Jacoby Gardens and Tequila

77… A garden that fills the land with grace and majesty…

Judith Jacoby  oversees yard work in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

A tale of two sides of a fence, one managed by Judith Jacoby and the other?

Anders remembers Judith Jacoby as a charming graceful petite woman. On each side of her house were gardens taking advantage of what was there before, or left behind, and drawing inspiration from the landscape backdrops; Sierra de Álamos to the south, Cerro Cacharamba to the west, the northern mountain ridges and a long formal drive way in from the town to the east. I am sure she knew every inch of this land.

Jacoby gardens looking south west from the entrance, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Jacoby gardens' design, detail and power to transport one to another place.

When I visited Mrs. Jacoby she was there by herself, a captain maintaining a property that was her ship on the vast Sonoran way of life. She would ask me what I knew, knowing that all I did was walk. look and listen with cameras in hand. She would intently attend my interpretation of events, rarely commenting other than a nod of her head or small smile. At the time, she must have had the largest Alamos garden in acreage. Laid out on what was once a tequila factory warehouse, the gardens, with wild lands on the other side of tall walls, were always ready for presentation as if today there was to be a party.

Cactus in the Jacoby garden, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Here is variety, scale, year-round color, pride, love and stewardship.

Knowing the human condition there is a good chance the original tequila factory was successful. Men have long sought distilled drink for company. And in the mining days of Álamos there was a large population of hard working men, certainly there was a need for tequila. Questions rise: how many gallons were produced yearly and when was the height of production?… how far was it exported – did bottles make their way to San Francisco, Mexico City or Europe?… what did the bottles look like?… was all the agave grown locally?… how many workers were involved?… was this a profitable enterprise for the Urrea family?… were these the tequila makers that had a ranch near the top of Sierra de Alamos?.. and?

Underground storage vats for tequila, Jacoby gardens, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Was tequila stored underground in these large brick clad chambers?

The Aztecs made a fermented drink from agave. After their arrival in the 1500’s Spanish Conquistadors created, when their brandy ran out, the first North American distilled drink from the agave and tequila was born. Alamos is at the northern edge of Mexican agave production. In 1944, Mexico declared that tequila could only be produced in the state of Jalisco and certain areas in Guanajuato, Michoacan, Nayarit and Tamaulipas. The agave plant is related to the lilly and amarylilis and is considered a succulent. A healthy drink, pulque, rich in nutrients and vitamins, is made from the plant. Stringy fibers from the long leaves were woven into clothing, mats, rope and paper. The tequila ruins-history of Jacoby gardens became elements anchoring views, drawing the visitor into an enchanted landscape. Were there gardens here when the Urrea family lived on, and or, worked this land? The answers to all our questions are blowing in the wind.

Ruins on the grounds of Jacoby gardens, Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.  Photo by Anders Tomlinson.

Ruins covered with climbing bougainvillea brilliant with cascading flowers.

Are these gardens in the same magnificent state as they were when I visited? Judith Jacoby has passed on. What I saw was the product of her imagination and discipline. It takes a leader to oversee and maintain gardens at this level of grandeur. That visionary was Judith Jacoby. She touched the land and the land responded.

Alamos gardens on video

A Way of Life

Behold a Cornucopia of Color, Shapes, Textures and Scents.The flora of Alamos is the many splendors of Sinaloan tropical forest and Sonoran desert living together in unexpected harmony. Many properties have gardeners watering, pruning, consulting, planting, cutting, raking, commiserating, trimming and… year round. Flowers and vegetables are planted in November for winter blooms and crops that last until May or June’s heat… Mangos, papayas, bananas, palms, amapas, orchidias and other trees provide food and shelter for native and migrating birds. Cascades of colors come from flowering vines: blue veracruzana, orange trumpet, red, magenta and orange bougainvilla and… And the smells and scents that envelope one’s senses… Formal, informal… it all contributes to this symphony and riot that is the passing seasons in Alamos, Sonora, Mexico.
Photos, editing and produced by Anders Tomlinson. Music is “Jardin de Colores”, written and performed by Samuel Delatorre Dorame, from his 2013 CD “Memorias de Alamos, Sonora.”

There is something wonderful about gardens.
Alamos has six seasons a year and a diversity of native and imported flora. Gardening is both a passion and industry. It can become all consuming. It can be an mental oasis, freedom from the outside world’s cares and concerns. And it is something to share with those who visit, be it bug, bird, mammal or human.


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