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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Hot child in the city: August Foliage Follow-Up


Surely August will be our last worst month here in central Texas. It can’t possibly remain blisteringly hot and humid through September, can it?


Yes, it can, and it probably will, but that’s why I love agaves, yuccas, prickly pear, and other tough plants. They breeze through a Texas summer looking as cool as an Austinite floating in spring-fed Barton Springs Pool. Here’s one of my current favorites, Agave applanata ‘Cream Spike’ (formerly Agave parryi ‘Cream Spike’), a pup given to me last fall by Bob Beyer of the blog Central Texas Gardening. Just look at those cream-and-lime-striped leaves and tidy, red teeth lining each crimson-spined leaf.


Agave x leopoldii is also a fine small agave for a sunny deck or patio. It needs some winter protection, but its coppery summer coloration — a little stressed from heat and drought — is especially lovely.


Out front, in the Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa) lawn, lemony ‘Margaritaville’ yucca easily withstands summer’s heat.


For the first time, I’m experimenting with keeping tillandias — aka air plants — outside during the warm months. I’ve managed to keep the big one on the left alive indoors for a couple of years, and I’d hate to lose it. But they look so perfect in my new Tentacle Pots that I decided to take the chance. I hope they don’t burn up in Austin’s summer heat! They’re in filtered shade, and I’m misting them with distilled water once a week.


Since today is Foliage Follow-Up — a celebration of great foliage — let’s venture outside my own garden for a moment. I spotted this honor guard of ‘Will Fleming’ yaupon hollies at the “castle” house in South Austin. Its narrow, upright form and tidy, evergreen leaves make ‘Will Fleming’ a great screening plant for a tight space, or a striking vertical accent.


At the same house, in the hell strip outside a limestone wall, a zigzagging row of large, silver-blue agaves is eye-catching too — like campfires with tongues of blue flame. Atop the wall, prickly pear finds a crevice home. None of these plants minds the heat or the Death Star, and they make architectural additions to the summer garden.

This is my August post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness is going on in your garden this month? Please join me in giving foliage its due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave a link to your post in a comment below. I’d appreciate it if you’ll also link to my post in your own — sharing link love! If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it. I look forward to seeing your foliage faves.

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.

Chanticleer rocks a Gravel Garden


I’m excited to show you the Gravel Garden at Chanticleer, a Philadelphia-area “pleasure garden” I visited with my friend Diana in early June, as it’s one of my favorite spaces. Planted on a long, open slope overlooking the Pond Garden, the Gravel Garden reminds me of Austin in many ways, although the surrounding lush scenery and tall conifers remind me that I’m not in Texas anymore.


Tennessee coneflower (Echinacea tennesseensis) with upturned pink petals flourishes here.


A few droopy, white-petaled purple coneflowers add variety — maybe Echinacea pallida?


I love them all.


The hillside is planted like a wildflower meadow, a pollinator’s paradise.


I didn’t find ‘Husker Red’ penstemon on the plant list, but I believe that’s what this pale-pink, burgundy-leaved penstemon is.


It looks wonderful with the purple coneflowers.


A living bouquet


One more


Bees loved the penstemon too.


As you climb the slope, you’re at eye level with the flowers, surrounded by their beauty. Turning around, you get a nice view of the Pond Garden.


But let’s keep going up, climbing granite-block steps…


…and stopping every foot or so to admire blooming plants.


At the top, a gravelly meadow opens to view on the left — incongruously bordered (to my Southwestern eyes) with a golden-hued Japanese maple (Acer palmatum ‘Osakazuki’). Japanese maple and desert-friendly Yucca rostrata — the tall, spherical-headed plant in the background — don’t usually appear together in Texas gardens, after all, but here apparently anything is possible.


The meadow in early June was frothy with white lace flower (Orlaya grandiflora), crimson poppies, and Mexican feathergrass (Nassella tenuissima).


One of the yuccas was sporting a bloom spike.


Feathergrass and white lace flower


Prickly pear cactus and orange poppies, a classic dry-garden combo


A narrow path leads through the small meadow to a pair of stone-slab benches tucked under a redbud. On the left, a silver-blue Agave americana is surrounded by blue fescue ladies-in-waiting.


American agave, ‘Elijah Blue’ fescue, autumn sage (Salvia greggii), and Mexican feathergrass — all familiar to Austin gardeners except the blue fescue.


From the benches you can admire the agave’s muscular form and steely blue color.


Diana got a few shots of it too.


A bright blue sky smeared with white clouds, Yucca rostrata, feathergrass, and poppies — gorgeous!


Another meadowy garden spreads out at the feet of a big old shade tree. The Ruin looms behind. Constructed on the site of the estate owner’s house, which was torn down after his death (it was one of three houses on the property; two remain), the Ruin is a folly “overgrown” with young trees and vines and evoking a sense of mystery and history. I’ll show it in my next post.


Like furniture that’s been dragged outdoors to air out, a stone sofa and two armchairs sit just outside the Ruin and make surprisingly comfortable seats.


Diana and I enjoyed our picnic dinner here (on Fridays in summer, the garden stays open late and allows picnicking), having the couch and chairs all to ourselves — and the glorious view.


Occasionally a few other picnickers wandered over to admire the stone seats and exclaim over the stone remote control on the sofa’s arm. What’s on TV tonight?, joked more than one person.


I lifted my arm at the surrounding garden. This.

Up Next: Chanticleer’s mysterious Ruin Garden. For a look back at the Cut Flower/Vegetable Garden and magical Bell’s Woodland, click here.

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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