Does Your Garden Have A Personality?

I love visiting gardens. Public gardens are a wonderful place to observe what plants look good together, to discover new plants, and seeing what that one gallon stick will look like in a few years! As much as I enjoy public gardens, that's what they are - gardens designed for the public and sometimes they can be generic and void of personality. But private gardens are altogether different. Painstakingly designed by their owners, they reveal a great deal of personality and tastes. I have been fortunate to be able to visit three private gardens and would like to share them with you.

The first garden is located in Elgin and is a Southwestern garden in every sense of the word. The owner is a very busy working mother, wife, and caretaker of many animals. As you would guess, there isn't much time to garden, so a simple, low maintenance, colorful garden was created. Located in the entrance courtyard and backyard patio, it's filled with salvias, Mexican primroses, Penstemon, and honeysuckles. The mixture of hot, bright colors liven up the stucco walls. The selected plants are native, drought-tolerant, and maintenance is reduced to occasional weeding, deadheading, and shearing the plants to the ground each fall. They often reseed themselves freely around the yard thus ensuring a colorful show every year. It's a fabulous patio for entertaining as something is always in bloom from spring through fall.

The second garden is tucked away in the quiet hills of the Dragoons and reminds me of a Victorian garden-Southwestern style! Overflowing with Penstemon, various salvias, lilac, Apache plume, Texas rangers, ornamental grasses, a horehound that I covet, among numerous other plants I can't recall, and trees, trees, trees! The plants are tucked away everywhere: up against the house, around the basin of trees, along the fence, and in piles among themselves, and are very lush like an English cottage border, due to the soaker hoses that line the beds. Special features include broken colored glass in hues of purple and green used as mulch and an outdoor covered porch that is filled with wicker furniture and a cozy overstuffed couch. Truly an enticing place. From the couch you can watch the many species of birds that come to feed from an old antique pan filled with seed. After watching the birds and rabbits fritter about I had to run out to the garden to make sure my eyes weren't deceiving me-the pan was set in a heart made of stones!

The last garden is located in the heart of Sierra Vista. At once upon entering the garden, a serene peace fell over me and the garden instantly said Japanese to me. Filled with an amazing variety of plants that I could not imagine could look so good together, the mainstay of this garden is evergreens. Huge majestic mesquites and an especially striking Argentine mesquite dot the garden. Junipers, cypress, olives, eucalyptus, agaves, cacti, and succulents round out the greenery. Plants that add color are vitex, Penstemon, verbena, and yellow bird of paradise. Plants are layered - ground covers, shrubs, and trees and special care has been taken to prune limbs to expose wonderfully colored bark and branch forms. One plant, desert broom, was beautifully pruned to reveal the striking bark texture caught my eye. A mainstay in Japanese gardens are rocks, and rocks are also featured in this garden. In all shapes and sizes they are carefully placed along the paths, as mulch in selected areas, and as retaining walls. After a hectic and busy day at work, this is one garden I'd definitely want to retreat to and relax in.

These gardens have been designed to fit into the owner's lifestyles and provide them hours of enjoyment. If you are planning a new garden or rethinking your designs for an old garden, consider your lifestyle and create a garden that will best suit you. After all, a garden will provide no enjoyment if it is high maintenance and all you want to do is get into a hammock with a glass of lemonade and enjoy the weather-and your garden.

Cheri Melton
April, 1997