Adobe walls, secret gardens, history & art in Santa Fe


Our western road trip earlier this month took us through Santa Fe, New Mexico, one of the oldest cities in the U.S. and the oldest capital city in the country (dating to 1607). The compact historic district is a walkable several blocks of terracotta-colored adobe and adobe-style buildings, beautiful old churches, art galleries, restaurants, and tiny gardens half-hidden behind walls, like this frothy courtyard of Russian sage I spotted outside a realtor’s office.


Simply lovely


A trio of agaves in speckled white pots stood in place of a foundation hedge.


I got up early to explore one morning, when only the early walkers and runners were about.


After the shops opened, we strolled around town and window-shopped. A carved angel cloaked with real dollar bills caught my eye in one window. What does it mean?


My daughter and I did some actual shopping under the arcade of the Palace of the Governors, where Native American jewelry makers display necklaces, earrings, bracelets, and rings. I bought a pair of inlay earrings, and my daughter chose a turquoise necklace.


Here’s Doris from Kewa Pueblo, who made the jewelry we bought.


Around the block is the colorful Museum of Contemporary Native Arts.


Across the street stands the rose-windowed Cathedral Basilica of St. Francis of Assisi, its Romanesque architecture contrasting with the adobe buildings around it.


On the church plaza, a bronze Kateri Tekakwitha, “a Catholic American Indian who became known as the Lily of the Mohawks,” sculpted by Estella Loretto, clasps faded offerings of corn and roses.


A closer look


Tall bronze doors depict scenes from the church’s long history.


Inside, arches and glowing light and stained glass


Next we explored the grande-dame La Fonda hotel. Every detail, down to a green-painted bench and Our Lady of Guadalupe mosaic in a hall niche, is lovely.


We’d spotted this from the street below: a rooftop patio garden, with long-necked sunflowers standing tall against stuccoed walls.


A tiered fountain in one corner has been converted into a flower planter.


After an enchilada lunch outdoors on the colorful patio of The Shed…


…we passed a bear holding his arms out for a hug, surrounded by a riot of wood-shaving flowers.


A pretty street garden outside Worrell Gallery stopped me in my tracks when I caught the sweet scent of these blazing yellow flowers.


I darted inside to ask the salesperson what they were, and she knew! But then I forgot. Anyone know the ID? Update: It’s Scotch broom (Cytisus scoparius), which is unfortunately invasive in parts of the U.S. Thanks for the ID, Allison and Barbara.


In the afternoon, my daughter and I explored dozens of art galleries on Canyon Road, and I discovered a new favorite artist: New Mexico sculptor (and one-time Austinite) Kevin Box, who makes stunning origami creations out of bronze and stainless steel. This one is a visual pun of the game rock-paper-scissors.


We admired several of his works, including these origami cranes, at Selby Fleetwood Gallery, where a shady garden out back made a perfect display space.


Kevin’s origami horses — marvelous!


When we were too tired to walk anymore, my husband picked us up, and we drove around the neighborhoods, admiring the organically shaped adobe or stucco walls that shelter many homes, like this one just off Canyon Road. That peek-a-boo stick screen in the door offers a glimpse of…what? A garden courtyard?


I kept saying, Stop!, and my obliging husband would pull over so I could snap a photo.


This one, my favorite, is classic Santa Fe with that rosy-tan stucco wall and turquoise door.


An extra window is nice too.


This one has a fortress-like doorway roofed with small boulders and spiny prickly pear!


I love this tiny house, with its turquoise door, warm stucco walls, and cloak of what looks like Virginia creeper.


It must be electric when it turns red in the fall.


After the grandeur of the St. Francis Cathedral earlier in the day, we stopped that evening by humble San Miguel Chapel. Said to be the oldest church in America, the adobe-walled mission was built in the early 1600s. Unfortunately we didn’t get to see the interior, as it had closed for the day.


A visit to Santa Fe wouldn’t be complete without a stroll through the Georgia O’Keeffe Museum, which includes 140 of her oil paintings and hundreds of watercolors and drawings. Standing before her monumental flowers, like Bella Donna (aka datura), a nature lover can’t help feeling moved.


Ghost Ranch Landscape, a scene we’d go looking for the next day.


Although our Santa Fe visit was brief, it was filled with beautiful moments.


Chile ristra

I’ll carry it around in my head and my heart, as I do every visit, for a long time to come.

