Mogollon Garden Tour

Secrets of great gardens

Leo Lee's garden

Photo by Andy Towle. |

Leo Lee's garden


Get a glimpse of some of the best gardens in the Rim Country and learn some of the secrets of top gardeners at the annual Rim Area Gardeners Mogollon Garden Tour.

The event is from 8 a.m. to 4 p.m., Saturday, June 16.

Each year, the Rim Area Garden Club seeks out area gardens to be featured on the Annual Mogollon Garden Tour. This year’s tour includes gardens in Payson, Star Valley, and Pine. In addition to the fabulous gardens, there will be a variety of artists and musicians sharing their talents. There is sure to be something for everyone to enjoy. Both veteran and aspiring gardeners can also learn a lot, said one of the featured folks with green thumbs, Leo Lee.

Tickets can be purchased for $5 at Ace Hardware, the Payson and Pine public libraries, the Rim Country Regional Chamber of Commerce, Payson Jewelers, Plant Fair Nursery and Sweet Nostalgia.

The featured gardens belong to Leo Lee, Payson, who will be showcasing roses and the art of Jan Ransom; Barbara Boehm, Payson, who will showcase Xeriscape and the works of Joe Prow and Louise Bossert; Gila Community College Payson Campus, another Xeriscape showcase with artwork by Rita Pachert and Dick Crane; Reese and Debra Dennis, Star Valley, which included orchards and vegetable gardens, plus plants for butterflies, trees for birds and more, the couple will host potter Dave Sanchez; Jim and Candy Bridges, Pine, a garden retreat from which to feast with the art of Bertica-Garciadubus; Dan and Median Griffith, Pine, a terraced, woodsy garden with perennials and music by the host.

The featured gardens

Leo and Phyllis Lee’s garden is at 905 W. Granada Way, Payson. Raked gravel showcases Lee’s rose collection and he have special names for them. He may share a story or two and welcomes questions on rose care.

Rim Country artist Jan Ransom will be painting at the Lee residence.


Leo Lee has a rake in his hands several hours every day to keep the granite gravel around his Trailwood garden pristine. All the gardens in the 2012 Mogollon Garden Tour are inviting and will welcome visitors Saturday, June 16.

To reach the Lee home, take Longhorn west to McLane where you will make a right turn. Follow McLane to Payson Parkway, next to the white-fenced athletic fields at Rumsey Park. Take a left on Payson Parkway and follow it to the first right – Pioneer Trail. Make a left at the first cross street, Heritage Lane, and then the third right, which is Granada Way and watch for the thumb signs.

Barbara Boehm’s Xeriscaped-dominated garden is at 608 Boulder Ridge, Payson.

This garden was professionally designed and creates a beautiful setting. The owner will share her knowledge about how to manage low water use plant varieties.

Boehm will host two artists for the tour: Joe Prow, who will be displaying the beautiful wooden bowls he makes and Louise Bossert, who will show her rope and cloth bowls.

Take Pioneer Trail west to its end, turn west on Country Lane and take it to its end and then go right (north) on Boulder Ridge, there is parking in the cul-de-sac. Watch for the thumbs.

The Xeriscape garden at the Payson Campus of Gila County Community College is another of the featured sites on the tour.

Walk up the steps to the garden nestled between buildings. Garden art, Xeriscape plants and structure, plus a kiosk with information all make this experience unique. Lois Hurd from the Xeriscape Council hosts.

The featured artists will be Rita Pachert, who does amazing things with gourds and creates unique pottery and Dick Crane, who will be displaying his unique birdhouses and metal artwork.

At the intersection of Hwy. 87 and 260 go east on the Hwy. 260 to Mud Springs Road, where you will turn left – the college is a short distance from the turn and located on the east of the road. Watch for the thumbs.

The garden of Reese and Debra Dennis, 500 Dealers Choice Lane, Star Valley, is not just a garden, but a country paradise. Apple and pear trees, a vegetable garden, filaree, butterfly bush, salvia are just some the plants in this setting. The well-laid-out site includes a barn and corral for the horse, a Purr-fect cat fence in back, a friendly dog and the remains of an old orchard where Marvin of B-Z-B Nursery sold his fruit many years ago. The Dennises keep organic methods a priority, as well as bird nesting sites. The site has good access and space to park. Watch for the thumbs.

Joining the couple for the garden tour will be Dave Sanchez and the pottery he makes.

To reach the site, go east on Hwy 260 through Star Valley. Turn left on Dealers Choice (north) and continue to property around the corner on the left.


The gardens of Jim and Candy Bridges’ Breath of Life Retreat in Pine are just as tidy. All the gardens in the 2012 Mogollon Garden Tour are inviting and will welcome visitors Saturday, June 16.

The gardens of Jim and Candy Bridges, 5659 W. Chaparral Lane, Pine, are part of The Breath of Life Retreat. This gardens welcome visitors, including animals, with a waterfall, pond and gardens. Spacious, orderly arrangement of water features, fruit trees, a vegetable patch and statuary are designed to refresh and renew.

Painter Bertica-Garciadubus will be exhibiting her art in this garden.

Take Hwy. 87 north t o Pine. As you enter Pine turn right (east on Whispering Pines Drive, turn left (north) on Mistletoe Dr. and continue to Chaparral Lane on the right. Watch for the thumbs.

Dan and Median Griffith, 6108 Skyview Cr., Pine, offer pleasant hillside walks and seating with mountain top views. A terraced area with clever water storage await at the end of your scenic drive. Nature rules in this woodsy garden with perennials. The rocky, sloped terrain rewards you with beautiful vistas. Parking is limited, but adequate.

