By Meredith Hughes

Who among us has not missed the lovely Corrales tradition of the Garden Tour, first established in 2010?

An array of six gardens, carefully chosen for their relative uniqueness, and, per the Garden Tour website, “…different soil types, water access, tree coverage and temperature ranges… The goal each year is to provide a variety so everyone who visits will find a garden that appeals to them.”

COVID-ness wiped out the tour in 2020 as well as in 2021, but this year the tour, dubbed the 11th annual, is set for June 5, with the gardens selected for 2021 to be featured. No whispering whatsoever of it being virtual. Denise Cavner’s herbal garden, (cum alpacas and chickens,) is one, Joe Romero’s “Mexican plaza patio” is another.

One looks forward to the inclusion of those pesky, perky plein air painters hiding in the bushes at each garden, too, whose works in past years were on sale hot off the easel, as it were. Artist Barb Clark likely will once again be herding the painters, and making a “wet sale” possible on the afternoon of the event.

The herb garden at the north end of Corrales Road is best described as a colorful carnival of individual nooks, some tiny, some large, where a visitor can wander along paths filled with shiny things, navigate a sort of meditative labyrinth, and in season sniff herbs, from rosemary to thyme to mugwort, (or was it mother’s wort?) and more. Tiny green sprouts of stinging nettles seemed to be emerging in one patch. Fun and yet informative for adults, this garden on the tour especially will delight kids.

The wanderer also can pop into a chatty chicken area, and hang out with a small band of alpacas, acquired largely for their biodynamic poop and its superlative use in gardens. But also for their intrinsic cuteness. “Too late, I discovered alpacas love to eat rosemary,” muses Cavner, who also learned some ’pacas resist human touch, so her vision of strolling an alpaca along an acequia likely is not in the cards. She puzzled over what the future of her alpaca fleece might be —typically alpacas are sheared every two years— and their “wool” has been touted for being “lightweight, strong, lustrous, high in insulation value and resistant to rain and snow.”

Soon a yurt-like large tent is going up on the property where Cavner will hold a range of sessions. She practices Ayurveda, a form of “natural medicine” that originated in India, and has a certificate in clinical herbalism. A colorful room in the house filled with a mishmash of items, art, and products is where Cavner does much of her work.

Just finished by her husband is an acrylic passive solar wall securing another indoor area where Cavner grows plants, when she is not doing a two-day a week stint working on the Lifestyle Crew at Vessel Health, established by Harvey White, “creator and former medical director of the Heart Hospital of New Mexico.”  His mantra  “treat the system, not the symptoms,” is hers as well.

Known to Corrales Growers’ Market regulars as Living Beautifully Free, vendor of fresh and dried herbs, vegetables, jams and jellies, kombucha and medicinal herbal remedies, Cavner completed a 30-year career as an early childhood educator, then as a principal, moved to New Mexico where she and her husband lived for two years on the El Pinto Restaurant property, where her husband is operations manager of the salsa plant. Then they bought the Corrales property empty for several years which they are slowly bringing up to snuff.

Healthier eating led Cavner to focus on “the products we use on our bodies. These ingredients can be downright dangerous. This is when I decided to take control of what goes into and onto my body by making my own.” 

Meanwhile over at the spacious, elegant, relatively new home of Joe Romero, a financial planner, and his partner John Keelin, an educator, the Mexican Plaza Patio theme is clear. “About a year after moving in, we built a proper fence, and created a courtyard with two fireplaces, one in the back and one on the side.”

Native to New Mexico, Romero had “very strong feelings about what I wanted, from slate pavers to a hacienda feel. And a plaza —I am a numbers guy with grandiose ideas!”

Romero collects Western art —-a sculpture by Scott Rogers is featured in the plaza— and ornamental pear trees provide just enough shade.

“Anything that sheds leaves we tend to stay away from,” says Romero, hence yucca and cacti are featured.

These two gardens will be joined by four more June 5 and tickets typically will cost about $15. All funds raised will continue to go to the landscaping part of the Corrales MainStreet pathway project, an undertaking years in the making. Visit the tour website closer to the event for further details:http://corrales-gardentour.com/

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