Landscaper and horticulturist Angelika Heikaus’ gardening roots run deep. The German native studied horticulture in her country. Early in life, she became interested in growing her own garden and knowing where her food came from. In 1993, she traveled to Ireland in a self- discovery journey that also brought her closer to nature.
“I backpacked a lot there and got to know Ireland’s majestic forests and lakes,” she said. “That trip truly changed my life.” That’s not a cliché phrase. There, in a remote Irish village, someone told her about Taos. “I had never heard of it before, but it sounded like the perfect place for me,” Heikaus said. “I came here in 1994 and stayed. I have never looked back.”
She settled in El Rito and became part of Roots ‘n Herbs, an organic farm. “We grew a large variety of heirloom vegetable crops and fl owers and sold them at local restaurants, farmers market and through community-supported agricultural programs,” she said.
She also created and operated a grassroots herbal product label, Roots ‘n Herbs Products. In 2008, she earned a degree in horticultural therapy at the Horticultural Therapy Institute in Denver, Colorado. “I did it with the intention to combine my passion for gardening with a desire to improve the lives of others,” Heikaus recalled. “A therapeutic garden can help youth at risk, people with Alzheimer’s and those who suffer from PTSD, among other issues. Gardening connects people to the healing properties of the natural world.”
Landscaping philosophy: ‘Water is sacred’
One thing led to another and Heikaus started to do landscape design work around 1997. “I was motivated by my love for plants and the need to create living environments,” she said.
One of the biggest landmarks in her career was her work for Worrell Enterprises. Heikaus created and maintained the tropical environments and landscape at El Monte Sagrado for 10 years. “My philosophy is to incorporate the original landscape – the native plants and foliage – and work with them,” she said. “The ‘Sacred Circle’ at the hotel, for example, is surrounded by cottonwood trees and some are several hundred years old.”
She also worked at Blackstone Ranch, where she resurrected the “Mandala Garden.” “It was wonderful to be part of a project to grow veggies and fl owers for Blackstone consumption and local restaurants,” she said.
At Ojo Caliente Mineral Springs, she contributed to xeriscape the facility grounds using drought-tolerant plants to minimize irrigation requirements. “Water is sacred, so I strive to use it consciously,” she said.
Some of the private residences where she has worked, designing or creating gardens, have been showcased in Los Jardineros Garden Club of Taos’ garden and home tours. But perhaps her favorite project in town is Central Station, with a landscape designed to be maintenance friendly, sustainable and energy-efficient — it uses tankless water heaters and boilers, European wall radiatorsand a prewired electric car plug-in.
“Central Station incorporates diversity and privacy and was established with the idea of combining residential and business spaces side by side,” she said.
In 2006, Heikaus was featured in an episode on the PBS garden show “Garden Smart.” “That was a fun experience,” she said. “I love to share my passion for the great outdoors and extended living spaces.”
Stone Fruit Garden
Heikaus has had her own business, Stone Fruit Garden, since 2009. “Stone fruit, more prevalent in the German language, reminds me of a fruit bearing a hardened seed inside a fleshy fruit, such as peach, apricot or nectarine,” she said. Her main services are landscape design and installation, irrigation, xeriscapes and nativescapes.
“I also do creative rock and flagstone work, embracing and incorporating permaculture ideas and theories when possible and applicable,” she said. “Energy efficiency and low-water landscaping are key elements of my work.”
Heikaus says that she enjoys “growing gardens and relationships.” She feels personally connected to her work. “After creating a landscape, you need to maintain whatever you have planted; you are responsible for the life of every tree,” she said. “I like to keep long-lasting relationships with my clients and see their gardens grow and evolve.”
A woman in business
Heikaus goes to work every day accompanied by her dog, Tilly. She has “a great crew” of about six to eight people. “I work side by side with them and I am actively involved with the landscaping process from the beginning to the end,” she said. “I am not the kind of landscaper that just goes to the jobsite for an hour, gives orders and leaves.”
When asked if she had encountered some signs of machismo here, she answered quickly, “Men have to learn to trust me. That’s very important. And though I have had some issues at first, I am happy to say that they all have learned to respect my judgment. And I love my crew! Working with my loyal co-workers means the world to me. My success is based on their involvement and experience and knowledge in the landscape field.”
A word about Taos
While the landscape that surrounds her now is quite different from her native Rhine area, Heikaus feels “totally at home” in Taos. “I feel free here,” she said. “Liberated. I feel I am where I need to be. Then there is so much here! The Pueblo helps keep Taos sacred. The Hispanic culture is vibrant and has embraced me. I feel taken care of in Taos and grateful for having been able to create a life for myself.”
To contact Heikaus, call (575) 779-3340 or email firstname.lastname@example.org.