Host Dan Griffith is a musician and will be playing his guitar for all to enjoy.

Take Hwy. 87 north through Pine. Turn right (north) on Pine Creek Canyon Drive. Turn left (west) into Portal 3 and continue on Portal Drive, turn right (north) on Canyon Vista, first left (west) on Skyline and left (south) on Skyview.

A closer look

Property of any size can be enhanced with planned plantings and accents. The property can be institutional, such as the Xeriscape Demonstration Garden at Gila Community College’s Payson campus; small in scale, such as that found at the home of Leo and Phyllis Lee; or expansive like the ongoing efforts of Jim and Candy Bridges at the Breath of Life Retreat House in Pine.

Leo and Phyllis Lee moved to Payson from the Valley 11 years ago. They had done a lot of gardening there and bought a property here filled with roses. Leo said he thinks there were 23 rose bushes on the property when they bought it. Over the years he has replaced only three. Among those was a John F. Kennedy rose that he tried to transplant when they extended their patio.

“It died and Phyllis has never forgiven me,” Leo said.


The garden plots at the home of Leo and Phyllis Lee in Trailwood are tidy and colorful, but very inviting. They are a treat for passerby and now will be open for closer viewing during the 2012 Mogollon Garden Tour Saturday, June 16.

The Lee property also has maples and lilies and lots of potted plants. But perhaps the most striking aspect of the Trailwood home is the meticulously raked red granite gravel.

Asked how long the garden work takes each day, Leo laughs and says, “A lot more than it needs too,” and then admits he might be a little too enthusiastic about the raking. He said the garden in generally takes about four hours every day. Most of that time is spent making sure the nearly two dozen roses are properly watered.

He said the folks at Plant Fair Nursery — the most knowledgeable he knows — advised him to make sure the roses are watered with a slow, seeping method and don’t stand in water. They are on a drip irrigation system, but the slender, black tubing causes problems. Leo said it splits or the minerals in the water sometime clog it up, so he has to monitor whether or not it is actually getting water to the roses.

The container plants are where the Lees try new things out. They come home with something new to plant from just about every trip to Walmart, Home Depot and Plant Fair.

“It’s like going to a candy store for us,” Phyllis said.

“You can buy healthy plants all over, but Plant Fair is where you can get expert advice,” Leo said.

To get ideas about gardening you can’t do any better than the garden tour though, he added. He highly recommends it and came back from the preview tour, held last Wednesday, with lots of ideas. He said the property in Star Valley, belonging to the Dennises, had some irrigation he would like to try and the Xeriscape sites also gave him some inspiration.


Benches, gliders and boulders perfectly designed for sitting in quiet reflection are all part of the beauty created by Jim and Candy Bridges at the Breath of Life Retreat House in Pine. The garden is among the several owners have agreed to open to the public for the 2012 Mogollon Garden Tour

Inspiration is everywhere you look at the Breath of Life Retreat House in Pine belonging to Jim and Candy Bridges.

It has hosted guests — between 10 and 20 at a time — at retreats for a little more than a year. The story of how it came to be is in Candy’s book, Meet Me in the Mountains, which she will have on sale during the tour. The retreat house also has a gift shop and visitors can purchase a number of other items there — most designed to inspire.

The house and grounds took about 18 months to get in shape for occupancy. The gardens are either renovated sites or newly designed plots.


Candy Bridges’ Breath of Life Retreat House in Pine welcomes all with the sounds of water and nature.

Candy has been a Pine resident since 2006, moving there after she lost her husband in a wrongful death. She first bought a home in Strawberry Hollow and was trying to have a retreat house built in Prescott. As things worked out, the Prescott project never came to fruition and instead, she found the perfect property for her dream in the Rim Country.

She has always loved to build things and work in the yard - it is a kind of therapy for her. Much of the renovation was hands-on — she had the help of 14 friends and family members to make the initial dent in the overgrown landscape of the property. That work - over a long Labor Day weekend — cleared out the spot where the retreat house’s large water feature and landscaping orchard are.

The orchard has been very productive with tons of pears coming on now and apple trees that are so loaded she is able to get so much fruit it takes her an entire weekend to turn the harvest into pie filling, which she freezes. The frozen filling is then used to treat her retreat guests to apple pies all year.

In addition to the pear and apple trees, there are apricot and Italian plum — her personal favorite — trees as well. A vegetable garden in on the other side of the house, maintained with the use of gray water, produces enough tomatoes, peppers and more for Candy to regularly make institutional size batches of her family’s authentic spaghetti sauce - she is Italian on her mother’s side.

Using gray water in the garden is only part of Candy’s plan to use water in a responsible fashion. She has storage tanks on site and hopes to someday add pillow bladders under the decks of the house with which to harvest more of the rain and snowmelt runoff that comes from her roof.

The gardens of Breath of Life Retreat House have plenty of spots to sit and enjoy them, plus statuary on which to reflect and birdhouses. There is also a feeding station for wildlife that they fill with corn and the occasional fruit peel.

“If you give them (the elk, deer, javelina) something to eat, they tend to leave your garden alone,” she said. In illustration of that fact, she had to go to the Valley for her son’s wedding recently and the wildlife emptied the station and then made their way to the roses and neatly nipped off the flowers right at the stem top. Her fruit trees are pruned up, so the access is not quite as easy, so the infant apples and maturing pears survived the invasion.

To learn more, get your tickets now to see some of the Rim’s best gardens.


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