Growing Knowledge With Gardening

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Roses can grow just about anywhere, but in Marge Sullivan's Payson garden, the heat has prematurely zapped their sprightliness.

"A few days ago, the roses were beautiful," Sullivan said. "When we get this heat, they just dry up."

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Marge Sullivan

But, Sullivan concedes, it's "whatever Ma Nature decides."

With watering restrictions, Sullivan waters her roses three times a week. She must finish by nine.

The early deadline isn't a problem for Sullivan, since she normally wakes at 5:30 in the morning.

"It's so light during the summer, it wakes you up anyway."

Two 55-gallon barrels rest against the back of Sullivan's house, collecting gray water from her washer, which she recycles in her garden. She collects rainwater that falls from the roof, too.

Part of Sullivan's backyard garden is pebbles. That part belongs to Sullivan's gray poodle, Misty.

"I decided the dog can have that back there and this is mine up here, but she knows how to get through, especially if she's chasing lizards."

Behind Misty's yard curves a line of rose bushes with other assorted plants.

Baby oak trees, protected by stout wire fencing, glacially grow. There's one out front, and more out back.

Oak trees are hearty, Sullivan said. But they're not too quick.

"I like to put things in when they're small and watch them grow."

Sullivan used to practice yoga. Now, at 85, she says her practice has lessened. But gardening, stretching to grab this weed or that, keeps her agile.

"You're using all parts of your body," she said.

Sullivan belongs to two area garden clubs -- the Rim Area Gardeners and High Country Garden Club.

"We learn what to grow, how to grow it, and it's sort of a social thing," Sullivan said. When she moved to Payson seven years ago from Colorado, she wanted to find out what grew best in this climate.

"My backyard was a forest. The trees hadn't been trimmed." Besides clearing her desert jungle, she serendipitously acquired river rock -- small, round boulders -- and used them to line a ditch that borders her front yard garden.

When it rains, were it not for the ditch, water would wash down the yard because it slopes downward. With the ditch, which directs water from the front garden through the back garden along its side, Sullivan's plants stay safe.

She spent the last seven years working on her yard -- building steps, placing rocks, hanging bird feeders, playing with the soil until plants could thrive.

Coffee grounds fertilize well, as do cut up banana peels. Sullivan also has a compost pile in one corner.

"This is a peach tree. That is an apricot tree, but he's not doing too well right now."

There are more things to grow than there is time to grow them, Sullivan said. "I probably grow too many as it is."

Roses, in particular, are tricky. One person's yard could be made of entirely different soil than the neighbor's, Sullivan said. One must experiment and figure what works best.

"They get a black leaf, mildew. It takes a while to figure it out," Sullivan said. "You always want nice roses."

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