Christine and Jon Galloway wanted to bring lush Minnesota to the landscape of their Tucson winter home. But not in the way you might think.
Unlike some new Arizona residents who make their yards look like their old ones back home, this couple didn’t want to bring the Midwest to the desert. They simply wanted an equally gorgeous view.
“We had this beautiful property in Minnesota,” says Christine Galloway, “and we just like beautiful surroundings.”
The couple definitely understood that Midwest plants wouldn’t do well here. What they wanted was color, something spectacular and a sense of place.
After four years, they’re on their way to having an updated desert landscape with character and personal style.
The project earned landscape company Horticulture Unlimited Inc. an award of distinction at last fall’s Awards of Excellence presented by the Arizona Landscape Contractors Association.
The Galloways say they loved to garden on their three acres in the Minneapolis-St. Paul area, where they lived for 21 years before moving and splitting their time between Chicago and Tucson.
They bought their Foothills home five years ago with plans to eventually live in Tucson after they retired, Christine Galloway as president and chief executive officer of a financial services firm and Jon Galloway from a career in fundraising.
After their first winter in Tucson, they decided they wanted a landscape change. They felt the backyard was flat and boring, the old growth seemed tired, a fountain by the pool leaked and there was little color during the times they stayed there, mid-October through mid-May.
When a “gigantic” agave issued its shoot and prepared to die, Jon Galloway says, it was time to revive the backyard. But they didn’t know how.
“We didn’t know what we didn’t know,” he says.
An interior designer that helped the couple redo their home suggested they contact Horticulture Unlimited. Enter Dawn Fried, the company’s vice president, and her son, maintenance supervisor Andrew Morris.
“She would come once a year and walk around (the yard) with us,” Christine Galloway says. “We really trusted her judgment. It was very much a collaborative situation.”
Christine Galloway started the measured redesign process by spacing tall dark-blue pots against the brown back wall of the yard. Filled with lady slippers, they add color and a sculptural look across the yard.
The dead agave, an old palm and a few other plants were removed.
Not all the old plants were discarded. “I want to look for really cool plants that are mature and work around that,” Fried says. Well-placed desert spoon, Texas ranger, hopbush, an acacia tree and a rose bush fit the bill.
The plant beds were contoured into small mounds. Decorative rock of different sizes were stacked and strewn, giving the land instant interest. Boulders around the pool gave this feature a sense of nature that mimics the mountain view.
Over time, the couple allowed Fried to install in both the front and backyards plants that would survive in summer heat untended by the couple, as well as winter freezes.
They include several small- to medium-sized agave species, foxtail ferns, totem and silver torch cacti, a couple of euphorbias, gopher plant, tecoma and bottlebrush.
The pool fountain was removed. Instead, a tall, blue pot housing a bubbling fountain sits among plants. The fountain is positioned so that it commands a view for visitors coming in from the front door.
A large metal medallion sculpture and big ceramic pots provide other visual breaks in the landscape.
The Galloways have added some Midwest whimsy in their desert vibe with colorful fairy houses that were made in Minnesota. They are staked in pots or hanging from tree branches.
The couple wanted to see how each year’s installation fit in the yard. That time for consideration gave them some ideas on what they wanted to do next. “We’ve sort of done it in stages over the last four years,” Christine Galloway says. “We wanted to live with it for a little while.”
After four years, the yard is filling out and the couple can see that it is, indeed, meeting their goals.
“There’s a saying about plants: ‘Sleep, creep and leap,’” Jon Galloway says. “It really did that in our absence (last year). There was more green than we realized from what we did.”