Santa Fe – Fans already know that the climate, creativity, culture, and cuisine are reasons enough to visit this unique city. If you needed another reason to love Santa Fe, you have it now in the newly opened Botanical Garden. This special garden adds another level of enchantment for this high desert region, especially for gardeners!
Where better to enjoy spectacular views in all directions; the Sangre de Cristo Mountains to the northeast and the Jemez Mountains to the west, than in a garden? Under a bright blue sky, you may settle onto a shaded bench, surrounded by mighty block walls of native sandstone and breathe in (per the American Lung Association) the cleanest air in the country.
W. Gary Smith, landscape designer for the garden, was inspired by the demands of the desert environment and his vision of more garden like places. The garden flora is a combination of natives and suitable nonnatives which create a rich palate of colors and textures. Addressing the harsh realities of an environment of little water for most of the year contrasted with ferocious monsoon downpours a water catchment system dubbed “La Rambla” was designed. Rock lined drainage swales direct the water through a series of step down pools to slow and pool the water for the purpose of recharging the groundwater. The remaining water is directed to the Arroyo de los Pinos.(the normally dry wash through the pines) This system was put to the test as damaging rain fell in both July and August. Fran Cole, the Garden Outreach Manager, happily reported that after the intense rains there was no erosion damage and “not a rock out of place,” when she reopened the garden following the rains. The system provides crystal clear instruction on southwest-specific drainage solutions for visitors and residents. You may watch La Rambla in action in a slide show posted on their website.
Santa Fe and its artistic life is world renowned, in fact, Santa Fe is recognized as a Creative City by UNESCO (United Nations Educational, Scientific and Cultural Organization.) Many of those great artistic minds have been working eight years in the planning for this garden. The very location of the garden on Museum Hill Road makes a great destination even better. In the Meadow garden, Emergence, a granite sculpture by Candyce Garrett, sets the stage for additional outdoor sculpture in future years.
The most creative touch so far is the recycled Kearny Gap Bridge. The garden needed to bridge the Aroyyo de los Pinos to access the land for a future naturalistic garden development, so they went looking for an orphaned bridge. They found one! The bridge, “built in 1913 for San Miguel County by the Missouri Valley Bridge and Iron Company, is 62 feet long and 16 feet wide. It is described as a free-span, steel, subdivided Warren pony truss bridge.” (http://www.santafebotanicalgarden.org) It was moved from near Las Vegas, NM to the garden and now sports a bright red coat of paint. It inspires future creativity as its new location provides the opportunity for budding engineers to study its distinctive construction.
In 1912 when New Mexico achieve statehood, the city of Santa Fe developed plans influencing the architecture to recognize the cultural heritage of the area and the reality of limited water resources. The distinctive Santa Fe style integrates the casa with the out of doors. Future garden development will feature the Courtyard Gardens. The designs will show a variety of the outdoor living spaces accented with ramadas, rock gardens, heirloom varieties of plants, edibles and more. Already the welcome ramada with its salt cedar shade and climbing trumpet vine establishes a gathering place in the Santa Fe style.
The cuisine of Santa Fe is a blend of culture and discovery over many years. The orchard garden illustrates the European influence of fruit trees of apple, apricot, cherry, peach, pear and plum brought to the region. The educational goals of the garden will be continued in “the edible component in phase two, Ojos y Manos: Eyes and Hands. Ojos y Manos will be an ethnobotanical garden focus on plant lore of indigenous cultures, according to Cole.
The Santa Fe Botanical garden is just beginning to grow. Visit now and return again and again to see it evolve and mature. It will inspire, educate, rejuvenate and relax visitors and residents alike for years to come. It gives everyone another reason to love Santa Fe!
Published in Roots & Shoots http://cals.arizona.edu/maricopa/garden/mgcentral/uploads/feb_2014_rands.pdf