“Gardeners, I think, dream bigger dreams than emperors.” Mary Cantwell

If true, then Patagonia is a town of big dreamers, people who have given their time to the public gardens of our town. Over the past 25 years or so, these beautiful spaces dotted around our townscape have received the hopes and sweat equity of amateur and professional botanists, builders, sowers and reapers. 

The Community Garden

In an heirloom fruit orchard at Duquesne Ave. and Fourth St., images of the Buddha and Our Lady of Guadalupe stand back-to-back, overseeing the plots where local gardeners plant, water and harvest vegetables all summer and into the fall. Some donated pear, peach and other tree stock date back to the 1600s. Our Lady has been blessed by a Catholic priest, and the Buddha fountain is dedicated to Peter Chipman, former Patagonia mayor. 

In the late 1990s, local gardening expert and permaculturist Kate Tirion saw the need for food security as global climate change continued having its impacts on the land. She was granted permission to develop a garden on a site that had been donated to the Town by Roland Richardson. With the help of volunteers and donors, an empty lot became a fenced fruit orchard.

Over the years, garden plots were marked out and enhanced with organic planting soil and compost, and an irrigation system developed to water the fruit trees. A brick-floored ramada, built with donated materials and labor, is the site of the Annual Pie Auction Fundraiser, brainchild of volunteers Janet and the late Woody Winans. Attendees purchase homemade pies made by their neighbors and fill the garden coffers for maintenance and improvement projects, such as ongoing soil enhancement and tree pruning. 

About 10 years ago, Janet Winans and Martha Kelly took over managing the garden. Kelly has led vegetable-growing projects with 4H Clover Club kids there, and she and Wynans oversee maintenance of the site, so it is ready to welcome local gardeners who need a place to grow food. Free raised and in-ground beds are available each spring, and gardeners have access to tools, hoses and water, and enjoy the camaraderie of working alongside their neighbors. Garden plots may still be available; call Martha Kelly at 520-604-0300.

The totems at the Post Office garden were built by Martha Kelly and painted by local artists. Photo by Chuck Klingenstein

Post Office Garden

About 15 years ago, some Patagonia members of a Nogales garden club had an idea for a project close to home: the strip of land between Taylor Lane and the Post Office was calling out for some tender loving care. Overgrown juniper hedges had recently been removed and the ground was bare. Betty Johnson remembered, “We asked the US Postal Service for permission to use the space and water, and we cleared the ground and planted, with lots of local help.” As Jackie Covey, of the Post Office, recalled, “Originally, we wanted roses. But we realized that native plants would be a much better fit, and much easier for volunteers to keep up.” 

Over time, Don Wenig, Jude Weierman and David Clark took over the hand watering and maintenance. This spring Covey took time out from behind the Post Office counter to do extensive pruning and cleanup. The garden today shows off a mature Santa Rita prickly pear, blue stem prickly poppies, penstemon, and Cleveland sage, among others. Look for new native plants being added as this month’s issue goes to press.

Kathy West, who is currently maintaining the garden, would love some help with regular maintenance and watering. Anyone interested, please call Kathy at (206) 280-1242. 

Take a moment to stop and smell the flowers and veggies as you pass by these gardens this summer. Next month we will explore two more public gardens of Patagonia – the Butterfly Garden and the Library Legacy Garden.