From small urban spaces to sprawling country acreage, the 2011 Mogollon Garden Tour offered a sprig of everything — which is just the purpose of the tour, said Rim Area Gardeners Club board member Ann Prow.
Prow and her husband Joe helped Will and Bev Wells show their garden. Prow, with a light in her eye and a lilt in her voice speaks with ardor about the plants, the tour and the club.
“We want to give the public a chance to make a day of this tour, so we pick three gardens in town and three outside of town. We pick gardens in places like Whispering Pines because some people don’t know how to get to there. This tour gives them directions and an excuse to go explore those areas that have a different climate. Or they can just stay in town,” she said.
Throughout the fall and winter, the members narrow down the selection to six locations. Once identified, the club invites the homeowners to a potluck in early spring to discuss the tour, said Prow.
At the Wells’ garden, the club felt Will, (his wife prefers to just eat the fruits of her husband’s labor), illustrated maximizing a small space the best, said Prow.
“Will trains fruit trees and vines to climb the fences surrounding his property. As you can see, he has raised beds and a unique method of using chopped off paint buckets full of “Mel’s Mix” to make sure nothing is planted too close together,” said Prow.
During monthly presentations, members learn about different ways to experiment with gardening methods and products, such as “Mel’s Mix,” how to attract pollinators, and composting from guest lecturers. “We’re a social group. There are two gardening clubs in town, the other tends to be more hands-on,” Prow said.
Adding depth to the Garden Tour, artists exhibit their creations. At the Wells’ house, Prow’s husband Joe presented intricately exquisite wooden bowls. His bowls feature inlaid woods, doweled designs and burl wood polished to perfection.
Not knowing all the details of the selection process, Prow suggested following up with vice president Diane Arnold to find out more.
Arnold helped to host Danuta LaViolette’s garden, located off of Dealer’s Choice Road. The garden sprawls over a couple of acres. Birdhouses inhabited by exotic specimens such as Chinese pheasants, emu, rhea and button quail, add a whimsical flair. Bob Weber, a basket weaver, exhibits his art and methods for making baskets under the shade of a tree.
Arnold, in a calm quiet voice explained that the club starts collecting nominations from the public for next year’s garden tour during the current tour year.
“We ask people to nominate gardeners. We look for unique gardens reflecting an urban or rural lay out,” said Arnold. A subcommittee then looks at each garden nominated and presents its findings to the club early in the year. Nominees are informed in time to prepare their gardens for the tour, said Arnold.
Spreading over a large piece of land with multiple raised beds, the LaViolettes began planting in May.
“It’s best to plant after Mother’s Day,” said Danuta LaViolette. “To protect against frost we use Water Wells and cover the plants with a sheet or tarp.”
Water Wells have tubes in a plastic sheet which gardeners fill with water then place around plants to warm up during the day to radiate heat during the night keeping plants from freezing.
With a large garden and many egg-laying birds, the LaViolettes sell vegetables in August and eggs year-round.
“We charge $1 per pound of vegetables,” said LaViolette. “We get so many and such large vegetables because of the bird droppings we use as fertilizer.”
Suddenly, the emu lets out a deep booming call as resonate as a foghorn. Everyone stops to listen.
“I hope the emus start producing eggs this year,” said LaViolette. “Lucky, my newest emu, just ate a bunch of my chard!”
Raising the plants seems easier for LaViolette’s husband. His philosophy is: “With gardening, there’s nothing wrong or right, just experiment!”
From the huge, tiny, urban and rural gardens showcased during the tour, this garden tour includes a sprig of this, a bloom of that — and roots set deep in the passions of the gardeners.
Gardens can be art
On the path to Bob and Dee Hershberger’s house, metal sculptures draw the eye.
Following the medieval philosophy that uses a wall to separate the man-made from the natural, the garden sits inside a wall that conveniently keeps javelina and rabbits from eating the garden. Raised beds radiate out from a central focal point, which includes a birdbath. An area covered in sweet peas separates the flowered portion of the garden from the vegetable patch.
The house itself feels Frank Lloyd Wrightish, with roofs sloping toward the center to guide the flow of water into a central rain gutter. Down spouts come off of the roof with an hourglass shape to control the flow. Water collects in twin 2,200-gallon cisterns in the basement.
Pumps move the water when the Herschbergers irrigate the indigenous trees in June before the monsoons.
Another 1,800-gallon cistern blends into the wall by the garden. Gravity moves water from that container onto the garden inside the wall.
The sculptures lining the walkway come from Hershberger’s friend and architectural partner Ernest Nickels. Herschberger created the paintings displayed by the house. The two men have made beautiful things together for years.
Between the house, metal sculptures, paintings, and garden, the Herschberger residence is a work of art and feast for the eyes.