With prime planting season coming up, three garden tours in Southern Arizona next weekend offer plenty of ideas.

Watergardening Possibilities

Aquatic plants are the focus of this annual self-guided tour by the Tucson Watergardeners.

"It shows and demonstrates what you can do in the desert environment," says organization president JoAn Stolley.

Even a small pond can have a couple of dozen plant species, each with a specific design job.

Underwater plants provide oxygen to the water, Stolley explains. Anchored floaters include water lilies. Water lettuce is an example of a free floater.

Plants on the pond edge whose "little feet are in water all the time," says Stolley, include cattail, giant taro and yerba mansa.

On the tour are large, professionally landscaped ponds; small, preformed ponds; bog areas and converted stock tanks. Homeowners will be on hand to answer questions.

Other activities include a Saturday morning appearance of animals from Forever Wild Animal Rehabilitation Center.

Bisbee Bloomers

Non-native bed gardens, water-saving landscapes and water-harvesting systems make up the stops on Saturday's 11th annual garden tour by the Bisbee Bloomers. Several homes have distinctive microclimates, says group president Kay Lynn Cummins.

One unusual tour stop is Carol Taylor's home. She puts seeds and plants directly into moistened and slightly composted straw bales.

"It creates instant raised beds," says Taylor, "and as the straw beds deteriorate, it creates beautiful soil for next year."

Musicians will perform at several of the gardens.

Fall Xeriscapes

Sierra Vista landscapes that use little water give the Cochise County Master Gardens Association a chance to discuss xeriscape, techniques that conserve water.

The organization's tour next Sunday includes a yard that has two water features and a small lawn. It demonstrates that xeriscape does not mean stark landscaping.

"Unless it is unusually dry, the owner does not water the landscape except for the lawn," says Cado Daily, water resources coordinator for Water Wise. That's a program of the University of Arizona Cochise County Cooperative Extension.

The landscapes range from lush animal-attracting gardens to a yard of rocks, desert-adapted plants and artwork.

If you go

Watergardening Possibilities

• What: Self-guided tour of eight home ponds by the Tucson Watergardeners. Seven will be open Sunday.

• When: 9 a.m.-3 p.m. Saturday and next Sunday.

• Where: Central, northwest and eastside areas on Saturday. Maps are available at tucsonwatergardeners.org or on tour days at Tucson Koi & Water Gardens, 3372 N. Dodge Blvd.

• Cost: Free.

• Information: 760-5565.

Bisbee Bloomer's Garden Tour

• What: Self-guided tour of 10 home gardens.

• When: 10 a.m.-4 p.m. Saturday.

• Where: Old Bisbee Historic District, Warren and Saginaw communities.

• Cost: $10. Tickets and maps are available on tour day at the Bisbee Mining & Historical Museum, 5 Copper Queen Plaza.

• Information: 1-520-432-3554, 1-866-224-7233, discoverbisbee.com

Water Wise/Master Gardener Fall Xeriscape Tour

• What: Self-guided tour of five home gardens.

• When: 1-4 p.m. next Sunday.

• Where: Highland Park Estates in Sierra Vista. Maps are available on tour day at 3059 Newport Ave.

• Cost: Free.

• Information: 1-520-458-8278, waterwise.arizona.edu

Contact local freelance writer Elena Acoba at acoba@dakotacom.net