Pansies, Petunias and Panache
This homeowner has a passion for planting colorful annuals to enliven her patios.
BY ROMI CARRELL WITTMAN | PHOTOGRAPHY BY AMY HASKELL
Tucked away on a northeast-side cul-de-sac, sitting amid two lush acres, is the home of Perri and Steven Touche. The highlight of the property is Perri’s garden, which bursts into life from winter through spring. An avid gardener, Perri begins prepping her beds each fall, cultivating and nurturing an explosion of colorful, flowering plants that provide the perfect backdrop for get-togethers with family and friends.
The Sonoran Desert is a veritable paradise in wintertime, when mild temps and sunny days mean outdoor activities take center stage. This is especially true when it comes to gardening — with some planning and elbow grease, year-round color and lush gardenscapes can result.
Perri has been gardening for 30 of the 33 years they’ve lived in their home, and says that the key to it is understanding the region in which you’re working. “I’ve taken classes to learn what works and what doesn’t,” she says. “I call it ‘Plant Camp.’”
The gardening classes are tailored to Tucson’s specific needs, as well as those focused on the Lake Tahoe region, where the Touches also own a home.
One of the tricks she learned from “Plant Camp” was watering her plants before covering them in advance of a hard freeze. “The plants will never freeze if you do it that way,” she says. “If you don’t water them, they will freeze and probably die.”
Perri has created pretty and tranquil garden spaces in both the front and rear of their home. An array of colorful pots greets you as you approach the front door. This gorgeous display extends to the backyard, where multiple seating areas and relaxing nooks are framed by vibrant plantings. The brick patio area includes an outdoor fireplace with cooking space. Down a dirt path, there is a larger fire pit, perfect for fall nights and s’mores.
“It’s a great place to sit and relax with friends,” Perri says of the backyard garden. “We’ve hosted as many as 300 people here.”
Although Perri hires a landscaper to maintain the “big” areas, like the grass and trees, she is hands-on when it comes to her flowers. Every fall, usually in mid- October, she purchases as many as 50 flats of geraniums, snapdragons, gerbera daisies and other blooms. She gets most of her plants from Harlow Gardens, but also buys a few from Home Depot and Lowe’s. Gardening, she says, isn’t a cheap hobby, “but it’s a pretty one.”
Most days, she’s up at 4:30 a.m. and out in her garden by 5:15, where she spends up to an hour and a half deadheading and pruning. “When it’s dark, I usually start on the front patio where I can turn on lights,” she says with a laugh.
The Touches travel both to their home in Lake Tahoe and to Dallas to visit their daughters, sons-in-law and grandchildren — but Tucson remains home base.
Perri’s flurry of gardening begins in October but ends April, when it’s time to prune, pull and prepare for the next planting season. Still, the high point of the season for her are the gerberas. “I just love gerberas in Spring,” she says with a smile. HG