PO Box 2458, Tijeras NM 87059

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

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!