Over time, I came to appreciate the desert aesthetic, starting when I first saw what to many is the prototypical desert - the Sonoran Desert. I was going into the 6th grade, as our family car zoomed towards Gila Bend, seeing my first roadrunner trot through open areas (negative space - void), between creosote bushes, palo verdes and saguaros (positive space - mass).
Then, I didn't know those terms. Now I do - join me in this month's "Dangerous Gardens" on the Garden Designers Roundtable!
|To my amazement, not all see beauty in "danger". A saguaro vista, near the "ironwood forest" NW of Tucson, May 2005. That day may have set a daily record high of 111F. (my house in Abq the same day was a relatively cool 98F) Intense, dangerous.|
Fewer get the deserts other than the Sonoran Desert, especially in the higher, cooler, and less dry desert grasslands. Paraphrasing a blog from Tucson, "I didn't move to a desert, I moved to a garden!" Same here.
|The Eye of the Sandias - you can "google it".|
I moved to Abq in 1992, to be in the desert. I soon discovered that most here who I thought were peers didn't like the desert.
|This is dangerous, but it isn't the plants' fault.|
Here's my progression, in what turns myself and others onto our powerful place - the dangerous garden.
|Dangerous gardens are only dangerous until you get to know them, and bask in their potential. |
A former desert resident, once again living on the green side of the world, Daphne takes in the chilly morning light. Her thorny companions include Ocotillo / Fouquieria splendens (L), Velvet Mesquite / Prosopis velutina (above), and spiky tree aloes (background). Not posing, she's just enjoying the Tucson Botanical Gardens a week ago during a GWA conference.
|Espinillo / Acacia caven at the Desert Legume Program near the U of A Extension farm in Tucson. It hails from the Monte Desert and nearby areas in South America, which are much like the Chihuahuan and higher Sonoran deserts. Those are spines!|
|Dangerous means beauty, too.|
|Ever exit the freeway to see what the backroads have to offer? On a cool July afternoon with monsoon storms trying, but only bringing evaporative cooling and little rain, this is Allthorn / Koeberlinia spinosa SE of Truth or Consequences NM.|
|Like roses, be careful near these. (couldn't resist...and it's true!)|
|Got art? Well, this art gallery in Marfa TX used Desert Candle / Dasylirion leiophyllum as art...like a row crop. Nice!|
I advise not wandering into these to take out a stray paper or burger wrapper, to get that primo photo, while wearing shorts.
|A light, damp winter snow in Abq at my tiny home garden - just enough to remind you it's definitely winter. But danger is revealed even with that soft blanket of the white stuff on my late Rough Agave / Agave scabra.|
|Back to the CNM Westside campus - repetition of everything, since it's a large space. But the distant Giant Hesperaloe / Hesperaloe funifera widely spaced for now, stands out. Sandstone walls with green spikiness in front. Distant danger.|
|Another angle of those giant hesperaloes, plus a few volunteers of the remaining Gooding Verbena / Glandularia goodingii escaping the maintenance people's Roundup applications, of the many I designed in at key areas. I try...|
|Speaking of which, his Strava handle for his cycling adventures is Danger Dan! Prophetic. And how 'bout those Chainfruit Cholla / Cylindropuntia fulgida? So Sonoran of a ride last April that we did, just N of Mesa AZ.|
|Even danger for elementary school kiddos on the Navajo Reservation - here, Banana Yucca / Y. baccata at the first|
LEED project in NM, the Baca / Dlo'ay azhi Community School in the northwestern Land of Enchantment. Spaced
at 9' on-center from the paving edge, those should be safely back at least 5', once mature.
|Now, even a smaller garden space - the narrowest part of my property. Got 95% compaction of granite and clay soil? It's dangerous gardening, baby! Ocotillo / F. splendens, assorted Opuntia spp., and Gooding's Verbena love this. Aspens don't...|
|Dangerous desert rocks...Giant Hesperaloe stands guard behind Powis Castle Sage at a Corrales residence's front gate. I had to personally prune that Chitalpa tree, since the previous landscaper didn't know how, and the owner was afraid to. Yep...|
Can you imagine the musical accompaniments to dangerous gardens?
(Got one! Stone Temple Pilots, Wicked Garden w/ quick high desert shots between all the 90's mosh pit scenes)
While I cue up my stereo and crank up some appropriate songs, please join me in reading what some of the ladies and knights of the Garden Writers Roundtable have to say -