PO Box 2458, Tijeras NM 87059

Mountain Gardens--finding success with plants for the high desert and East Mountains of New Mexico

Friday, September 13, 2013

Still Blooming in my Garden

sunset hyssop (foreground) with sedum (center),
and Russian sage in back
With all the rain we've had this week, I wanted to post a few shots of my garden.
silver lace vine



The hugelkultur is capturing huge amounts of rainwater. So is the host of weeds. But (ignoring the weeds) the willows, evergreens, native perennials like amorpha, and non-natives like laburnum are doing great. Hoping to put in two more hugelkulturs over the winter and plant in spring with fruit and nut trees.


Sunday, August 25, 2013

Garden Club Visits Santa Fe Botanical Garden

The recently opened Santa Fe Botanical Garden at Museum Hill was a treat for the members of Mountain Garden Club on our August field trip. The drive along the Turquoise Trail has stunning views. The location of the garden is beautiful with the Jemez Mountains as backdrop. Lunch in the Museum Hill CafĂ© was delicious. But for gardeners the main event is always the plantings--and we were surprised to learn that though the infrastructure started to go in last fall, the plants have only been in the ground since May!
Creeping thymes and yucca near the entrance signal the xeric nature of this garden. Natives like fernbush, sage, and Mormon tea are used widely and with good effect. But there is an orchard and a rose garden too. Water catchment is an important part of the infrastructure with stone swales directing rainwater into a series of basins to the immediate benefit of the thirstier plants.

A historic part of the garden is a gabion dam built by the CCC during the 1930's as part of water catchment in the Arroyo de Los Pinos. It needed very little work to restore it to full function. The Kearney Gap Bridge over the arroyo  was originally built in 1913 on NM 283 south of Las Vegas, NM along the Santa Fe Trail, and will eventually "bridge" the way to the Naturalistic Gardens.

There are several inviting courtyards where one can just sit and enjoy--beautiful with native rock, a small fountain, fruit trees, and plantings of penstemons, chamisa, yarrows, and agastaches. Along the trails and other gardens plants include aspen, cottonwood, and other native trees, native grasses like Indian rice grass, and shrubs like apache plume. For a more comprehensive list of plants, and maps of the gardens visit santafebotanicalgarden.org.
Docent guided tours are available, as are many other educational opportunities.

The garden was designed by W.Gary Smith, a nationally renowned landscape architect.


Tuesday, August 13, 2013


Traveling 'string'
The dry hills of California are covered with this evil stuff; it seems to occur everywhere--but not here, high in the mountains of New Mexico, at least not until now. Wandering around amazed at the new growth stimulated by the tremendous rain we've have in the last few weeks, we stumbled over a patch of yellow silly string, and I really did gasp in horror, "Oh my god!" (I didn't have the good sense to get a pic of that original mass.)

Difficult to spot till the growth is really spread out, I don't know how bad the infestation is. The "strings" are fine, and travel looking for victims. The stuff I've seen other places is bright orange, but ours' is yellow. When the dodder finds its vic, it infiltrates the plant, then draws all its sustenance from it, eventually killing the plant. There is no treatment; both dodder and host must be destroyed. Given the number of fruit trees I have, that is too terrible to contemplate!
dodder flowers

Recommended treatment includes burning out, or spraying with herbicide. By the time we spotted the dodder, it was already flowering, hence SEED. So we opted to burn hoping that would destroy the seed as well as the mature plant, and infected hosts. We'll keep checking to make sure the original dozen or so sites are clear. Any remaining plant material, I'll try to rake (inward), and bag for the trash.

The burn...
Gardens Alive has a concise article about dodder--http://www.gardensalive.com/article.asp?ai=1115. There is a lot of other material online, too.

