Tour de Force
Two gardens on this month's Evergreen Garden Tour showcase uniquely Southwestern solutions to common outdoor challenges.
Set back from the hodgepodge of residential styles on Little Walnut Road that offer everything from fake-adobe tract homes and doublewides to corpulent houses that bespeak an Embassy of Dallas (or a narco compound — "narcotecture"?) lounges the sloping, picket-fenced garden of Ginna and Jack Heiden.
Immaculately tidy, this garden would cause snap happiness in a Better Homes & Gardens photographer; even a National Park Service crew would be hard pressed to find a disengaged twig on the ground.
The Heidens' spread is one of two residential gardens on this month's Evergreen Garden Tour, June 9, that display bold differences and conspicuous similarities. Both gardens are site-challenged. They also reflect the gardeners' dedication to growing organic food — testament to the phenomenon of environmentally correct horticulture.
At the Heidens', Ginna serves as plantswoman; Jack provides both muscle and construction know-how.
Also on the tour, Judith Meyer's garden-in-progress covers three lots near the top of Chihuahua Hill, highlighted by a vast, endless view to the east. The garden's three terraced grades, one constructed of stone, offer an opportunity to recreate the essence of a hillside Italian village.
This is indeed part of Judith's master plan. Over the next two years, the WNMU adjunct art professor envisions adding an allée of fruit trees and a tropical tree greenhouse. The greenhouse will enable harvesting produce year-round. A grotto may materialize on the lower terrace as well as a pergola to support grapevines.
For the Heidens, their own grand scheme began two years ago when they undertook a perimeter planting of 15 Afghan pines at the facade of their home. Fast-growing trees, the pines will soon conceal a sliver of roadway noticeable from their comfortably decked-out front porch. Meantime, the pines add a dramatic sense of enclosure to the garden itself and soften the effect of a long, paved pathway and stone-enclosed flower beds.
During the formative stages of both gardens, weeds and poor soil had to be reckoned with. Before addressing any grand plans, Judith dealt first with goatheads.
Judith Meyer and her dog, Carlos, in their domain atop Chihuahua Hill. (Photo by Vivian Savitt)
On the other side of town, Ginna continues to fight Bermuda grass. "Before this land was gardened," she says, "it was a hot box of hostile weeds with stickers and burrs."
The Heidens' jihad over rambling deer eased after Jack completed the fence. They believe that the sloping front garden makes jumping the barrier awkward even for ungulates. Furthermore, the couple throw dead lavender over the fence as a "scented" trespassing deterrent.
Judith's major pest issue was fire ants. Avidly anti-chemicals, she found a recipe online using vinegar (to pour into the mound) and cinnamon (to sprinkle around the edges of her property) as weaponry. "In a week's time — with a daily dose or two — the grounds were rid of them," she says.
As far as plantings, a visitor will find ornamentals mixed with vegetables and herbs in both gardens; roses and fruit trees are major players.
Judith's garden favorites include a passion flower inherited from a former owner and an immense blue beargrass tree (Nolina nelsonii) purchased at a local nursery sale. "I love that guy!" she exclaims, referring to the beargrass.
Both women learned to garden from their mothers — and, in Judith's case, two ex-husbands as well.
Ginna frequently utilizes the technique of companion planting to thwart insect pests and lure beneficial ones. "Scabiosa," she says, "attracts helpful parasitic wasps."
Judith, as an alternative act of faith, sets crystals among plants needing help.
Both gardeners are also painters. One of Ginna's acrylic landscapes won "Best in Show" at last year's Gila River Festival. Judith is currently exhibiting her work at the Seedboat Gallery in Silver City. These canvases portrayed impressions from a recent trip to Rome, led for students in her travel-study course.
Garden art is quirky at Judith's place, where you will find objects collected mainly from travel abroad. Curious tile shards are plastered to bird baths and pavement. Rusted iron pieces, some vintage, materialize haphazardly throughout her garden in a playful display of chaos.
In the Heiden garden, wrought-iron objects are placed to add vertical emphasis where needed. There are also several benches at restful spots, including one where Jack requested "a primrose path" and got it.
On the Heidens' backyard terrace — gravel in a previous incarnation — Thompson seedless grapes twine through a shady pergola where Ginna and Jack frequently dine. The trickle of pond water and scent of roses complete this idealized setting.
When you take the tour, be sure to ask the Heidens about their watering setup, and Judith Meyer about her capsicum find.
How fun to both gossip and gain enlightenment in a garden!
Tickets for the June 9 event cost $5 and are available at Silver Heights Nursery, Alotta Gelato, AmBank, Mimbres Farms Nursery and at the Silver City Farmer's Market on June 2.
The tour gets underway at 9 a.m. and continues through noon. Proceeds benefit community gardens.
Southwest Gardener columnist Vivian Savitt gardens at Ditch Cottage in Silver City.