BY SUSANA MARTINEZ
For years the Holtville Chamber of Commerce building has looked its very best thanks to the help of the cactus garden growing just outside the building. The maintenance of this garden is the handiwork of Holtville native Wanda Layton, a woman whose green thumb has transformed the garden from its previously unkempt state.
Layton has resided in Holtville for 85 and a half years. The intimacies of such a small town has kept her rooted and the kindness of the residents makes small town living enjoyable for her. Her younger years were rife with activity, as Layton got herself involved in the 4-H program, the PTA, and the Imperial Valley Museum as well as the Desert Museum. Layton is a long time member of the Woman’s Club of Holtville. Gardening was a skill that Layton was introduced to through her father when she was younger, and her experience in gardening allowed her to enter her flowers in Imperial Valley’s Mid-Winter Fair for a number of years.
For as long as Layton can remember, the cactus garden outside the Chamber of Commerce building has always been there, albeit in a rather unkempt state. Noting that the garden was in need of refurbishing, Layton took it upon herself to do the job. She described the process of revitalizing the garden as “not difficult at all.” Taking cactus clippings from her personal garden, Layton set to work in creating an aesthetically pleasing garden, work that she has participated in for about 30 years.
Maintaining a cactus garden appears to run Layton’s family. Her father, a gardener himself, was also the president of the Imperial Valley Historical Society. He planted the cactus garden at the museum. Currently, Layton’s daughter Julie Velasco has taken over her mother’s duties in keeping up with the upkeep of the garden in Holtville. Layton is humble about her years of work, having never expected praise and just enjoying the fact that she was able to be a part of Holtville. Over the years, she has noticed how everyone in Holtville is quick to work together to make life in the town pleasant.