Wednesday, September 4, 2019

Flowers and The Mother Garden of Taos at the Couse-Sharp Historic Site and Homes

“To plant a garden, is to believe in tomorrow.” Audrey Hepburn Actress and UNICEF ambassador)

Entryway to the Couse-Sharp Foundation in Springtime

This past summer, gardens around Taos were more splendid than ever. An annual event in August is the Taos Garden Home and Tour (2019 marked its 70th year) sponsored by Los Jardineros Garden Club of Taos. Various homes & gardens all over Taos are included for visitors to see for themselves the beauty and uniqueness here in the high desert. In mid May the annual Taos Lilac Festival takes place, this past year lilac season was spectacular. I’ve also noticed seed giveaways sponsored by various groups in locations around Taos. The best of this is the Couse-Sharp Foundation Historic Site Heritage Garden Seed & Bulb Giveaway on the fist Saturday ‘Open House’ of October (October 5, 2019 at 3PM this particular year).

Lilacs through an Adobe Nicho at Couse-Sharp Foundation

“If the day and night are such that you greet them with joy, and life emits a fragrance like flowers and sweet-scented herbs, is more elastic, more starry, more immortal - that is your success.” Henry David Thoreau (Writer & Transcendentalist) 

In the Mother Garden of Taos

Through a shared love of flowers a few gardeners changed the very look of Taos and added the loveliness of flower gardens to their own yards. The Couse garden is no exception, it began in 1909 at 146 Kit Carson Road the new residence of Virginia and Eanger Irving Couse. Neighbors Louise and Joseph Henry Sharp also planted their own beautiful gardens right next door (this garden was destroyed in 1960 for new construction). The artists had their very own blossoming yards in which to paint in plein-air, or use as cuttings for flower arrangements in vases (of which Sharp painted some of his most colorful and exquisite work).

The garden at the back porch 
“When one tugs at a single thing in nature, he finds it attached to the rest of the world.” John Muir (Writer & Naturalist)

The garden along the back walkway

Other Taos neighbors soon took notice of the beauty that the women had created right in their own yards. It wasn’t long before Mrs. Couse began a tradition of sharing seeds, bulbs and cuttings from her garden with others. How could she not, there was always more than enough. As granddaughter Virginia Couse Leavitt explains about Mrs. Couse, “She turned her passion to gardening; she relinquished her pen and brushes for shovel and hoe; the soil became her canvas and the flowers her colorful palette.” Now no longer in use the acequia system on the property kept the garden irrigated for many years. Transformed from a barren hillside to the rich colorful garden it is known for today, each generation has maintained the “Mother Garden of Taos”. The foundation often gives plein-air painters permission to set up and paint in this beautiful lush garden, keeping up that Taos tradition of creating art in the magnificent light that has brought so many artists to Taos. 

A colorful mix in the Mother Garden of Taos

“For flowers that bloom about our feet, for tender grass, so fresh, so sweet, for song of bird, and hum of bees, for all things fair we hear or see, Father in Heaven, we thank thee!” Ralph Waldo Emerson (Writer & Transcendentalist)

Roses in the garden with a view of the Couse Home

All over Taos wild flowers look up and engage you, whether from roadsides, in fields or mountain trails. More still are the overflowing gardens of homes here. The garden of Rebecca Salsbury James (Strand) at the end of Bent Street yielded cuttings of Jimson Weed which she shared with her longtime friend Georgia O’Keeffe. O’Keeffe’s gardens in Abiquiu still feature Datura flowers, blooming from those very same cuttings shared so long ago. In 2014 one of O’Keeffe’s “Jimson Weed” paintings sold at auction for 44 million dollars. Rebecca was also the one to plant Lilac bushes at her home and in Taos Plaza.

Jimson Weed in O'Keeffe's Garden or is it Rebecca's Garden(?)

“Where flowers bloom, so does hope.” Ladybird Johnson (First Lady and Environmentalist)

Visiting with friends during a rain storm at the Couse Sharp Foundation

Each time we share flower bulbs, seeds or cuttings with our friends, we share everlasting memories. In Taos and all around the world flowers are an expression of love, may there always be flowers.

A Garden can hold variations of splendid color 

“Love is the flower of life, and blossoms unexpectedly and without law, and must be plucked where it is found, and enjoyed for the brief hour of its duration.” D.H. Lawrence (Writer & Traveller)

Looking out through the Mother Garden at the Taos Blue Mountain

Seed gathering at the Couse Mother Garden

The Couse Sharp Historic Site is open to the public on the first Saturday of each month 
May-October, or by appointment 575-751-0369

Gathering seeds to share with others for the Heritage Garden Seed & Bulb Giveaway.

Adobe Wall with Hollyhocks at Couse Sharp Foundation

Volunteers packaging seeds from the gardens

“The care of the earth is our most ancient and most worthy, and after all, our most pleasing responsibility.” Wendell Berry (Writer & Environmentalist)

Tesuque Pueblo Rain Gods on the fireplace mantel in the Couse studio 
to bring much needed rainfall to the Mother Garden of Taos

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