Getting A Garden To Grow With Little Water

GOOD GARDENING

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Water has become a major concern for many Rim country gardeners, and a new demonstration garden is opening this weekend to address those concerns. Located in the central courtyard at the Gila County Community College Campus, the installation of the High Country Xeriscape Project Demonstration garden is the third stage of a process, which has taken more than three years to materialize.

In 2000, members of the High Country Xeriscape Council of Arizona agreed that a demonstration project in a public place could become a living laboratory to explore water-saving techniques in local landscapes.

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Barbara Berman, Linda Nannizzi and Bruce Berman laying pathway stones in the High Country Xeriscape Project demonstration Garden at GCCC.

The first stage involved looking for the right public place to install and maintain such a garden, and Dr. Barbara Ganz, through her efforts with the college district, was able to make the GCCC campus available. The second stage of the process involved detailed planning of the concept, and looking for funding to make the garden a reality. The third stage is in process now, and the public is invited to watch the garden grow.

Xeriscape Council members conducted a public survey to determine if local residents were aware that water-conserving gardening techniques were possible. Results showed that respondents were largely unaware of the availability of native and other low water-use plants, and most had not heard of rain water harvesting or water re-use.

Armed with the survey results and draft planning of the site, the grant application process began. Notification of a successful search came in October 2002, when a $16,000 matching fund grant was received from the Arizona Land Department and Community Tree Council. This Urban and Community Forestry Program, Community Challenge grant is now being used to design and install the community demonstration garden. The grant requires that the Xeriscape Council find $8,000 in funds, gifts in kind and donated labor, while the grant will award the other $8,000.

Work began on excavation of the site in January 2003. Members of the Xeriscape Council and community volunteers have done most of the labor by hand while the town of Payson provided help with transporting and placing large rocks.

Boulder and pathway stone-setting workshops have been offered to help local gardeners learn the aesthetics of hardscape and the value of rocks in the life cycles of native plants.

Council members have accomplished the work by hand, using a "design as you go" technique, because that is the way most homeowners approach landscaping their own properties. Boulder out-croppings, walkways, water harvesting swales, and retention basins are all designed around the existing down spouts and drip watering system.

Amon Builders donated construction time to build the information kiosk, which also serves as the garden entrance. The town of Payson donated materials for the kiosk.

Some of the plants used in the design were planted when the college campus opened, and were transplanted into the present design. Other plants, which have been installed recently, will be watched carefully to determine their adaptability to this climate zone, and water requirements.

All plants are found on the Xeriscape plant list which is in the free booklets available at the town of Payson Water Department, and on the High Country Xeriscape Council website: www.xeriscapeaz.org.

The official opening of the High Country Xeriscape Project is Saturday, June 7, and it will be featured on the Rim Area Gardeners Mogollon Garden Tour.

Members of the Xeriscape Council will be on hand to discuss low water-use gardening techniques and plant characteristics. Educational materials will be available, and refreshments will be served. Although the demonstration garden will normally be open to the public free of charge the same hours the GCCC campus is open, this weekend a garden tour ticket will be required.

Mogollon Garden Tour

Saturday, June 7, 8 a.m. to 4 p.m.

Sunday, June 8, noon to 4 p.m.

Tickets: $5, entitles bearer to visit all six gardens.

Tickets are available at Ace Hardware, Plant Fair Nursery, Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce and Payson Public Library, and all six gardens.

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