepper, Chaste tree 26
Viola Violets 27
Levisticum officinale Lovage 28
Salvia blepharophylla Eyelash leaved sage 29
Salvia greggii Autumn Sage 30
Althea rosea Hollyhocks 31
Aloysia wrightii Wright's bee brush 32
Myrtus communis Roman myrtle 33
Commelina erecta Day flower 34
Prunus armeniaca Apricot tree 35
Prunus x domestica Plum 36
Pyrus communis Pear tree 37
Olea europaea Olive tree 38
Punica granatum Ornamental pomegranate 39
Aquilegia chrysantha Columbine, golden 40
Prosopis velutina Velvet mesquite 41
Cydonia oblonga Quince 42
Citrus aurantium Sour orange 43
Salvia apiana White sage 44
Sphaeralcea ambigua v. ambigua Globe mallow 45
Sphaeralcea ambigua v rosacea Rose globe mallow 46
Plumbago scandens White plumbago 47
Chrysactinia mexicana Damianita 48
Ficus carica Black mission fig 49
Lonicera sempervirens Coral or Hummingbird honeysuckle 50
Punica granatum Pomegranate 51
Aristolochia watsonii Native pipevine 52
Chenopodium ambrosioides Epazote 53
Ruta graveolens Rue 54, pot 107
Stachys coccinea Scarlet betony 55
Mirabilis multiflora Showy four o'clocks 56
Chamaemelum nobile Roman chamomile pot 57
Poliomintha maderensis * Mexican oregano pot 58
Salvia henryi Crimson sage 59
Ageratum corymbosum Native butterfly mist 60
Agastache foeniculum Anise hissop 61
Thymus vulgaris Thyme 62
Silybum marianum Milk thistle 63
Origanum marjorana Marjoram 64
Clematis drummondii Virgin's bower, Old man's beard 65
Rhus ovata Sugar sumac 66
Capsicum annum vr glabriusculum Chiltepin 67
Rosmarinus officinalis Rosemary 68
Anemopsis californica Yerba mansa 69
Agave murphyii Murphy's century plant, Hohokam agave 70
Dasylirion wheeleri Desert spoon 71
Agave parryi Parry's agave 72
Agave lophantha Agave lophantha 73
Agave victoriae-reginae Queen Victoria's agave 74
Ferocactus wislizeni AZ barrel cactus, Fishhook barrel cactus 76
Aloe barbadensis Aloe 77
Nolina microcarpa Beargrass, Sacahuista 78
Dasylirion quadrangulatum Thornless or toothless desert spoon 79
Salvia azurea v. grandiflora Blue sage 80
Brickellia californica Bricklebush 81
Brickellia amplexicaele Earleaf bricklebush 82
Peritoma arborea Bladderpod 83
Hyptis emoryi Desert lavender 84
Allium cernuum Nodding's onion 85
Melampodium leucanthum Blackfoot daisy 86
Gossypium thurberi Desert cotton 87
Ratibida columnaris Mexican hat 88
Monarda didyma Bee balm, Bergamot 89
Monarda austromontana Lemon Beebalm pot 90
Origanum vulgare Oregano 91
Jatropha cuneata Limberbush 92
Datura wrightii Sacred datura 93
Tulbaghia violacea Society garlic 94
Tropaeolum majus Nasturtiums 113
Hypericum perforatum St. John's Wort pot 116
Hyssopus officinalis Hyssop 129
Allium I'itoi's onion pot 118
Passiflora incarnata Passion vine 128
Mentha pulegium (European); Hedeoma pulegioides (American) Pennyroyal pot 106
Oenethera biennis Evening Primrose 127
Lavanda stoechas Spanish lavender "Madrid purple" 122
Symphytotrichuma lanceolatum Day of the Dead Daisies 123
Coreopsis Moonbeam' 124
Eriobotrya japonica Loquat 125
Eschscholzia californica Poppy 126
Cuminum cyminum Cumin pot 100
Ipomoea batatas Sweet potatoes 114, 115
Allium schoenoprasum Chive pot 97
Corriandum sativum Cilantro pot 98
Mentha requienii Corsican mint pot 99
Pimpinella anisum Anise pot 95
Heterotheca subaxillaris Camphor, Arnica pot 96
Vinca minor Dwarf periwinkle pot 101
Foeniculum vulgare Fennel pot 102
Echinocereus pentalophus Ladyfinger cactus pot 103
Petroselinum crispum Parsley pot 105
Mentha piperita Peppermint pot 106
Rumex acetosa Sorrel pot 108
Mentha spicata Spearmint pot 109
Satureja montana Winter savory pot 112
Melissa officinalis Lemon balm pot 104
Satureja hortensis Summer savory pot 110
Ocimum basilicum Sweet basil pot 111
Tagetes lucida Tarragon pot 75
Salvia chamaedryoides Mexican Blue Sage 130
Agave univittata Thorn crested agave 131
Cissus trifoliata Arizona Grape Ivy 132
Ephedra nevadensis Morman Tea 133
Canna sp. Canna Lilly 134
Tanacetum parthenium Feverfew 135
Aloysia citrodora Lemon verbena 136
Aloe maculata Soap aloe 137
Sideroxylon lanuginosum Gum Bumelia 138
Dicliptera resupinata Arizona Foldwing 139
Prunus pumila var. besseyi Western Sandcherry 119
Passiflora arizonica Passion Flower 140
Epilobium canum California Fuchsia, Hummingbird trumpet 141

Last updated: July 4, 2020

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P.O. Box 8067
Tumacacori, AZ 85640


520 377-5060

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