March 28 will mark the dedication of the Sonoran Seasons Garden at Tohono Chul Park, the newest addition to the park and part of its 25th anniversary observance.

On hand for the dedication ceremonies will be Richard Wilson, who along with his late wife Jean, founded the park.

The Sonoran Seasons Garden is designed to showcase the five seasons of desert plant life in the Sonoran Desert — winter, dry summer, monsoon summer, fall and spring.

Lee Mason, Tohono Chul's director of general services, who was instrumental in constructing the Sonoran Seasons Garden along with curator of plants Russ Buhrow, said the garden occupies slightly less than an acre of desert that sits atop a small ridge.

"In constructing the garden, we tried to put plants in each of the five areas that would normally be blooming during the season that area represents," Mason said.

The challenge in building the garden, Mason noted, was that it sits atop the site of a former parking lot, meaning that Mason and Buhrow had to break up and remove all the asphalt, then use it as fill at the bottom end of the garden where the land was too low.

Once that was completed, the hardscape had to be constructed. That work began in February of last year.

"We put in sidewalks, built knee walls to separate each of the five gardens, installed two cactus circles, and a half-circle ramada," Mason said. "Once the hardscape was completed, we had to use a jackhammer to put in all the irrigation and to dig plant holes because the soil is so rocky and hard."

After all the underground electrical and irrigation work was done, Mason and Buhrow began placing plants in June.

Buhrow said the spring garden is heavy with wildflowers, such as bluebells, penstemons, globe mallow, blackfoot daisies and Mexican gold poppies. The dry summer garden features plants like night-blooming cereus and saguaro cactus that bloom when the weather is hot and dry, along with paper flowers and yucca.

"The monsoon summer garden has summer-blooming plants like grasses, agaves and morning glories," Buhrow noted, "and in the fall garden there are plants like turpentine bush and other fall blooming plants. In the winter garden, you'll see rhyolite bushes, native fairy dusters and brownfoot."

On the periphery of the gardens, Mason and Buhrow planted a mixture of native plants, such as desert willow, ironwood and kidney wood trees to complement the foothills palo verde trees already in the area. Mason said one large saguaro cactus was already growing in the area, and they added more saguaros to enhance that section of the perimeter.

"One section of the periphery has four different types of bear grasses," Mason pointed out, "as well as a number of ocotillo. Along some of the sidewalks we put in Gooding's verbena, rain lilies, smaller plants and native grasses."

Besides a large half-circle ramada that sports a variety of cactus plants along its back side and beds of wildflowers along its front, there also are two half-circle areas harboring cantilevered benches and bordered by rockwork, rock walls and 162 Mexican fence post cactus.

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