For a look back at my visit to Santa Fe Botanical Garden, click here. Up next: looking for Georgia O’Keefe at Abiquiu and Ghost Ranch.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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South Texans, come see me at the 2nd annual Planta Nativa festival in McAllen, Texas, on Saturday, October 22. I’ll be delivering the keynote talk, “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” that evening. Tickets go on sale soon at Quinta Mazatlan. I hope to see you there!

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

High desert in bloom at Santa Fe Botanical Garden


Two weeks ago today we drove west on a spontaneously planned, cutting-it-close-with-the-first-day-of-school, two-week road trip through West Texas, northern New Mexico, and western Colorado. One of our early stops was Santa Fe, New Mexico, a beautiful old city we once regularly visited but hadn’t seen in 16 years. One of its newest attractions, opened in 2013, is the Santa Fe Botanical Garden.

Sited close to town on Museum Hill, the garden — still in its infancy, with only Phase 1 open at this time — makes for a pleasant hour-long meander under china-blue desert skies, with the rugged folds of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains visible in the distance.


Although the terrain is high desert (Santa Fe’s elevation is 7,199 feet), the sun-washed garden appears surprisingly lush with roses, lavender, switchgrass, agastache, and mullein.


Sparingly used as accents, cacti like eye-catching ‘Snow Leopard’ cholla (Cylindropuntia whipplei ‘Snow Leopard’) stand out beautifully, especially against the wine-colored blossoms of Mojave sage (Salvia pachyphylla) and reddish-pink sandstone walls.


I love that peachy-pink color echo!


Low walls create small garden rooms furnished with benches.


My daughter tries one out next to a stunning Mojave sage.


Any chance this can tolerate the Gulf of Mexico humidity and drenching rains of Austin? I wish! (See High Country Gardens for its listing, which suggests annual rainfall of 10-20 inches.)


Sometimes you have to get low to get a shot of a cool plant.


Here’s her quarry: a little prickly pear with valentine-like pads.


Warm-hued paths of decomposed granite edged with sandstone lead in straight lines through the main garden. Stone blocks add extra seating and natural accents.


Mullein and switchgrass


Agastache


Straight-line gravel and flagstone paths divide the main garden into a grid, with an orchard of fruit trees and an eco-lawn of native turf grasses anchoring the center.


Peach tree


In long borders on each side, shrub roses and lavender add color and fragrance.


Bees were working the lavender.


Roses and lavender, a treat for the nose


Another view of the orchard and lawn


Geranium ‘Rozanne’…


…and hardy plumbago (Ceratostigma plumbaginoides) seem right at home here too.


Bluestem ephedra (Ephedra equisetina) caught my eye with its slender, upright, blue stems that are reminiscent of horsetail. Although dry loving, it’s clearly a spreader.


Several contemporary sculptures were on temporary display during our visit, including this one by Bill Barrett.


A wider view, with boulder-like sculptures by Candyce Garrett, part of the garden’s permanent collection


‘Radiant’ crabapple (Malus × ‘Radiant’), laden with rosy fruit against green and gold leaves (turning already?)


One more


We just missed by a couple of months the opening of Phase 2 of the garden, Ojos y Manos: Eyes and Hands, “a place to explore ethnobotany – the shared history of humans and plants in northern New Mexico – through hands-on experiences and observation.” Just across the red bridge — the 100-year-old Kearny’s Gap Bridge, relocated from Las Vegas, NM — workers were busily moving soil and stone and preparing planting beds for the projected October opening.


Back at the entrance, we rested in the shade of a tall-backed stucco banco, next to a trickling wall fountain.


Across the patio, a stylized ramada of rusty steel poles and bundled sticks crisscrosses over benches, offering little shade but creating interesting shadows.

Landscape architect W. Gary Smith, who designed the family garden at Austin’s own Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center, designed Santa Fe Botanical Garden “to demonstrate environmentally sustainable gardening.” I’m sure it must already be inspiring locals to plant many of the beautiful plants on display here. I look forward to visiting SFBG again one day to see how it has matured.

