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10:14 PM Mon, Sept. 24th

Alta Vista Garden Club Garden of the Month: 'An acre of heaven'

The Alta Vista Garden Club has named the garden at the Chino Valley home of Verna and Peter Higson its Garden of the Month for August. (Courtesy photo)

The Alta Vista Garden Club has named the garden at the Chino Valley home of Verna and Peter Higson its Garden of the Month for August. (Courtesy photo)

When Verna and Peter Higson were looking for a home, they were asking themselves, "Where will we put the garden and fruit trees?" They found just the right spot in Chino Valley in 2005.

"We found a blank slate with level ground. No trees, large rocks or previous landscaping problems to get in the way" Verna said.

Previously a gardener in North Dakota, Minnesota and California, Verna found Arizona presented more gardening challenges than any other place. Among them: nearly constant heat, high altitude sunshine almost every day, alkaline soil, water and windy spring weather, also lots of rabbits and an occasional javelina to add to the pot.

Despite these challenges, Verna and Peter created a beautiful acre of gardens located at 844 Tiffany Place in Chino Valley, with a street view garden that stops traffic. A variety of flowers with loads of color and interesting shapes are unavoidable.

Verna grows her own vegetables. She thinks they are more flavorful. She has to "protect them from the rabbits, birds, wind and insects." After many trials, she has developed methods of protection for her garden.

Verna's father was a farmer and her mother had a big flower and vegetable garden, and that's where she developed her interest in growing things and her green thumb! Verna is a member of the Antelope Garden Club where she is known as the Rose Lady.

The Higsons' showcase garden features many of her favorite flowers. She enjoys walking through her extensive rose garden, which features 44 rose plants. The focal points are two trellises for her hardy climbers. Other flowering plants she enjoys growing are Jupiter's Beard (Centranthus ruber). It is the first and last flower to bloom. The driveway is lined with day lilies (Hemerocallis) and chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata) with its lovely fragrance. Also along the driveway are large blooming crape myrtle (Lagerstroemia). The color will stop you in your tracks!

Having arrived at the front entrance, you are welcomed by several large blue pots spilling over with white and pink Gaura (Lindheimeri), another of Verna's favorite plants. Guara grows very well as it doesn't mind wind, heat or occasional dryness, so common in Chino Valley. The plants sway in the wind like "whirling butterflies" as they greet guests.

The Higsons say their home and gardens don't have a name that can capture the look and feel of the place.

"Rabbit Heaven might be more like it. Rabbits think this is their private salad garden."

Alta Vista Garden Club thinks it is more like an "Acre of Heaven" and has made it Alta Vista's Garden Clubs's Garden of the Month for August.

For more information about the Alta Vista Garden Club, visit www.altavistagardenclub.org.