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.

May flowers from A (agave) to V (vitex)


As the days fly toward summer, the daylilies are showing off their lovely throats…


…and blushing, ruffled petals. Here’s ‘Best of Friends’.


The first ‘Apple Tart’ smolders among the white-striped flax lilies.


Stretching on long stems like giraffe necks, ‘Wilson’s Yellow’ daylily stands tall amid grasses and aster foliage.


Chaste lilac (Vitex agnus-castus) blooms extravagantly in clusters of rich purple.


Firecracker fern (Russelia rotundifolia) revs up as the days grow hotter, dazzling the copper snake.


And what’s Moby, my whale’s tongue agave (A. ovatifolia), up to? The lowest two tiers of flowers are now open.


The banana-like buds have opened into a densely packed fringe of golden stamens.


They’re quite lovely.


It’s like a flowering tree has erupted from the center of the agave!


Two annual ‘Black Pearl’ peppers (Capsicum annuum) overwintered (the garden didn’t get a hard freeze this year), and they’ve already bloomed and produced their distinctive black, glossy, berry-like peppers. The nearly black leaves are just as striking.


Heartleaf skullcap (Scutellaria ovata), a lovely, summer-dormant native groundcover, is at peak bloom, its lavender spires standing tall over pewter leaves.


And my sweet boy Cosmo surveys his domain from his favorite perch, one of the stucco seat walls, at day’s end.

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

Tomorrow: Come see me at Festival of Flowers in San Antonio, May 28, 10:45-11:45 am (new time!). Get inspired to save water in your garden during my presentation at San Antonio’s 19th annual Festival of Flowers. I’ll be at the book-signing table after the talk, with copies of both The Water-Saving Garden and Lawn Gone! available for purchase. Tickets to the all-day festival, which includes a plant sale and exchange, speakers, and a flower show, are available at the door: $6 adults; children under 10 free. Free parking.

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.

Berry-eating birds flock to the Wildflower Center


While admiring possumhaw hollies (Ilex decidua) at the Lady Bird Johnson Wildflower Center last Friday, I couldn’t help noticing lots of birds doing the same. A solitary cedar waxwing commuted for snacks from a bald cypress, where my son was able to get a few photos of it.


Cedar waxwings are such handsome birds, with their smooth, brown backs and chests, butter-yellow tummies, and robber’s masks.


I’d never noticed the flash of red on their wings.


Here’s where the feast was held.


Possumhaw berries are at peak redness right now, and there are still plenty of them.


Soon the birds will strip them bare, so enjoy them now.


Aside from the cedar waxwing, we saw mockingbirds devouring berries.


And tufted titmice


Like the cedar waxwing, this tufted titmouse darted back and forth between the possumhaw and a sheltering bald cypress.


We even spotted a vole (I think) gathering snacks at ground level.


One more look at the cedar waxwing.

Are you noticing lots of bird activity in your garden too?

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Upcoming Events and News

Join me for my kick-off garden talk for my new book, The Water-Saving Garden, on February 27, at 10 am, at The Natural Gardener nursery in southwest Austin. My talk is called “Hold the Hose! How to Make Your Garden Water Thrifty and Beautiful,” and it’s free to the public. Afterward I’ll have books available for purchase and will be glad to autograph one for you! Dress for the weather, as the talk will be held in the big tent outside.

Look for me on Instagram as pamdigging. See you there!

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

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