June 2, 2021 By Sarah Klingenstein
For a town of fewer than 900 residents, Patagonia has an impressive culture of volunteerism, and it shows in the public gardens around town. Last month, we took a look at the Community Gardens and the Post Office Garden. For the June issue, we dig into two others.
The Library Legacy Garden
An official project of the Arizona Centennial Legacy Project, the Legacy Garden was created in 2010 to perpetuate and display plants and trees brought by pioneers settling in and around Patagonia.
Abbie Zeltzer, former Patagonia Library Director, said that when the restoration of Cady Hall as the Patagonia Library was completed in 1997, she looked around at the bare lot behind the library where a garden had once flourished with irises, roses, and a large mulberry tree. Only the mulberry tree remained. “I thought it would be great to fill it with plants that represented the era of the Cady Hotel construction (1901 – 1912). A fellow plant-lover, Bob Schmazel, and I drove around and asked for cuttings and bulbs from local ranches such as the Apache Springs Ranch and the Hale Ranch. With the help of many volunteers and funding from AZ Humanities and others, we planted, installed irrigation, a cistern, and a gate built by Richard Connolly.”
“Our first plantings were rose cuttings from the garden of Rita Smith, who lived next door to the Library. She was a prolific rose grower whose parents emigrated from Spain and Greece,” Zeltzer said.
In a brochure available at the Library, Chris Ellefson and Mary Ann Cresswell Mynard recount how their grandmother Minnie Amerman Bond brought iris bulbs along when she relocated from New Jersey to Alto, a remote mining settlement up Salero Canyon in the Santa Rita Mountains. Through the years the rhizomes from those irises were shared, and they bloom today in the Legacy Garden.
The Garden is open during Library hours, currently 10 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday through Friday. The entrance is through the iron gates behind the Library on Smelter Avenue.
The Butterfly Garden
Across from Red Mountain Foods, on Duquesne Avenue in the shade of a large, javelina-attracting oak tree, the Butterfly Garden has been serving bees and butterflies since 1998. That’s when the late Don Wenig, whose efforts endure in several gardens around town, gained permission from the Town of Patagonia to use the space and town water to grow native pollinator plants. The goals were to attract and feed some of the 250 species of butterflies estimated to live in the Sonoran Desert, and to demonstrate the use of pollinator plants that thrive in our local landscape. Garden developers recruited local talent and, over time, contributions included a rail fence by Abel Murrietta, signage by Linda Chase, and benches built by Manny Mingura.
In the past several years, resident javelinas, overcome with desire for acorns on the ground inside the fence, began to dig under the fence, then the fence plus added chicken wire. Finally, according to Lou Schatz, head of the Garden committee, “We pounded in rebar every six inches or so all the way around the garden perimeter and that seems to have put a stop to it.” The plants, including phlox, echinacea, asters, bee balm and many others can grow in peace once again.
Five to seven volunteers meet in the spring for a general cleanup, then take turns weeding and watering throughout the summer and fall. A fund has been set up in memory of Don Wenig for anyone who would like to contribute toward garden maintenance. Patagonia Creative Arts Association is accepting the donations. They can be emailed at firstname.lastname@example.org.
As you make your way around town this summer, rest a moment in one of these garden spots. And if you have the urge to volunteer your time to keep them up, you’ll be joining a long line of dreamers who saw beauty in a bare patch of ground.