Recently I had an opportunity to wander the gardens of New Mexico and it’s not the austere wasteland you might think. Surprisingly some of the most diverse and vibrant gardens in the world can be found in one of my favorite places on Earth, Santa Fe, New Mexico. Santa Fe’s neighborhoods burst forth with trees, flowers and vegetation that delight the senses and beguile any gardener, even this easterner. What makes the gardens of Santa Fe so intriguing is that one would think a few cacti and stones would be about it, but nothing could be further from the truth!
Graphic appeal is the arbiter of the South Western garden. Plants of every shape, size and color are welcomed here. Cacti and succulents can be found along side Mediterranean plants, yarrow, lavenders, acanthus and every imaginable alpine and diverse evergreens. Santa Fe is one of the highest cities in the world providing a uniquely arid and cool climate. Sand and pebbles are often used as mulch and contemporary art finds its way into so many gardens because few other American towns so embrace art and artisans like this city. Lanterns, strung lights and uplighting in so many gardens also adds a magical feel to the evening.
A lesson any gardener can learn from the gardens of the Southwest is that water usage is always taken into consideration due to the dry conditions. Using native plants and plants that don’t use a great deal of water and by having less irrigated lawns all of us can save water and be prepared when the inevitable drought strikes your area.
Not only are the plants standouts but the graphic, earthy and austere adobe that is required to cover every structure provides a canvas and backdrop for vines, shrubs and flowers that creates contrast in the garden. Also, the brightly painted doors and wood work of so many gardens blend with plants to create something very unique.
Santa Fe is not purely Mexican, not Indian, or Victorian, it is a unique American amalgamation that is a feast for every sense. You have not lived until you heard the Cathedral bells peel as you walk the streets in the evening and stroll gardens alive with fountains, contemporary art and brightly hued flowers.