Back in February, after the legislative session, Gov. Susana Martinez publicly excoriated lawmakers for requesting state funds for "wasteful pork." She called out a few projects in particular—including the Santa Fe Botanical Garden, which had requested $201,000 for construction and improvements. In March, she vetoed the funding.
Nine months later, though, the $7.5 million project is going strong.
"Not getting the money didn't stop us," Santa Fe Botanical Garden Outreach Director Fran Cole told SFR during a recent tour of the Museum Hill garden, where the first phase—two acres of a total 14—is beginning to take shape.
Although the garden's grand opening isn't until next summer, Cole and SFBG Executive Director Linda Milbourn are clearly excited about it. Phase I includes the "Orchard Gardens," with stone paths leading visitors under ramadas, through orchards and meadows, and into a sunken "dry garden" that will be planted with cacti and succulents.
"In winter, on a sunny day, this is going to be the best place to sit," Milbourn smiles.
But it's not just about having an idyllic place to relax. Milbourn says one of the garden's main purposes is education: Staffed entirely by volunteers, it will be a place where students and community members can learn things like stormwater management, pruning, integrated pest management and landscaping. A century-old "orphan bridge," imported from San Miguel County and repainted a cheerful bright red, provides a scenic spot for lectures, yoga and even live music, and Cole says the Museum Hill Café plans to offer boxed lunches specifically tailored to garden visitors.
"We really want to provide a service for our community," Milbourn says. "We're very optimistic because we're so proud of what we're doing here—and the impact, we think, will be far-reaching."
SFBG staff are already planning an activity-filled weekend for the garden's grand opening in July. And while they're still seeking to raise money through memberships and donations, no veto pen will stop what Cole describes as "our jewel."
"What's really exciting, in its simplest terms, is that we're bringing a botanical garden to Santa Fe," she adds. "It's a thrilling, exhilarating, amazing addition to our community."