Rock Garden Enthusiasts Gather

Santa Fe Chapter hosts Annual Meeting of the North American Rock Garden Association (N.A.R.G.S.)


Cactus with Agastache Rosita in a rock garden. Agastache cana Rosita offsets the blue of Opuntia basilaris in this rock garden.

This past weekend, a contingent of nearly 100 serious rock gardeners arrived in Santa Fe as part of the North American Rock Garden Association (N.A.R.G.S.) annual meeting. The event, hosted at a downtown Santa Fe hotel, included a garden tour, plant sale and awards banquet as part of the festivities. Morning hikes to view wildflowers in the nearby Sangre de Cristo mountains were also offered and well attended.

N.A.R.G.S. is an organization of very dedicated gardeners, many who focus on cultivating the plant kingdoms smallest cold-hardy plants. Members came from all over the US (particularly the East), as well as Canada, to participate. Over many years, this international organization of plant enthusiasts has included many of the world's most accomplished amateur and professional gardeners, plant explorers, authors, botanic garden staff and professional nursery people.

There were two nights of talks. On Friday evening, myself and Dan Johnson, the Denver Botanic Garden's Curator of Native Plants and Associate Director of Horticulture, were the presenters. Dan gave a fascinating talk on "The Steppe Regions of the World" (where he has traveled to all four) and I spoke on a topic a little closer to home, "Xeric Rock Gardening: Plants and Techniques for Arid Climates".

The following evening, Saturday's Banquet and Awards Ceremony, Panayoti Kelaidis, Senior Curator and Director of Denver Botanic Gardens Outreach program and one of the world's most accomplished plantsmen and plant explorers, gave a superb presentation on "The Best Native Plants that are Rarely Grown." I was very honored to receive the Society's Marcel Le Piniec Award, given in recognition to those who have made substantial contributions of new and important plants to the rock gardening world. I was thrilled and very humbled to be included with such notable previous winners J.C. Raulston, Panayoti Kelaidis, Roy Davidson and many others.

Rock Garden PlantsRock garden enthusiasts were treated to a tour of David Salman's Santa Fe garden.

Plant Sale and Garden Tour

We had a great plant sale with four different growers, including myself, offering a treasure trove of unusual rock garden plants. Some folks even brought an empty suitcase in anticipation of returning home with as many western treasures as they could fit into their luggage.

The garden tour was equally well attended with four private gardens and two public gardens included in the event. I even included my garden on the tour, the first time in 30 years I've ever offered to open it to the public. It has been a very tough, dry growing season and I was concerned that my garden was not going to be "up to snuff." But lots of last minute weeding and a great, soaking 2 inch rain several days before the tour made my garden presentable. And of course, all my hummingbirds were in a frenzy. With all the unexpected visitors and their need to feed on the nectar of all my Agastache and Salvia plants, we were dive-bombed all morning!

Text and Photos By David Salman

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