Many of America's oldest and finest botanical gardens were created by individuals who had two things in common. First, an immense love for nature, plants and gardens. Second, the financial wherewithal to create something "larger than life." Wallace Gardens is among this class of gardens.
At the same time, Wallace Gardens is different than most private gardens for two significant reasons. For one, it is a garden devoted to plants from arid lands and deserts. Even more unusual is the fact that it was created so recently, in the 1980's.
The founders of Wallace Gardens, Henry B. and Jocelyn Wallace, moved to Arizona in the early 1980's and immediately fell in love with the desert. Wallace Gardens is a testament to that love affair, a botanical paradise that is inspiring to all who come to visit.
Henry, H. B. as he was known to his friends, was an extraordinary horticulturalist drawn to the amazing resilience of cacti and succulents and their ability to survive in the harshest of environmental conditions. Jocelyn loved the beauty of the succulent plants, desert trees and bushes, all with their glorious floral displays. Together they created a spectacular 12 acre garden of arid land plants from across the globe.
H. B. Wallace was member of one of the most influential agricultural families in American history. He was the son of Henry A. Wallace and the grandson of Henry C. Wallace. The Wallace family, native to Iowa, has been synonymous with agriculture for several generations. Henry C. Wallace was the founder of the widely read agricultural magazine, "Wallace Farmer," he was a co-founder of the Farm Bureau, the nation's largest farm organization and he served as Secretary of Agriculture from 1921 to 1924. Henry A. Wallace was a key advisor to Franklin D. Roosevelt during both the Depression and World War II. He served as Secretary of Agriculture from 1932 to 1939, and Vice President of the United States from 1940 to 1944. Henry A. Wallace revolutionized the corn industry through his development of hybrid corn seed, and was the founder of the Pioneer Hi-Bred Company in 1926.
H.B. Wallace was born in Des Moines, Iowa, in 1915. He received a degree from Iowa State University in 1938 where he followed in his father's footsteps and studied genetics. His revolutionary breakthroughs in the science of poultry breeding and egg production have had the same international impact on our food supply as did his father's breakthroughs of increasing corn yields through hybridization. H.B. became the first President of Hy-Line Poultry Farms, a division of Pioneer Hi-Bred. H.B.'s philanthropic efforts included funding for scientific research to universities and foundations world-wide, as well as research for the cure of mercury-related illnesses, cancer, heart disease and amyotrophic lateral sclerosis (ALS).
For twenty years, the Wallaces worked side-by-side to create a garden unlike any other. H.B. was fascinated by the cacti and succulents. He loved their weird, architectural shapes, their beautiful flowers and, yes, their wicked spines. Left to his own devices, the garden would have consisted of only these. Jocelyn added the feminine touch, preferring the soft edges and shapes of bushes, trees and flowers. She loved the massive displays of yellow flowers on the Palo Verde and the pink Ironwood trees.
Part of H.B.'s motivation to build the garden was his concern over the fate of the habitats of many of these marvelous plants. As with the destruction of the rain forests, deserts across the world are under attack by human beings. The world's dramatically expanding human population is causing intense pressure to develop lands previously thought uninhabitable. As desert habitats succumb to the blade and the spade, plants become extinct.
H.B. wondered what mankind might be losing in the process. Are there yet-to-be-discovered medicinal uses of these extraordinarily tough plants? If climate change results in expanding arid areas, should not we learn more about the plants that already have adapted to those conditions?
As their garden grew, H.B. reasoned that it could become a significant storehouse of the genetic material of arid land plants. In that way and in concert with other botanical gardens, much of nature's biodiversity could be saved for subsequent generations.
In the late 1980's and early 90's, the Wallaces were able to acquire a large area within the borders of the Sincuidados community. Land prices were so attractive that they purchased most of the land that was to be Phase IV of the developing community. This encompassed the 78 acres to the west of the community and included the hill that is mistakenly referred to as Lone Mountain. H.B., being an avid hiker, had his garden staff create over 2.5 miles of hiking trails on the hill. H.B. and Jocelyn felt strongly that this part of their estate should remain in its native state. To that end, they protected the land with a conservation easement that would permanently prevent any development of the acreage.
Knowing that life is fragile and death is inevitable, the Wallaces prepared for that eventuality by creating a foundation that would care for their property for years into the future. In 1992, this magnificent property was placed into a 501(c)(3) tax exempt foundation that had been created with a view to provide opportunities for research, education, conservation and the enjoyment of nature.
In the summer of 2005, H.B. Wallace passed away a few weeks short of his 90th birthday. Jocelyn Wallace continues to spend her winter months in the home they shared at Wallace Gardens for over 25 years.