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For The Garden

Behind Garden Walls

Author: Nancy Erdmann
Issue: January, 2014, Page 114
Photos by Michael Woodall

This classic Santa Fe-style entry features antique mesquite doors. The custom wrought-iron light fixtures were designed to match others on the property.

A Secluded High-Desert Garden in an Established Santa Fe Neighborhood Reflects the Charm of the City

Like many classic Santa Fe properties, this one does not reveal itself in one big splash. Instead, it unveils its beauty one step at a time. Tucked behind thick adobe walls in a historic neighborhood on the city’s east side, its verdant landscape so delighted one house-hunting couple in 2004 that they immediately knew they had found what they were looking for.

“I thought it would take at least one or two years to find just the right place, but it was one of the very first houses we saw,” recalls the wife. “My husband toured the gardens first and announced that he did not need to go inside. Fortunately, it enchanted us as much as the outside.”

Built in the late 1920s, the Pueblo Revival-style home was in need of some updating, so the couple embarked on several interior remodeling projects  with architect Eric Enfield, AIA, that included opening views to the well-planted landscape. “This is a great naturalistic garden with informal design, traditional materials, dense plantings and a mix of ornamental and edible plants,” says Enfield, whose sister shares the house with her husband.

Aside from significant changes Enfield made to the home’s entry, patios and fountains, little else was done to the grounds. “It is our great fortune that the garden has been taken care of for the past 18 years by the same Master Gardener. She knows the garden and its history intimately and is deeply devoted to it,” says the woman of the house. “We use no chemical fertilizers, pesticides or herbicides. Due to how established the yard is and how protected it is from the sun and wind, water usage is moderate and we are vigilant about watering as efficiently as possible.”
Towering blue spruce, silver cottonwoods, an enormous trumpet vine and various perennials create a tapestry of greenery in the front yard. Behind the custom wrought-iron fence is a low wall of river stone—a landscape element commonly found in Santa Fe.

The plants are almost all perennials or self-sowing, and include old varieties of tea and climbing roses, several types of poppies, as well as irises, hollyhocks, cholla, pyracantha and plenty of wildflowers. “The garden is an extraordinary refuge for humans and wildlife,” the wife remarks. “It is home to a vibrant world of insects, bees and birds. It is full of wonderful smells and engaging sounds. It is very restorative.

“I credit the garden with playing a major role in my recovery from a medical trauma some years ago,” she continues. “So it has become much more than just a garden for us; it is truly a place of sustenance and renewal, which has no doubt sustained and renewed many others in its almost hundred-year lifespan. More than anything, we see ourselves as caretakers of a historic Santa Fe garden that was first planted in the 1920s.”

An old mesquite door offers passageway from one garden area to the next. Overhead, metal-lined wood canales that are original to the house direct rainwater off the roof. The homeowners added the rain chain. Also original are the blue paving tiles. To the left is a well-established climbing rose shrub.
In the master bedroom courtyard, dwarf white dutch clover grows between flagstone pavers, which surround a recirculating fountain. On the wall is a trompe l’oeil painting by artist Alexandra Eldridge that was designed around the wall’s original tiles. According to interior designer Rob Strell, who worked on the home’s renovation, “The dusty-sage window trim retains a hint of the blue traditionally chosen to keep the house safe from spirits.”

Standing close to 6-feet tall, a ceramic and mosaic sculpture of a full-skirted woman by New Mexico artist Bev Magennis adds a magical touch to the yard. “Our house has large, light-filled rooms that flow smoothly into one another, and they meld with our more Contemporary aesthetic and our collection of Contemporary art,” notes the woman of the house. “The art extends to the gardens through sculpture and ceramics. Almost every room opens to the gardens, so they are very much a part of the interior spaces.”

Photos - Clock-wise from top left: Barely visible from the kitchen, a backyard sitting area with equipale chairs is dwarfed by sky-high trees and a woody lilac bush that is thought to be close to 100 years old. A white-flowering mock orange shrub is visible in the foreground, as are pink peonies and reddish-pink Jupiter’s beard. • A metal sculpture titled Grandfather, Father and Me by Ed Haddaway brings life to a quiet spot in the garden. • A corn poppy is one of several poppy varieties growing on the grounds. • In the kitchen courtyard, the stepped wall was reworked to open up views; the koi tiles are the work of the late Jenny Lind. For perennial color, the homeowners sow a wildflower seed mix annually along the wall. “It is a pleasant surprise every year to see which wildflowers come up,” says the woman of the house. “It differs, depending on each year’s temperature and moisture.” A recirculating granite fountain makes the spot a haven for birds and insects. The original tiles clad the risers of the rebuilt stone steps.

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