Nancy Noble, surrounded by her gardens in southern Utah.

As a professional biologist, Nancy Noble knows more than the average bear about plants. Though she has fond memories of gardening with her grandmother in Missouri and her parents in Wisconsin, her own passion for gardening didn’t blossom until she was in post-graduate school. Now she says, “I’m just a gardening nut.”

Nancy’s fervor for gardening has spilled over into two separate gardens: one at her condo outside Salt Lake City, and the other at her house in southern Utah. “The condo gardens surround a small patio (20 x 30’) and are intensively planted,” says Nancy. She maximizes her space by growing vertically. The patio is fenced in and Nancy uses the fence to support sweet peas, nine different types of clematis and climbing roses. “Some of my favorite climbing roses are America, Iceberg and Golden Showers,” she says. “We’ve only been here at this house for three years, but the Iceberg rose is already growing right over the 8′ fence,” says Nancy.

Daylilies put on a grand display.

At ground level, Nancy has planted tree roses and perennials, such as Japanese painted ferns, heuchera, daisies, phlox, asters and primroses. She also grows herbs and containers of petunias and gerber daisies. Because she isn’t at the condo all the time, Nancy has set it up to be low-maintenance. “I started by adding lots of compost to the clay soil,” she says. A 1″ thick layer of mulch conserves moisture and keeps the weeds out. “Overall, I only have to spend one or two hours a week maintaining this garden.”

Low-maintenance is even more essential at her 90-acre country home because she’s only there 25% of the time. “Gardening in southern Utah is a challenge because we’re located at 7,100 feet and have hot days and cool nights,” says Nancy. To keep the wildlife at bay, she has fenced in a quarter-acre area for 30 fruit trees and a vegetable garden in raised beds. “I used raised bed corners to build eight raised beds and I feel like they’ll last forever,” says Nancy.

Nancy uses Trellis Netting to support tomatoes and other vining crops.

Surrounding her vegetable garden is a xeriscape garden where has planted perennial flowers and shrubs that don’t need a lot of maintenance once they get established. These include mugo pines, potentilla, salvia, daylilies, gaillardia and veronica. “I like trying new varieties. This year, my favorite is Fanfare gaillardia,” says Nancy.

Though she’s found creative ways to keep up with gardens in two separate locations, Nancy looks forward to retirement when she’ll move more permanently to the southern Utah location. “It will be nice to really focus on the gardens and feel less rushed about taking care of them,” says Nancy.

To learn more about water-wise gardening, check out my article, 8 Steps to a Water-Wise Garden.

-Kathy LaLiberte, Director of Gardening