Sitting peacefully on the porch in her sun-drenched back yard, Martha Teubner puts her feet up in a chair and cradles her baby dachshund, Nicholas. Beyond the porch, vegetables and flowers blanket the ground. The occasional pottery flower or other ornament dots the landscape with color, as Teubner blends her passions: pottery and gardening.
A sign on the vegetable garden fence reads, “An hour in the garden puts life’s problems in perspective.”
“It’s like a paradise up here. This reminds me of the Garden of Eden — it’s probably not as beautiful,” Teubner said. But it brings her peace.
Martha and her husband live on a half-acre of land atop a hill in Payson. When they moved here seven years ago, the land sat empty.
Piece by piece, they created their backyard paradise. A path here, steps there, a small water feature smack in the middle.
Although the couple lacked an overall plan, the garden appears a cohesive outcropping of joy.
Teubner grew up on a 50-acre farm in Pennsylvania. She picked strawberries in summer — “I ate more than I probably picked” — and potatoes in the fall.
“I think that taught me a work ethic,” said Teubner. “I think it just teaches you to have the desire to work.”
Teubner’s mother worked in a nearby vineyard that sold grapes to Welch’s for juice.
She eventually moved away, but took with her the knowledge of the bounty that can arise from fertile soil.
Throughout her adult life, Teubner grew tomatoes and flowers in her back yard, but she always wanted to plant a bigger garden.
While living in Phoenix, she planted one and “failed miserably.”
Upon moving to Payson, she planted for the first time the full array of herbs, vegetables and flowers she always wanted.
She and the ladies in her church garden club at Mountain Bible started a prayer garden for people to meditate or pray in when they need an escape. A slew of volunteers have helped build a 4-foot-by-8-foot cross to set in the garden, and they’re in the process of building an amphitheater with a portable fire pit for meetings.
Teubner also heads the Rim Area Gardeners Club, which she credits for teaching her a lot about gardening, especially in the sometimes difficult ecology of Arizona.
“In Arizona, it’s a challenge, Teubner said. “Some people have granite and some people have clay.”
To prepare the ground for planting, you must mix in manure, mulch or some other fertilizer so the ground has enough nutrients to provide plant life.
“Digging in granite is just awful,” Teubner says. You almost need a jackhammer.
Most recently, Teubner has begun taking pottery classes at Gila Community College, and she has created lovely, colorful ceramic flowers to complement the real ones growing in her back yard. For Teubner, gardening is an exercise in communing with God, and reveling in Earth’s bounty.
She bonds with the plants that God bestowed humans. “I try not to ever forget that,” she says.