Up next: Sightseeing in Santa Fe.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
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Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Out and about in Houston: Public art and an artful home


Houston doesn’t always get a lot of love, especially from Austinites who invoke it as a negative example of soulless sprawl and traffic. True, Houston is a sprawling major city with congested highways (although I swear Austin may be its equal in traffic jams). But in-town you’ll find vibrant neighborhoods of historic and modern homes, terrific restaurants, international diversity, one of the best universities in the country, and world-class art museums. I may be biased, having spent my college years there and having a sister who lives there, but I embrace the tongue-in-cheek slogan that’s popped up in the Bayou City in recent years: “It’s OK to love Houston.”


Monumental Barn Owl by Geoffrey Dashwood

My daughter, a friend of hers, and I recently visited Houston and spent a fun-filled Saturday seeing public art at the Cullen Sculpture Garden, the Museum of Fine Arts, and the live oak-shaded Rice University campus. Since my sister and I attended Rice in the 1980s, the campus has added a number of modern sculptures and other works of art…


…like this one by Barcelona artist Jaume Plensa, titled Mirror.


“The figures are modeled in letters from eight alphabets – Arabic, Chinese, Greek, Hindi, Hebrew, Japanese, Latin and Russian,” the Rice website explains. “The artist considers this dialogue and interaction as central to learning, and more importantly to understanding, between people and cultures.”

Last year, my sister and sister-in-law showed us another example of Plensa’s work along Buffalo Bayou. I enjoyed seeing more of his work on campus.


The Rice campus itself, founded in 1912, is filled with beautiful examples of neo-Byzantine architecture. A more recently constructed building, Duncan Hall, which houses the Computational Engineering department, is always worth a look during a tour of Rice because of its kaleidoscopic painted ceiling.


The iconic 45°, 90°, 180° sculptures — the girls are standing on 180°, with the Campanile (bell tower) looming behind them — were installed the year before I entered Rice (i.e., quite a few years ago). Three pink granite monoliths in the Engineering Quad represent 45-, 90-, and 180-degree angles. 180° was a popular spot to hang out, sneak a beer, make out, and be photographed when I was a student, and there’s no reason to think anything’s changed. (The other two slabs, at slanted and vertical angles, are harder to climb.)


Another distinctive horizontal structure on campus is the luminous Twilight Epiphany, a Skyspace by James Turrell. I wrote about this Skyspace last fall, so click for full details and morning-light photos. This time, we were keen to experience the twilight show, which is more popular, so we made reservations.


Taking photographs during the light show is prohibited (although I don’t see why, so long as you don’t use a flash), but here are a couple I took while we were waiting for it to start. The white-walled space and benches are inside the grassy pyramid seen in the previous photo. There’s also a row of benches on a second level just under the floating roof.


The white roof with a central square cutout is washed with a slow-changing sequence of colored light, which changes your perception of the sky as the sun sets or rises. It’s a meditative experience to sit there for 40 minutes, gazing upward as the sky seems to pulse with energy. It can be a bit dizzying and make you feel like a tiny creature inside an Easter sugar egg — or at least that’s how it seems to me.

Austinites, there’s a Skyspace right here on the UT campus too, and although it’s smaller and less dramatic than the one on the Rice campus, it’s definitely worth a visit.


Another transcendent Turrell work can be experienced at the Museum of Fine Arts, a tunnel passage called The Light Inside. As with Twilight Epiphany, you don’t merely view the work. You step inside it. The art is light somehow made physical.

As you enter the tunnel, the vanishing-point black flooring is echoed by a black ceiling, with fog-like color suffusing the space on each side. Are there walls? You can’t really tell as you’re walking through. Space just seems to drop off along the edge of the black walkway, melting into a void of rich color. It’s mildly disorienting, as if you might accidentally fall off the edge into space. The color changes every 15 minutes or so, an attendant told me. I wish we’d stayed longer to experience each color. Next time!


I can’t end my recap of Houston art without showing off the artful beauty that my sister and sister-in-law have brought into their own home via new wallpaper and wainscoting. This is their dining room paper — gorgeous!


And here’s their mudroom, with a colorful Chinese dragon motif. And to think I used to disdain all wallpaper (after removing layers of dated paper in numerous houses over the years). Now I love it, and the bolder the better.


As you can see from my own foyer!


Their dogs are pretty adorable too. Here’s Layla, in a portrait taken by my daughter.


And here’s Sammy, stretched out like Cleopatra on the living room sofa. Thanks, Rebecca, for sharing your photo, and thanks, Sis and SIL, for a wonderful Houston visit!

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

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