News Column

For 75 years, a peek at the gardens 'Behind Adobe Walls'

July 5, 2014

By Paul Weideman, The Santa Fe New Mexican

July 05--Eight lovely Santa Fe homes and gardens are featured in this year's "Behind Adobe Walls" Home and Garden Tours. This is the 75th anniversary of the annual tours sponsored by the Santa Fe Garden Club. The tours highlight four properties on each of two consecutive Tuesday afternoons, July 22 and July 29.

"The tour used to only be for the club members, and people walked from house to house," said Barbara Templeman, who chairs the tour events with Enid Tidwell. "It was mostly on the east side. They wanted to raise money to help subsidize the spring and fall flower shows. We still have the flower shows."

"We are a member of Garden Club of America, and as a member of GCA, you must have flower shows," said Sue-Ellen deBeer, the Santa Fe club's publicity chairwoman. Half of the club members -- about 35 of 70 -- participate in the flower shows; the group also stages a horticulture show annually.

This year's tourgoers visit homes while being transported on four, 55-seat luxury buses. The tour begins at Hotel Santa Fe, where participants meet for lunch and shopping: The Santa Fe Garden Club staffs an orchid shop (showing flowers from New Earth Orchids) and sells photo cards by members. This year, there is also a raffle; prizes include an orchid in a vase, a family membership to the Santa Fe Botanical Garden and a Pam Duncan flower arrangement in an antique French coal scuttle.

The homes on the 2014 tours run the gamut of styles, from Santa Fe Style to contemporary to Mexican. Locations include Wilderness Gate, the east side, downtown and the La Tierra area.

"Besides the gardens, tour participants get to see a lot of interesting collections," Tidwell said. "We have one house this year with a stellar collection of Native American beadwork, rugs and sculpture. Another house has wonderful flea market items and things from South America -- textiles, pottery, tchotchkes.

"Another house is full of pictorial Mexican rugs. It is a riot of color."

The tours introduce visitors and residents to New Mexico's greatest horticultural challenge: creating beautiful gardens and landscapes in an area that receives less than 12 inches of rainfall a year. Club members point out that once plants such as roses, lavender, rosemary and lilacs are established during their initial growing season, they thrive with very little water.

"We have one house this year that started out with an English garden," she said, "but after they got their first water bill, they redid the whole thing with xeric plants, and it's quite lovely."

One house on the tour has a pair of planted pig troughs from China. In the garden spaces of another is a pond, a relatively unusual feature in Northern New Mexico residences.

Plant identification is also provided during the tours, deBeer said. "We have plant lists by common names and genus and species that we hand out to anyone who is interested."

Meeting minutes of the Santa Fe Garden Club tell the story of the organization's inception. "In October 1939, at the beginning of World War II, 11 intrepid Santa Fe women met at a member's home to found the Santa Fe Garden Club. Roll call was taken (using the member's husband's name -- a tradition that endured until the 1980s, when Ann Zinn announced that she was Ann Quarles Zinn, not Mrs. Dale Zinn), annual membership dues were established at $2, and thus began the legacy of the Santa Fe Garden Club."

In the spring of 1940, club members determined that they needed to raise funds to finance their annual autumn chrysanthemum shows and springtime bulb shows. The Behind Adobe Walls Home and Garden Tours, begun in the summer of 1940, answered that need.

In the early years of the tour, members would drive their cars or walk to each featured house and enjoy tea and cookies in the gardens. The ticket price in 1949 was $1.50. Reservations were made at the Indian Detours desk at La Fonda on the Plaza. In 1972, buses were arranged for transportation. During the 1980s, the tours attracted 900 visitors each summer. In the 2000s, the tour was cut back to two days and the club added its PequeÑo Tours for 40 or fewer guests.

Proceeds from the annual tours now yield nearly $20,000.

"The money we raise from these tours goes back to the community in various ways: conservation projects, education and riverbank maintenance," Templeman said.

The club's first charity projects were during World War II and included victory gardens, a milk depot, providing flowers for patients at Bruns Army Hospital and sending clothing to Holland. The club planted the courtyard garden at the Museum of Fine Arts (today's New Mexico Museum of Art) in 1951 and has maintained it ever since; and likewise the Amelia White Rose Garden.

Proceeds from the tours help pay for the Museum of Spanish Colonial Art Garden, which features herb, flower and vegetable types that were grown during the Colonial New Mexico era.

"A lot of our money now goes to the Santa Fe Botanical Garden. We have a dedicated plot there," Templeman said. Proceeds also benefit programs in the grade schools; an endowed scholarship for a student at the Santa Fe Community College; and funding for a variety of environmental and conservation groups. Other recent beneficiaries of tour revenues are Los Amigos de Valles Caldera, an education/science center for which the garden club donated a microscope; Lighthawk, which uses volunteer pilots to provide aerial photographs of areas of environmental concern to community and business leaders, scientists and conservationists; and the Museum of Indian Arts & Culture, where club members landscaped the sculpture garden.

The Santa Fe Garden Club is proud to still be providing a glimpse of the secret gardens "behind adobe walls." The cost per person per tour is $75. For reservations and tickets, call West Wind Travel, 984-0022.


(c)2014 The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.)

Visit The Santa Fe New Mexican (Santa Fe, N.M.) at

Distributed by MCT Information Services

For more stories covering arts and entertainment, please see HispanicBusiness' Arts & Entertainment Channel

Source: Santa Fe New Mexican, The (NM)

Story Tools Facebook Linkedin Twitter RSS Feed Email Alerts & Newsletters