Last May 2010, I designed and installed a new garden in front of the Placitas Community Library. The garden was the last component of this remarkable project for the village of Placitas, New Mexico. This little town northeast of Albuquerque in the foothills of the Sandia Mountains, designed and built this wonderful library and community center with money gathered from donations and through the efforts of a group of dedicated volunteers.
I was invited to donate the garden in the front of the building. So, as you can see a year later, the garden is well on its way toward beautifying the grounds and educating the people and children of Placitas. As part of the project’s focus on reading and education, the garden has a map showing photos and names (Latin and common) of the plants used in the garden.
Because the other landscaping around the building used only native plants, I decided to do the same. With one exception; I can’t design a garden without lavender! This fragrant Mediterranean herb might as well be a native plant in New Mexico because it grows so well in our tough, alkaline soils and harsh climate. Lavender is also appropriate because I wanted to use plants that attract hummingbirds and other pollinators such as honeybees, native bees and butterflies.
With a high elevation location, southern exposure, terrible soil and nearly continuous wind, this garden needed tough, durable plants. I also chose to use many plants that would reseed themselves to help give the garden a more natural look over time. The garden is mulched with crushed gravel for low maintenance and to encourage reseeding. And speaking of maintenance, the local Master Gardeners and I had a great training session last fall in the garden’s care and maintenance. So hopefully for many years to come, this garden will be a beautiful symbol of the community spirit that built this wonderful place to gather and learn.
Blanca Peak™ White Penstemon (Penstemon strictus) is an award-winning white-flowered selection of our native Rocky Mountain Penstemon. Large, tubular flowers are a favorite nectar source for bumblebees. Plant this easy-to-grow beardtongue for a sturdy, long-lived late-spring bloomer in your xeriscape. This beauty thrives in most well-drained soil with full sun exposure. A 2021 Plant Select® Winner. A High Country Gardens Introduction.
A soft orange-flowered selection of pineleaf beardtongue, SteppeSuns® Sunset Glow Penstemon (Penstemon pinifolius) is a native cultivar that starts flowering in late spring and attracts numerous pollinators and hummingbirds. Reminiscent of Colorado summer sunsets, its long-lasting blooms add a warm glow to dry area gardens. Finely textured evergreen foliage forms a compact mound for year-round interest.
An easy-to-grow groundcover, 'Purple Beauty' Creeping Phlox (Phlox subulata) carpets the mid-to-late spring garden with starry lavender-purple flowers. Whether you are looking for a water-thrifty addition to flow through a rock garden, or a beautiful way to highlight a spring-blooming bulb collection, 'Purple Beauty' will add pollinator-friendly, drought-tolerant spring beauty to your garden.
Arrowleaf Buckwheat (Eriogonum compositum) is a lovely Sulphur Buckwheat with large, showy clusters of creamy white or light yellow flowers and low-growing rosette of large heart-shaped leaves. Beautiful late spring blooms add playful texture to the garden. Native to the dry areas of the Pacific Northwest, this buckwheat is an essential habitat plant for butterflies, beneficial insects, and wildlife.