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For The Garden

The Healing Garden

Author: Cathy Cromell
Issue: December, 2009, Page 55
Photography by Art Holeman

Dried agave stalks create dramatic silhouettes and offer perches for birds.
Leanne Phillips creates a soothing desert sanctuary

Javelinas, packrats, rabbits and deer traverse Leanne Phillips’ desert foothills property in Cave Creek, Arizona. She welcomes their presence and supplies them with a secluded watering hole. “I’ve been pleasantly surprised by how many diverse bird species started coming for water,” she comments. “I feel like I live in the midst of a bird sanctuary.”
“Sanctuary” is an important concept to Phillips. She has grown and tended plants for 20 years and believes in their power to create healing spaces within a landscape. Since construction of her current residence was completed three years ago, Phillips has gradually incorporated plants and other elements to enhance the feeling of sanctuary, serenity and healing. Examples include an organic vegetable and herb garden, as well as beautiful sandstone slabs to sit upon while meditating or enjoying spectacular desert views.
An unusual element in her backyard is the labyrinth she created for meditation. She laid it out using native rock from the property, as well as white quartz, crystals and sandstone she has collected over the years.
“Walking a labyrinth helps balance one’s energy,” according to Phillips. “I designed mine to allow 10 people to walk it together, which I believe amplifies its beneficial effect.” In addition to personal use, she offers the labyrinth as part of her energy-healing consulting business, Life Energy Awakenings. She also helps clients design their own gardens to promote healing and rejuvenation.

Leanne Phillips enjoys the serenity of her labyrinth garden.

Phillips appreciates the desert’s beauty and strives to keep her improved garden areas as natural as possible. “I’ve been adding just enough plant material in an oasis zone near the house for a feeling of greenery and lushness, while still maintaining a seamless look that flows into the surrounding natural desert.”

Because she used to grow cacti for re-sale, Phillips had many “leftovers” that she
installed in her landscape. She planted small saguaros, envisioning that someday they will grow into a stand of statuesque cacti. She also added golden barrel, organ pipe and senita cacti, as well as numerous agave and aloe species.

Of course, all this new plant material attracted wildlife visitors, who proceeded to chew or dig up plants, seeking moisture and sustenance. “It’s interesting how unpredictable animals are when it comes to their eating habits,” observes Phillips. “They will go after some aloe but leave others alone. A plant they graze on in my yard may be left alone in another landscape. I’ve lost plants to trial and error, but I’ve also found many that they don’t bother.” (See Page 58 for her list of survivors.)

She protects some plants by encasing them in window screen material or wire until they become established. For her patio containers, she covers their top layers of soil with heavy rocks to prevent ground squirrels from unearthing the plants. Spraying peppermint oil around vegetation sometimes keeps packrats at bay, although Phillips finds it needs to be reapplied to maintain a strong scent.

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