Impeccably landscaped and maintained, the home south of the intersection of Old Church Road and West La Entrada has long been admired by villagers and celebrities who have included governors, U.S. senators, a presidential candidate and Hollywood royalty. The driveway circles in front of the adobe home’s north wall that bears the inhabitant’s initials: D&D. It is the long-time residence of Donna Wylie and Donnie Leonard, stalwarts of the Sandoval County Democratic Party.
At one-and-a-quarter acres, the property encompasses a large, manicured backyard that can accommodate well over 100 politicians, donors and guests, as well as two pastures, a vineyard, horse stalls and hay barn. About 48 years ago, Donna Wylie and her then-husband bought and subdivided eight acres along the south side of West La Entrada. The lot on which they built their home was an alfalfa field; part of it still is. It’s a comfortable home for the quarter-horse “Dew” and “Mister T,” a paint. Their stalls and riding arena are near the barn that typically holds 120 bales by the end of October to satisfy the steeds until June when two pastures are ready.
To feed themselves, Wylie and Leonard mostly buy from grocery stores and the Growers’ Market now. They used to have bountiful vegetable gardens —it once produced a 32-pound watermelon— but their now aging bones and joints would prefer not to bend and pluck off squash bugs and extract weeds.
“It’s been years since we had a real vegetable garden,” he confessed. “That garden would produce so much we couldn’t give it away. The neighbors would say, ‘Don’t need any more tomatoes. Don’t need any more squash.’ And it was so much work. What we planted would respond, and then we couldn’t keep up with it all.”
Their landscape areas and planting beds are fully mature and visually heart-warming in spring, summer and autumn months. To experience their flowering plants and lush greenery in winter months requires a quick trip to a tack room through a gate at the southeast corner of the backyard to which they relocate dozens of potted plants. The shed is equipped with grow-lights to keep flora happy until spring-summer temperatures return.
The robust geraniums, ferns and other show-stoppers spend most of the year hanging from trees, from leaning hand-made ladders or on pedestals —or most spectacularly, surrounding the eight-foot-tall water fountain in the backyard.
In summer their 12 grandchildren and two Old English sheep dogs delight in frolicking in the large basin below the gushing fountain.
The backyard lawn, planted in fescue and bluegrass, is surrounded by a stuccoed wall on the west and south with a well-established ground cover inside the perimeter that prevents weeds from taking root. “The ground cover is very effective and keeps spreading all along that two-foot strip that separates the lawn from the wall,” Leonard explained. “In the fall, we just trim it back to ground-level with a weedeater.”
Also within that strip along the perimeter is ground-mounted lighting that sets an attractive, inviting mood for either calm evenings just for the two of them or a gala atmosphere for a vigorous political rally.
Leonard is a former Sandoval County Commissioner and inveterate political enthusiast. The Wylie-Leonard home’s spacious living room and large backyard are frequently used for Democrats’ rallies and receptions. Luminaries have included Robert Redford, Governors Bill Richardson and Michelle Lujan Grisham, U.S. Senators Tom Udall, Ben Ray Lujan and Martin Heinrich, former presidential candidate Fred Harris and scores of other statewide dignitaries.
Usually such large gatherings have catered food and beverage service, so the grill on the couple’s deck is mainly used for family get-togethers or quiet suppers for the two of them. The latilla-covered patio and deck outside the den offer an abundance of sites for the hanging plants that brighten the main outdoor living area while easily viewed from inside.
Geraniums are the most favored. They are usually purchased from ARCA’s La Paloma Greenhouse and nursery on East La Entrada where more than 28,000 plants and flowers are grown yearly as vocational training for people with developmental disabilities.
“Every year we add more potted plants, but the ones outside can’t stay out there in the winter months, so they have to be taken to the tack room. We’re running out of space there,” Wylie explained in mid-February. “ I’d guess we have at least 50 plants out there now.”
They have to be hand-watered throughout the winter.
While the backyards on the south and west sides of many Corrales homes are nearly unbearably hot in mid-summer, that isn’t a problem at the Wylie-Leonard residence. Tall cottonwood trees, five non-bearing pear trees, a plum tree and mountain oak block the sun after about three in the afternoon. “By that time, the whole backyard is shaded,” Leonard said.
All vegetation along the perimeter of the property is on a drip irrigation system. The two pastures and lawn are watered with sprinklers governed by timers. “We water mainly at night,” he advised.
On the northeast side are two mulberry trees; one yields white berries while the other, purplish black ones. “Man, they produce a ton of them and they’re really sweet,” he pointed out.
Wylie added, “They make really good jelly, so even though we have a lot of berries, we can get rid of them.”
Beyond the backyard’s south wall is a row of elm trees on a neighbor’s property which also contributes shade on hot summer days. Other cottonwoods border the east side of the house.
Sturdy rose bushes provide fragrance and color in the backyard, in the cozy walled front entryway, all along the roadway and elsewhere around the home. Most are pink Queen Elizabeth rose bushes that thrive in full sun and are favored since they resist pests and diseases that attack other rose varieties.
In the small vineyard in the southeast corner of the property, they have four kinds of table grapes, including Merlot and Concord vines that “produce a ton of grapes that make great jelly.” Last year, they gave much of it away.
“You’ve only got about a week between the time the grapes are ready and the time the birds have gotten them,” he said resignedly. Still they keep several bird feeders replenished. They are seeing fewer Roadrunners and almost no pheasant. “We used to have a lot of pheasants up and down La Entrada, but I think we only saw one this year.” But lots of blackbirds, robins and finches.
The abundance extended to what is grown between the grape vines: beets. “We had so many beets last year we couldn’t give it all away,” Leonard said with a chuckle.
The spectacular street-side appearance of the home features a paved circular drive centered with a 40-foot tall piñon tree and several yuccas. “We get a lot of compliments from people who say they like to see them when they drive by,” Leonard admitted.
They have no plans to change what has been done to their grounds over the past nearly 50 years. “It doesn’t look like it needs it,” he said. “Seems like every year we add more potted plants, both on the ground and hanging wherever we can find to put them. We’ve about run out of space to do that.”