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Through the garden gates


The Las Cruces Bulletin

For 20 years, the Las Cruces Tour of Gardens has unlatched the garden gates of local greenskeepers, making unsecret the magic of sweat, sun and soil. From 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. Saturday, May 2, residents and visitors again have the opportunity to visit some of the most beautiful and unique gardens in Las Cruces.

“I think it is one of the best things we do in Las Cruces,” said tour coordinator Jackye Meinecke.

“It’s a fun day for everybody. It doesn’t cost a lot of money. The money that we raise goes toward garden beautification and garden education. It’s a win-win on just about any direction you look.”

While the garden selection committee doesn’t go into the process with a specific theme in mind, Meinecke said they often end up with one. This year, a green concept grew organically.

“A lot of the gardens do things like recycling and reusing different materials, or recycling things in different ways,” Meinecke said.

“At least three of them have water collection systems to collect rainwater. So we did end up with an interesting garden tour, although we just go out looking for pretty gardens.”

Another gardener on the tour, Jeff Anderson, has a beautiful Mediterranean- style garden that features the glass mulch being created by the new glass recycling program at the South Central Solid Waste Authority, 2865 W. Amador Ave. He also has an extensive rainwater collection system he installed with the help of the Doña Ana County Extension Master Gardeners.

“It’s an education space for that kind of thing,” Meinecke said.

Not only do most of the gardens have a sustainability element, many of them have an artistic element.

Faith Hutson, one of the gardeners on the tour, said she has two criteria for her garden.

“One, it should be drought-tolerant and able to survive without a lot of water,” Hutson said. “That’s been my focus over the years.”

“And two, it must include a lot of recycled art – things I’ve found or made.”

Hutson’s garden contains many found-object pieces, creating juxtaposition between the living growth and discarded objects – forgotten, rusty bits meant for decay and given new purpose among her plants.

“I think it is important in this world to look at things and see if it can have another purpose before it goes to a landfill. Can I reuse it, can it have another life?” Huston said.

Linda Gendall, an artist with a garden on the tour, has painted Native American rugs on the walls around her garden. Her home art studio will also be open for viewing on the day of the tour.

“I like creative gardens that reflect the personality of the gardener,” Meinecke, who was on the selection committee, said.

“So these are small, intimate gardens, and they reflect the personalities of the gardeners. There’s no big outdoor kitchens, or fancy hot tubs and pools. It’s not those kinds of gardens – they weren’t designed by fancy landscape architects and installed and clipped within an inch of their lives,” Meinecke said.

“These are very personal, intimate gardens that reflect the gardener. To me, that’s what makes them special. I hope it will to other people as well.”

All of the gardens are located in the Downtown area, within a convenient distance of one another.

“They are fairly close together,” Meinecke said.

“You could actually go and see all the gardens in half a day, and then go out for lunch or afternoon coffee – or spend more time if you like.”

Refreshments for tour-goers will be offered 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. at the Amador Hotel, 180 W. Amador Ave.

“We’re delighted to have an indoor place with available water where people can enjoy our cookies – we usually put out cookies and lemonade, so it’s a nice little pleasant stop,” Meinecke said.

The Amador Hotel will also be providing tours for visitors to see the work the Amador Hotel Foundation has accomplished during its ten years of restoration work. The brief tours will show all the rooms set up and one room currently under construction.

“The building is furnished with historic furniture, all of which has been donated,” said Heather Pollard, president of the Amador Hotel Foundation. “We are restoring room by room, so there are plenty of opportunities for the public to see the restoration work. “The Amador Hotel is one of the last historic properties need restoration in downtown Las Cruces,” Pollard said.

This year, the tour also highlights the combined beauty of the Munson Center vegetable garden and the adjacent Emma B. Heske Community Garden.

The Munson Center community vegetable garden provides fresh vegetables to area seniors, and any additional vegetables are donated to the El Caldito Soup Kitchen or Meals on Wheels.

Right next to the vegetable garden is the Emma B. Heske Community Garden, a formal garden of flowers, trees, shrubs, benches and paths.

“Emma B. Heske was a woman who lived here and left more than $500,000 to the city to put in a garden where people could meet and talk and sit and just enjoy trees and flowers,” Meinecke said.

The Emma B. Heske Community Garden is open to the public yearround, but its inclusion on the tour brings awareness to this hidden gem.

No matter what your plant-fancy, the Tour of Gardens has something for everyone.

“A lot of them have native plants, the one garden has a succulent collection,” Meinecke said.

“So there are all different kinds of plants. If you are a plant person, there’s a lot of fun stuff, if you are an art person, there’s some fun stuff.

“If you are just looking for ideas for what you can do in your garden, you’re bound to find some inspiration somewhere on the tour, somebody who solved the problem you’ve been fussing on for a while. It always happens – I love that part. “

The Las Cruces Tour of Gardens will be from 9 a.m. to 4 p.m. on Saturday, May 2. Tickets are $7 per person; children 12 and under are free. For more information, visit www. ltog.org or call 521-0521.

Marissa Bond can be reached at 680-1845 or marissa@ lascrucesbulletin.com.

Jeff Anderson’s garden, named “Casa Las Palmas,” contains Mediterranean touches such as palm trees and earth-friendly elements such as recycled glass and a water collection system. Anderson’s garden is part of the 20th annual Las Cruces Tour of Gardens, Saturday, May 2.



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