Bare Dirt Lot Transformed

Lots O work...but the weather was cool

Tucked in among the million dollar homes on Mockingbird Lane in Paradise Valley sat a dirt lot, as bare and flat as dry toast. This was once a well site for Arizona American Water Company, the utility that provides water for the community. The folks at the water company reached out to their neighbors about a demonstration garden on the site to educate homeowners about the array of low water plants that thrive in the desert. Concerns were voiced about traffic and potentially large groups of people visiting. But generally neighbors agreed that plantings would be beneficial. Next the Master Gardeners were called in to help with design and plant selection. Four of us came up to the Arizona American Water office and met with project heads Sally Ceccarelli-Wolf and Jake Lenderking to discuss timelines and strategy. A water company is uniquely qualified for a process that involves digging holes and laying water lines and they had obtained a grant for two educational gardens in Paradise Valley and Sun City. Landscape designer and Master Gardener Isabel Hardesty volunteered to draw a plan and long time MG and Desert Botanical Gardens volunteer Judy chipped in with advice on low maintenance, low water-use plants. Helen and I are recent graduates and provided support and possibly comic relief.
Several more meetings were held to finalize our plans for the garden. We were all excited the day Isabel presented the finished layout, complete with walking paths, swales and mounds. We drew up a dream list of the trees, shrubs, cacti and ground covers that would thrive, bloom and attract birds and butterflies. Then Sally went to bat with several local nurseries and the orders were placed.
Monday May 9th was planting day, with a contingent of AAW employees on hand to help with digging as well as some big machinery such as bobcats and augers. At 7 am a moving van size truck pulled up. Mountain States Nursery provided over a dozen 24 gal trees, and 70-80 smaller plants from yuccas and fairy dusters to chuparosas and hop bushes. Isabel clutched a copy of the layout and Sally brandished the three page list of plants and we set to. Things were pretty chaotic for awhile, and some deviations were certainly made from the plan, but tremendous progress was made. About 20 boulders were delivered midmorning and positioned and dug in by bobcat. Most every plant was in the ground and watered by noon. Rainbird’s latest high-tech solar water system was installed the next day and water lines and emitters laid. On Wednesday our meandering gravel path was put down and mulching spread throughout the gardens. I’m sure all involved will be checking in on the garden as the plants mature to see our vision of color and shade come to life. You can see it too, at 6229 N. Mockingbird Lane south of Lincoln.

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