By Lisa Morton
Zach Schaefer, Agri-Life Extension Agent for Culberson County is pleased to announce the completion of the first Horticulture Program project on his watch. Schaefer and project coordinator Joy Scott, a Master Gardener “in training”, have been working very hard to bring to life landscaping at the Van Horn Cemetery gazebo. County Commissioner Gilda Morales set the financial aspects in motion for Scott’s personalized design in December at commissioners court. Scott proposed a $1,736 budget to revamp the eastside of the gazebo landscape which was quickly doubled to include the westside at the site.
Last summer, a contractor brought-in rock and desert plants such as yucca and ocotillo, giving Scott and Schaefer something to build on. “The idea was to add some color to honor the departed in the ceremonies that will take place here,” Schaefer said. Scott provided the county with a map and proposal for native plants, primarily evergreens that will retain some color year-round, with many of them in the sage family that have blooms of purple, blue, pink, and red. “I realized how appropriate it was to use sage here as it is known as a plant of wisdom of which we can all agree the souls at the cemetery hold much of,” said Scott.
Another significant aspect of the project was a drip irrigation system that will ensure each plant receives just the proper moisture amount. Although ground lighting was not in the proposal, there seemed to be a few solar-powered lamps to illuminate the new design. The cemetery has frequent visitors at all times— like in other Far West Texas cemeteries, many of the graves feature homemade creative displays honoring loved ones. It is an excellent place for an early morning walk for birdwatching.
Although Scott would not divulge how many person-hours the project has taken, she was quite impressed with the help from county workers including recent VHHS graduate Devin Ortega who really took an interest in the project and who was seen in the late afternoons meticulously grooming the plants.
Schaefer continues to incorporate educational programs like horticulture and hydroponics through his office in Van Horn and has many more ideas he hopes will take root once locals see what can be done with their participation and a genuine commitment. Thanks to our county agent and the Master Gardener “in training”, Van Horn and all the people who visit the cemetery will have something to feel proud of and their work here will always be remembered.