The UC Davis site is very thorough including preferred hosts, "Dodder species vary in the number of different host species they can infect. Some, such as C. salina, are in rather restricted sites such as salty marshes, flats, and ponds on just a few host plant species.
Scorched earth policy...
Others, such as C. pentagona (C. campestris in some publications), are found on many crop and weed species including alfalfa, asparagus, melons, safflower, sugarbeet, tomato, field bindweed (Convolvulus arvensis), lambsquarters (Chenopodium album), and pigweed (Amaranthus species). C. indecora, also has a wide host range that includes alfalfa and weeds such as field bindweed, five-hook bassia (Bassia hyssopifolia), lambsquarters, and Russian thistle (Salsola tragus)."

All of our spots had either pigweed or purslane. If you don't recognize these, keep checking back. I'll be posting a lot of pics of the weeds that have exploded in the last few weeks. All those seeds were just laying dormant in the soil till enough moisture occurred!

The last photo on the right shows the worst site--10 to 15 feet wide, running sporadically down the hill for about 30 feet. We'll be doing a wider inspection over the next days; we only checked and treated about five acres--95 more to go!

Wednesday, January 2, 2013

A Pot for Vertical Gardening

Happy New Year, everyone!

With the cold weather upon us, we've been catching up on our reading, trying to stay abreast of gardening trends. Commercial horticulture is going through an upheaval just now. Even the big guys are paying attention, and us little guys are running in place.

The journals tell us that the interest in fruits and veggies will continue strong, especially among young people. The market for natives and drought tolerant plants is still there and swelling (no shock there given the ramifications of global warming.) Fairy gardens and terrariums, hmmm. Shades of my youth, guess we'll pot up a few terrariums, but anyone can stick some miniatures in among the plants, and given the cost of "fairies" and their furnishings, we'll have let our customers discover their own. Living roofs are wonderful; they'll be a real boon to the urban environment where stormwater runoff needs to be addressed, along with the urban heat sink, but I think that out here in the New Mexico sticks, roof water needs to be captured, in cisterns, basins and swales, rain gardens. Seed saving is a growing trend, easy and rewarding, and I hope more gardeners will join organizations like Seed Savers and  buy from Seeds of Change.

Bel embellishes a hanging pot
It's hard to find an issue of any gardening journal that doesn't have an article or photos about vertical gardening. From the huge, expensive installations of Patrick Blanc, or the one at Longwood Gardens, to medium priced kits, to one pot hanging on a garden wall, there's something for everyone. (http://pinterest.com/joeast/--see Verticality for some great photos) There are some really clever homegrown designs out there using everything from pallets and cinderblock to hanging shoe bags. Think of what a vertical garden would do for a chain link fence!

Again, there's a lot of interest in vertical gardening in urban environments, not just as a softening of the concrete jungle, but a cooling of the heat island, capturing rain water runoff, and even growing local foods where there is precious little open ground. Apartment dwellers can utilize their balcony walls--there are big dividends to greening the urban adventure.

Suburbanites with small yards are also finding verticality practical, and here in New Mexico where courtyards are a popular, even necessary feature, there are lots of walls that hold heat in winter, and offer windshelter in the summer. But before anyone rushes out to buy one of the  multitude of new hanging wall systems, they should consider a few points.

One--make sure your container is strong enough to support the weight of soil, plant and water. Two--make sure water will not pool against the wall; moisture can penetrate sheathing in a variety of ways that can lead to rot or termites. Three--make sure the planting pockets will hold enough soil for the particular plants you want. Four--like all containers, vertical planters will need care in winter in temperate climates. Five, like all containers, their fertility will be leached by consistent watering, and veggies especially will need additional fertilizer. Think about starting small until you know you can keep up with the watering and care these hanging gardens need.

After much nagging, Bel finally caved and has started crafting some pots for us. We've already potted up the first prototype. We had to cede the far end of the greenhouse, but she has promised to drag out her potter's wheel, and show Aly and I how to throw--we have so much time on our hands! But we're going to need some beautiful pots for another trend we're fascinated by--kesheiki...but that's another blog.