A Day In The Garden

Garden visitors learn how plants can thrive in this hot, dry climate

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Impatiens, with their bright cheerful colors and sweet delicate petals were Marcy Jones' favorite flower growing in her garden just a week ago.

But ask her again anytime between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. on Saturday, Aug. 26 and she might give you a different answer.

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"Come into my garden," beckons Marcy Jones. "My flowers want to meet you.

That is the date she and husband Harry show off the garden that envelops their mountain home. It is one of the six featured gardens on the 2006 Mogollon Garden Tour, hosted by Rim Area Gardeners.

"Gardening refreshes my spirit," Marcy said as several dozen hummingbirds flitted noisily to and fro.

"I make sure the dirt is where it is supposed to be and that it gets watered," Harry said.

Monsoon rains have made the garden lush, and as an added bonus, because of the mud, Harry said he hasn't had to mow the grassy areas of their home in Whispering Pines.

He put the grass in to keep Shiloh, the family dog who patrols the garden, from tracking the mud in the house.

Gardens aren't created overnight.

They evolve with patience, skill and a sprinkling of luck.

Marcy kept her garden in Tempe full of flowers of every hue.

Then when the couple moved full time to what had been a summer home near the creek in Whispering Pines, Harry began making changes to their land with a few trees.

They added Virginia Creeper to do what it does best, creep up the trunks of trees.

Unlike ivy, creeper dies out in the winter and doesn't choke the trees.

Six years later, Marcy has added 50 or 60 varieties of flowers -- lots of perennials and seasonal annuals.

The sweet scents of flowers mingle with the rich scent of pine.

The couple likes to incorporate nature from the surrounding woods.

"Anything that I can find I fill with dirt," Marcy said.

"Mainly big (fallen) oak logs," Harry added.

If the couple finds a log when they are exploring the forest and it is small enough, they each take an end and haul it home.

Judging from the size of one log, now resplendent with tall red blossoms, this might be hard to imagine.

Harry is quick to add that he also has a tractor he can use to haul the logs home.

Blue cornflowers, yellow echinacea, orange marigolds and tall white flox vie for the eye's attention against the lush green landscape of the Joneses' yard.

Deer and elk are probably among those eyes, but a fence keeps them from munching flowers or sampling pears, apples and peaches.

"We do get bunnies and we had a frog for several years that liked one of the beds near the deck, but we haven't seen him this year," Marcy said.

Meanwhile, back in Payson at the home of Kay and Vance Hutchinson, is another magical garden on the tour.

A beauty perhaps stark in contrast to the Joneses'.

The xeriscaped garden in the Hutchinsons' front yard evolved as a necessity. Water did not drain well from the property.

"You can't do anything about water but direct it," Hutchinson said.

He used thousands of fist- and two-fist-sized stones in the front yard to create brooks. Water from melting snow or sudden downpours has a place to travel without taking the yard with it.

Fire barrel cactus seems to glow red.

Nearby, a staghorn cactus with its multitude of arms, grows a good foot wider than its five-foot height.

Vance wanted a desert tortoise, but the slow moving creature could not survive the altitude, so instead, he chose to care for cacti instead.

He coddled and coaxed his single and cluster barrel cacti to grow and thrive by blanketing them with burlap in the winter.

Cactus give way to bright orange and yellow marigolds at the front door.

"My wife likes her flowers," Hutchinson said, smiling as he points out a tiny barrel cactus he planted in her front bed of marigolds. "I think that cost me 50 cents," he said.

A path around the west side of the house is lined to one side with roses, their heady aroma does not quite fill the air.

Pause for a moment and a slightly stronger herbal scent can be detected.

It's basil.

"She makes homemade pesto," Vance said.

2006 Mogollon Garden Tour

Tickets to the self-guided tour, sampling the Rim Country's finest gardens are $5 each. They may be purchased at Ace Hardware, Plant Fair Nursery, Payson Public Library, the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce and at gardens 1, 3, 4, 5 and 6 on the tour. A member of the Rim Area Garden Club will guide you through each home's garden.

#1 Terry Morris

79 Sunbeam Drive, Star Valley

Directions: Highway 260 east to Moonlight then south to Sunbeam.

A compact back yard oasis with lots of cute detail for visual pleasure.

#2 High Country Xeriscape Council of Arizona

Gila Community College

201 N. Mud Springs Road

Xeriscape demonstration garden.

#3 Patty Brown

1125 N. Bavarian Way, Payson

Directions: Highway 87 north to Airport Road, left onto McLane, right onto Sherwood and right on Bavarian.

The yard makes use of rocks, swales, shade and hardy plants that can handle our sun and heat.

#4 Kay and Vance Hutchinson

812 W. Sherwood, Payson

Directions: Continue on Bavarian which runs into St. Moritz. Continue to the end and turn left on Sherwood.

#5 Harry and Marcy Jones

252 Sierra Vista, Washington Park

#6 Tom and Pat Melcher

219 Sierra Vista, Washington Park

Because of the terraces, this garden has a more formal setting.

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