Arizonans with green thumbs — or even those who simply enjoy beautiful gardens and landscapes — will have the opportunity to view some of the best Southern Cochise County has to offer on Saturday.
The Bisbee Bloomers are holding the 18th annual Bisbee Garden Tour from 10 a.m. to 4 p.m., with participants able to view nine unique gardens between Bisbee, Warren, Naco and San Jose.
In all, the self-guided tour covers 5.2 miles, said Jane Gaffer, a gardener who led the organization of the tour.
The nine gardens in this year’s tour are all new to the event, after some gardens had been repeatedly featured in previous years. Having all newcomers this year is a point of pride for Gaffer.
“I was absolutely determined (to have all-new gardens),” Gaffer said. “A lot of the gardens on the Bisbee Garden Tour have been repeats over the last 18 years. These are nine never-before-seen gardens, and they range from one that has been owned by the same family since they built their house up there in Warren in 1974 to one right next-door to it that was only built last year, also up on the terraces up in Warren.”
Though the latter house is new, Gaffer said, the garden and its plants were preserved as the house was built alongside it.
“The gentleman who was the gardener of it was determined not to spoil (the garden) by putting the utilities in,” Gaffer said. “He didn’t want the great big equipment going in there and taking out this ocotillo, this cholla (cactus), etcetera. So he made them come in with this small equipment; they must have hated him. But the house looks down over this stunningly diverse desert garden toward Mexico.”
One of the gardens, owned by Nikki Turoczi, might be new to the tour, but has been noticed before by many people familiar with the Warren area. Turoczi’s garden, which is on the property of the Flat Iron Inn, is “the most colorful setting of this year’s tour,” Gaffer said, and draws the eye of many a passerby. In fact, Turoczi said she wasn’t planning to be part of the garden tour, but Gaffer saw her property as she walked past one day and said, “Oh my gosh, you need to be part of the tour,” Turoczi recalled.
“We have a lot of jasmine,” Turoczi said in describing her garden. “We have different varieties (of plants). I don’t really have a set way of how I garden ... it’s just whatever kind of strikes me. If it grows and we can sustain it here, I’ll (try to grow it).”
The Flat Iron Inn property also boasts various types of trees, Turoczi said, including a large 100-plus-year-old juniper that provides shade for an outdoor bench and table beneath it.
Throughout the day, artists will set up their canvases at the various gardens, painting as the plant beds and garths move them. The artwork they produce will then be displayed at Grassy Park in Old Bisbee at 4 p.m. and a silent auction will ensue — though Gaffer encourages interested buyers not to dally, as the auction will only last until 4:30 before the paintings are sold.
Gaffer expects about 20 artists to participate — she said 19 were on hand last year — but said more are welcome, if capable people would like to try their hand at depicting the gardens.
The artists, who are allowed to paint up to three canvases on Saturday, will set a minimum price for their pieces and the bidding will start from there.
Gaffer said those interested in attending the tour can still buy tickets on Friday at the Copper Queen Library, 6 Main St. in Old Bisbee, or Finders Keepers Antiques and Jewelry, which is just up the road from the library at 81 Main St. On Saturday, the $15 tickets can be purchased at the Bisbee Farmers Market at Vista Park in Warren, or in Grassy Park in Old Bisbee. A map for the self-guided tour is printed on the back of each ticket, so participants can easily navigate their way between the gardens.
Gaffer, who moved from England to Bisbee by way of Philadelphia with her husband in 2002, says that “despite the dreadful name, I was determined to become a Bisbee Bloomer” upon her arrival in the colorful mining town. Though she enjoys the work and events done by the group, Gaffer is quick to poke fun at the name.
“I think we all hate it,” she said. “It might have been cute in 2002, but to me it sounds like a whole lot of little girls playing hockey in big bloomers.”
She said the group currently has about 100 volunteers and encouraged people who would like to join to visit www.bisbeebloomers.com or call 520-432-3554.
“Sorry again about the name, but give us a call,” Gaffer said with a laugh. “We’d love more — not that we don’t already have many — but we’d always take more.”