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About the cover


Garden Tour Allure

Previewing the Evergreen Garden Club's annual tour,
plus greening Silver City with parks supervisor Jesus Alvillar.


So many lovely, private gardens to frolic in this month, but only one day to see some special ones at the Evergreen Garden Club's Annual Tour on Sunday, June 9, from 1 to 5 p.m.

View of the Eisenhower-Renfro courtyard garden, one of five gardens on the Evergreen Garden Club’s Annual Tour on Sunday, June 9.

Highlights of the five featured Silver City-area spreads include a 12-foot-plus waterfall and koi pond that amply demonstrate the comforting sound of water; a hillside garden of native plantings and garden art, with a colorful patio and a greenhouse of unusual cacti; and a courtyard garden created on solid rock—a case study of how permaculture solutions to watering and drainage problems have transformed a difficult site.

Everyone will also be keen to see the garden of Silver Heights Nursery owners Regina and Steve Vinson (see June 2010) — a first-hand opportunity to learn how those in the know do it. The Vinsons describe their garden as "an organically grown landscape where fruit trees, vegetable and herb gardens, perennials and an Oriental garden are integrated into a deer-proof space that's great for entertaining year-round."

"Deer-proof" is a charm sought by many area gardeners, and the Vinsons have accomplished the feat without unattractive fencing.

Refreshments will be served on their covered outdoor patio, and tour participants may also visit the nursery's growing areas.

Only the Whiteley garden (see October 2008), a "floribundus" wonder, has been on the tour previously. These days, however, the landscape is embellished with more roses and showcases a lifestyle that includes both gardening and making art. Much of what is grown finds its way to Blythe Whiteley's bouquet stand at the downtown farmers' market in Silver City.

An accomplished potter, Whiteley will sell her garden art at the event.

Each ticket purchased for the "five for $5" tour qualifies for a drawing where the winner receives a $50 gift certificate at Silver Heights Nursery.

Proceeds from ticket sales will benefit a range of Grant County charities. For more information regarding membership in the 62-year-old gardening organization or the tour, call (575) 538-3216.

Tickets are available at AmBank, Mimbres Farms Greenhouse & Nursery, the Grant County Farmers' Market, Silver Heights Nursery and Allotta Gelato.



Just Another Day in the Park


Now that I've met Jesus Alvillar, I understand why Gough Park looks perfect the day after the Blues Festival ends.

Dressed head-to-toe in black, Alvillar, 34, can be easily mistaken for a movie action hero. Dark glasses curve hyperbolically around his eyes and his steel-toed boots attest to a strenuous daily workout.

Silver City’s parks supervisor, Jesus Alvillar, at the Silver City Museum — one of many landscapes maintained by him and his crew. (Photos by Vivian Savitt)

A year has passed since Alvillar took the job as Silver City's parks supervisor, and the boots show that he hit "the grounds" running as the caretaker of 16 park properties.

Alvillar's domain includes your neighborhood park that, like mine on Pope Street, may be no more than a shady, rectangular chunk of grass with a swing set, slide and picnic tables. Some, like Noble, Cherry Hills and Spring Street Parks, are a little larger and possess distinctive characteristics.

Town landmarks (Gough, Penny and Big Ditch Parks) — as well as the garden at the Silver City Museum—retain a lovely, hometown ambiance thanks to Alvillar and his six-man crew.

Beside typically "green" maintenance tasks — over-seeding (usually with a 50/50 mixture of perennial rye and tall fescue), mowing, pruning and planting—repairs to swings, sprinkler heads, basketball nets and fences are ongoing efforts. Equipment like broken slides and water fountains is replaced with the help of an irrigation tech, five landscape maintenance workers and Alvillar.

Work is seasonal: The baseball field at Scott Park required the assembling of 110 pieces of fencing and took three weeks to complete. Before soccer gets underway, the fencing must come down again. Even spreading wood chips at the Skate Park for purposes of safety and curb appeal takes four days.

When the Olympic-sized Municipal Swimming Pool opened in late May, it had been "scrubbed down inch by inch and took two weeks to finish," Alvillar says. Then it passed state inspection.

Passing inspection and passing away — after Alvillar's cell phone rang, I learned that the Parks Department is also responsible for digging the graves at Memory Lane Cemetery.

"The work is 96% backhoe," Alvillar says, "but our shovels and jackhammer also get used depending on the grave's location."

When I ask how many graves he digs each month, the response evokes Alvillar's hometown ethos: "What God wants it to be," he replies.

Born in Grant County, Alvillar attended Cobre schools and met his future wife at CC Snell Middle School. After seven years in Phoenix, gaining experience and certification as an Arizona landscape professional, Alvillar and his wife decided to return home to raise their son.

"My boss, Peter Peña, and I are passionate about parks and want to make them more playful," Alvillar says. Peña is Director of Public Works.

"I love doing the work," Alvillar continues, "being outdoors and making things look sharp. I do park drive-bys a lot, and people ask me to plant more shade trees."

For structure, beauty and longevity, Alvillar likes bloodgood sycamore and Southern live oak.

"This is a trees and shrubs year," Alvillar reports. "Our goal is to beef up the parks and create more shade."

On-call 24/7 as parks supervisor, Alvillar relaxes on the weekends playing with his son at baseball practice or riding all-terrain vehicles.

Come Monday morning, he may be weeding or planting a dozen new trees at Memory Lane Cemetery. Perhaps the crew will use soil probes to determine if both trees and turf are receiving enough or too much water.

So far Alvillar hasn't seen a deer on the properties, but when grub-hunting skunks dig up the grass — it's just another day in the park for the action hero.




Southwest Gardener columnist Vivian Savitt gardens at Ditch Cottage in Silver City.



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