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.
Rudbeckia Goldsturm blooms in mid-to-late summer with an eye-catching display of golden flowers. Black Eyed Susan is very attractive to butterflies and the seed heads provide winter food for seed-eating songbirds as well. Reliable and tough, Rudbeckia tolerates both drought and clay plus easy to maintain.
Magnus is a distinctive, vigorous and large growing cone flower cultivar. The bright reddish-pink petals of its huge flowers are held flat as they radiate out from the cone, instead of curving backwards as is typical of most coneflowers.
Asclepias syriaca (Common Milkweed) is a gorgeous plant that produces purple/pink flower clusters that wildflower gardeners love and spreads quickly. This native perennial is a primary food source for the Monarch butterfly providing large leaves for caterpillars and big pink globe-like flowers that provide nectar for the adult butterflies. Planting it will help to support Monarch populations. Perennial.
Red Birds in a Tree is a rare perennial from the southern mountains of New Mexico and Arizona. It blooms all summer with spires of small red, white-lipped flowers that resemble a flock of red birds perched on a tree branch.