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Botanical benefit will delight public

June 14, 2012

The up-coming June 16 tour of this four-acre horticultural extravaganza at Lyn and Ralph Haber’s Swall Meadows home will benefit Bishop City Park’s Arboretum project. Tour participants may get a broader concept of what can successfully grow in the Eastern Sierra climate. Photo by Beverly Jones

Lyn and Ralph Haber’s four-acre Swall Meadows botanical garden preserve will be open for a public tour as a benefit for the Bishop City Park Arboretum Project. It may actually serve as a double benefit: a fundraiser for the Bishop City Park Arboretum Project and a learning opportunity for local gardening devotees. “The tour is (especially) welcoming to newcomers who don’t know what grows here,” said Charles Milligan, one of the tour organizers.
The four hours, from 9 a.m.-1 p.m. on Saturday, June 16, may not be enough time to explore all of the Habers extensive grounds with it’s many expanses and recesses, and pathways and waterways. It is a veritable feast of floral varieties: native, xerographic exotics (which shouldn’t be able to thrive here), aquatic, edibles and rare plants. It offers a smorgasbord of sensory stimulation, as well – complimentary fragrances, an explosive array of colors, contrasts and textures and creative configurations that include water features, boulders and a sculpture.
The Habers began their garden in 1994 before they even started building their home. In came tons of soil to cover the volcanic bedrock and then a sprinkler system. The Habers had to overcome more than arid climate, tough-rock and lack of water. Swall Meadows is in the path of one of the West’s largest, unimpeded deer-migration corridors so up went the fences around their vegetable and herb garden.
Speaking of fauna, Milligan said, the Habers imported multi-colored frogs which one might catch a glimpse of among the now-blooming waterlilies. “I’ve never been in a place where the lizards are so tame,” he added. At one time, there was even a pet deer. “The tame deer – a success story – migrated up-slope with the herd,” said Haber.
After a 65-year love affair with gardening, Milligan found that this horticultural Xanadu still held wonders for him. “What surprised me most was the variety of rare evergreens and a one-foot tall, Christmas tree that is fully grown,” said Milligan. “The Christmas tree may be a Dwarf Bristlecone called Sherwood’s Compact. It’s a beauty,” said Lyn Haber.
Also on the menu for tour participants are yarrows, sequoias, a producing fig tree, daffodil varieties and other flower beds, a winter garden, sage, bitterbrush, rabbit brush and many varieties of rare dwarf and large conifers. “The conifers have gorgeous new growth that contrasts with the old,” said Lyn.
Milligan, started the local garden tours in 2009 “to create more excitement about what will grow here” in the harsh Eastern Sierra climate because “ people felt limited” by it. Perhaps it is coincidence or perhaps the tours spurred people on, said Milligan, referring to significant changes in local gardening culture since the tours started: people are more aware of the increasing array of flora that can flourish here; local nurseries have become willing to bring in a wider range of varieties; and the Master Gardener program was established locally.
The premier 2009 botanical tour focused on five “beautiful gardens,” each quite different from the others, said Milligan.
“In 2010, the garden theme was botanical adventures showing diverse approaches” to successful gardening, explained Milligan. One garden was dedicated to blooming cacti, while others focused on native plants.
Last year, a small-gardens- of-Bishop theme proved that “wherever you live, you can have beauty,” said Milligan of the tour that included a Starlight-area garden, an example of “what you can grow at that altitude.”
The 2012 botanical tour is the first one-garden tour. The Habers graciously volunteered their garden extravaganza, the maintenance of which requires the time and attention of the Habers, one full-time and two part-time gardeners.
Two knowledgeable docents will be wandering the garden’s many pathways during tour hours to answer questions. At 6,000 feet, it is suggested that visitors wear comfortable shoes and bring water and sun gear to ensure a pleasant tour experience. Light refreshments will be served. The Habers will also be selling some of the plants from their collection, to benefit the Arboretum Project – purchases will be tax-deductible, said Haber.
Tour tickets, directions and complimentary self-guided tour brochures will be available at 8 a.m., June 16 at Bishop Nursery, 789 N. Home St. Swall Meadows residents can buy tickets at the tour entrance. Call Jean Marland at (760) 873-7515 with ticket questions. Children are welcome, but please, no pets.
At 2 p.m., at Bishop Nursery guest speaker, Wendy Proud of Mountain States Wholesale Nursery, will discuss xeriscaping. One-day-only discounts on Bishop Nursery purchases will be available as well as raffle prizes for tour participants.
The benefactor of all this fundraising, the Bishop City Park Arboretum project, is located at the southeast corner of the City Park in front of the Senior Center. Like the Haber’s garden, the Arboretum will also host a wide range of flora, he said, and “many differently themed-sections.”
For example, a dinosaur theme will be located near the duck pond. “A rare decidous Dawn Redwood, existing by the pond, is already medium-sized and inspired the fossil botanical section,” said Milligan. The tree is native to only one remote valley in China, he said. “It’s like a living fossil (is being) reintroduced.… Kids can get a feel for bushes” of an ancient era.
The Arboretum is an ongoing, 10- to 20-year funding project, explained Milligan, whose involvement in the project includes creating master drawings (on display at City Hall), botanical drawings of trees (displayed on the banner at the City Park gazebo), and aiding the selection process for appropriate large-box trees for the Arboretum.
“Currently the Arboretum is in its earlier stages of construction with five oak trees planted on a knoll. The kid’s Christmas tree, round stone sitting wall up at the front of the park is completed,” said Milligan. “Several large evergreens have already been planted in the future southern pine and fir grove area. In some ways, the total park is already a mature arboretum. The revised four acres (will) only enhance that experience.”
“Projects like this are a result of everyone playing parts large and small and we can all enjoy the results with our friends. Arboretums just get more beautiful as they age,” said Milligan. Tour participation will bring more funding so that the project can continue into its next stage.

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