The Storybook Garden at the Corrales Library

Jun 30, 2023 | Arts and Crafts, Events, Experiences, Projects

The Corrales Community Library was built by Village volunteers in 1957 and sixty-six years later that tradition is alive and well.  The latest edition to the library is the Storybook Garden, a garden of delight and food, for children of all ages.

Shortly after completing the Pollinator Garden on the east side of the Library, the Sandoval Extension Master Gardeners were asked by Library Staff to consider taking on the long-neglected area on the southside of the Library, known as the Children’s Garden.  It was a big task, but it gave the Master Gardeners a blank slate to create a new space for community youth.

The Sandoval Extension Master Gardeners’ vision for this garden is to educate our youth about local produce and inspire their imaginations.  Lifetime Master Gardener Judy Jacobs created a design using raised beds and a creative hardworking team adapted the landscape, installed drip irrigation, and constructed the raised beds. We also wanted to bring art into the garden space to inspire.  Fortunately for us, Jenn Noel, current President of Corrales Society of Artists, stepped forward to collaborate.  A skilled and creative ceramist, Jenn has brought in many different artists to lend their talents to the garden.  With the help of some talented local artists, our vision is becoming a reality!

You enter the garden through a beautiful handmade arbor created and donated by Zia Woodworks.  Master Gardeners built redwood raised beds that feature seasonal vegetables planted by local kids at the beginning of the growing seasons.  Jessi Penrod of Hanselman Pottery and Jenn Noel created ceramic mushroom-shaped plant markers that local kids of all ages were invited to paint with images and names of vegetables. The plant markers are a wonderful, whimsical feature in the garden beds.

For many years there were a few brave strawberry plants that continued to survive and produce in the previously neglected garden space.  Prior to construction of the Storybook Garden, those plants were removed and tended by a Master Gardener until their new home was completed.  Those original strawberry plants are now prospering, along with some new plants, in their own strawberry bed.  This special bed features a strawberry red headboard.  Since strawberries appreciate a bit of sun protection, a bed canopy was constructed with red and white gingham curtains.  The strawberries now have a very special place along with fanciful red and white toadstools created by Carlo De Vargas.  Adjacent to the bed is the Four Seasons art piece by Red Dog Yard Art that was paid for by Corrales Main Street.

The narrow, southwest area of the garden contains our fruit trees.  Master Gardeners selected dwarf fruit trees that are trained with the technique called espalier, an ancient practice to control vertical and horizontal growth to make fruit easily accessible. Three of the trees have been grafted to contain a number of different varieties of fruit on a single tree. The fruit trees are pruned and tied to the fence each year so that growth is along the fence line rather than vertical or into the pathway.  One of the benefits of the espalier technique is that fruit is at an easy harvesting height for the kids.

True to the collaborative nature of this space, some of our local young artists are already making contributions to the garden by making plant markers, designing fanciful creatures for a ceramic art piece, and painting rocks with cheerful messages.  During a recent work session, the Master Gardeners discovered several of these painted rocks left around the garden as a thank you for creating the garden. The arbor entrance has a box for “take one, leave one” painted rocks for visitors to the garden.

The Storybook Garden will be formally dedicated July 8.  At that time, the community art piece Creatures, from Nature, Literature or Your Imagination will be unveiled.  This 4’x5’ ceramic mosaic features creatures created by local youth at Corrales Elementary School and during the recent Viva Corrales event. Jessi Penrod, Jenn Noel, and Maggie Robinson have worked tirelessly to create this permanent installation for the garden.  But the mosaic was really made possible by the incredibly creative youth of this community whose talent will be on permanent display in the fanciful garden space called the Storybook Garden*.

Please visit the garden and join in the celebration July 8 at 10am.

*Sneak preview of the mural created by the children:

You can submit your gardening questions to the Master Gardeners at https://sandovalmastergardeners.org/email-hot-line/.  We offer numerous instructional videos on a variety of topics on the site and on YouTube