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Land of the lost

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Cheryl Johnson said her daughter nicknamed her eclectic garden “Land of the Lost” after the 2009 adventure comedy that stars Will Ferrell. (Timothy P. Howsare Photo)

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Roswell woman’s vision for a flower garden evolves into a traffic-stopping attraction after only one year. Owner Cheryl Johnson will soon add a veterans’ memorial.

Johnson explains the memorial that will soon have 350 stones in which the names of veterans will be engraved. (Timothy P. Howsare Photo)

By her own admission, Roswell resident Cheryl Johnson is a “crazy woman.” With almost no experience growing plants, in a little more than a year Johnson has created a botanical garden that, except for its smaller size, would rival any garden in a city park or university campus.

“I had this grandiose idea,” she said. “I grew things every now and then but lived behind the computer. Gardens are messy. I have a girlfriend who says everything has to be just right, but if I plant something and it doesn’t work, I just roll with the flow.”

Johnson began her “crazy woman” project in March 2017. What was once the parched earth of the Southeast New Mexico desert is now an eye-catching concoction of flowers, vegetables and metal sculptures.

In her flower garden, Johnson grows roses, Queen Anne’s Lace, hollyhocks, bee balm, irises, tulips, lilies, daisies, sunflowers, hibiscus, peonies, raspberry bushes and figs.

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Is it Fay Wray in casual attire with King Kong? No, just Johnson with her gorilla sculpture. (Timothy P. Howsare Photo)

“I’m so tickled that they bloomed,” she quipped.

On the east side of the flower garden, she grows an assortment of vegetables, including squash, cantaloupe, green beans and artichokes.

Her metal sculptures include a gorilla, a giant red-and-black ant, a cute, smiling bug pedaling a bicycle, a turtle and the sculpture that is the centerpiece of her garden — a flying pig.

The garden, along with Johnson’s house and the business she owns and operates with her husband, Walter, is located on East Second Street just outside city limits.

Johnson said that is a perfect location for the garden, because visitors coming into Roswell will see the flying pig and stop to check out the garden and the rest of Johnson’s one-of-a-kind sculptures.

A giant ant that Johnson said reminds her of the Disney flick, “Honey, I Shrunk the Kids.” (Timothy P. Howsare Photo)

“I want to make people smile and laugh,” she said. “There’s too much negativity in the world today.”

The flying pig has a bit of a divine connection.

One day, Rev. Tina Cross, co-senior pastor of First United Methodist Church in Roswell, pulled her car over when she saw the pig. Cross said she was driving to the country to buy feed for her horses.

May all your bugs be happy bugs. (Timothy P. Howsare Photo)

As it turned out, Cross had just written a series of sermons about seemingly hopeless situations that were turned around by prayer called “When Pigs Fly.” Cross said she used pictures of the pig to go with the sermons.

Johnson said she bought the flying pig last year during a silent auction held by CASA (Court Appointed Special Advocates) of Chaves County.

A long-time supporter of CASA, Johnson said she and her husband adopted a girl through the program.

She and Walter have three biological children. Her oldest daughter, Michelle, works as a nurse at a local hospital. Johnson retired from nursing six years ago to run the business, Johnson’s Boring, which does horizontal directional drilling for fiber optics. Her husband is often on the road while she is at home working on the computer.

Flowers in Johnson’s garden create a
rainbow of spectacular colors. The blooms attract bees and butterflies. (Timothy P. Howsare Photo)

Johnson said she and Michelle were the second mother/daughter pair to graduate from Eastern New Mexico University-Roswell.

Johnson said it was Michelle’s idea to call the garden “Land of the Lost,” a 2009 adventure comedy starring Will Ferrell as a “career challenged” paleontologist who travels through a space-time vortex with his much-smarter research assistant to a universe filled with all kinds of funky creatures.

Johnson’s roses are thriving despite the oppressive summer heat. (Timothy P. Howsare Photo)

“I’ve never seen the movie,” Johnson quipped.

Johnson’s next project is to add a veterans’ memorial to the garden. A section inside the garden is covered with artificial turf, and Johnson has on order 350 stones which she will have engraved with the names of veterans.

Johnson said her father was a World War II veteran.

“They were the greatest generation,” she said of the men and women who fought in WWII and then raised families after the war.

Johnson is seeking names of veterans to engrave on the stones. If you are the family member of a deceased veteran, you may contact her at 575-623-8595 or johnsonsboring@mail.com.

Vistas editor Timothy P. Howsare can be reached at 575-622-7710, ext. 311, or vistas@rdrnews.com.

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