Gardening in the High Desert

Transitioning to a new state involves changes and challenges one cannot fully anticipate. There is so much to learn! So, as I’ve written about, I made simple commitments to starting a new garden, and the focus was primarily in digging into my own California history around the power of fast growing morning glories, capable of transforming anything that would support a vine into a place of beauty. Careful daily tending, primarily in guiding vines where I wanted them along various colored yards I’d twined into a wooden fence and faithful watering did the trick. Investing in sturdy turquoise adirondack chairs, placed to advantage under the exquisite desert willow and adding an enchanting cobalt blue bird bath completed the fashioning of a reliable corner of peace and tranquility. Here is the result of my first growing season here in the high desert, about which you may color me both happy and proud.


Desert Willow


Morning Glories

Feeling enormously delighted that this corner emerged, especially in regard to the ever changing delightful morning glories, would it be any surprise to you that I was recently immediately drawn down the street in a neighborhood I was visiting, when I spotted a wall of purple flowers, determined to learn what they were? Imagine my amazement and delight to discover a kindred spirit gardener who had covered the back wall of her garden with morning glories! Mind you, this is not a common sight in this part of New Mexico in my experience.

Minutes later found me opening the front gate to this woman’s garden, marching up to her front door and leaving her a hand written message that I would love to interview her and showcase her garden on my Plant Whatever Brings You Joy blog! As spectacular as her morning glories were, I was entirely captivated by her entire garden, the only one I’ve seen in this part of the state that reflected what I regard as a Santa Fe look that I adore. Her stucco walls, her artistic sensibilities, her playful inclusions all delighted my imagination and eye. So I was thrilled that Charlene texted me a couple of days later and invited me to meet her and to photograph her garden. The following Friday morning we spent an hour and a half together, sharing stories and information about New Mexico gardening and the state in general. She has a rich familial history that traces back to not only pre-statehood, but pre-territory! She shared that she grew up in the countryside, which as a child she did not fully appreciate. She was delighted as a teen to move to Albuquerque, to the Big City. She later raised her children in Valencia County, where I am based, but as they grew to adulthood, she began to long for her early roots, and then impulse inspired her to create this beautiful private garden. I feel incredibly blessed to have met her and to have been invited to share a closer look.

I am utterly enchanted with her abundant use of nopales. This is just inside the front gate. And here is the most amazing thing you need to know. I asked Charlene what kind of stones we were walking on. I could not imagine something so wonderful I’d never discovered before. “I painted them,” she answered! She painted the rocks! What?? Brilliant! Who does this? And what an incredible effect! So now I really love her, right?

Nopales combined with various grasses:

Carefully placed yarrow:

This gate was exquisite. I asked Charlene where she found it. Her response? “My dad and grandfather built that.” #love

Behind this gate, laden with more morning glories entwined with trumpet vine, live two little pooches, ChaCha and Gordo, a pug. Gordo greeted me at this gate on my first visit. So cute.

When I first spotted this morning glory tower, I assumed it was growing out of a hanging pot, and I said to myself, oh how clever. But when Charlene gave me my tour I discovered that, no, the morning glories were actually growing out of the ground, and she had pulled them skyward toward a small metal wheel, where they were happy to entwine. Surprise! Charlene does things as she sees.

Other garden art loveliness that caught my eye:

Mi casa es su casa.

More nopales:

And the ever present morning glories:

What a lovely way to spend a morning with this newly found inspiring creative gardener! I am finding my way into New Mexico gardening with great joy!

Last fascinating note about this adventure. Two days after I conducted this interview/tour I received a text from a neighbor of mine who said, “I just walked by a house on [address, which is not in our neighborhood!] It is really pretty, a Southwest theme. When I saw it I thought of you and could see you introducing yourself. Use your maps and go past [adjacent address].” I laughed so hard and sent him back a copy of the first pic in this post saying, “Was it this one?? I just interviewed her!

Spirit clearly at work here.

Love and gardening blessings,
Kathryn xoxo

Buy a copy of my book Plant Whatever Brings You Joy: Blessed Wisdom from the Garden on Amazon here. ¡Gracias!

7 Responses to “Gardening in the High Desert”

  1. Wonderful! What a gorgeous garden! Your morning glory gardening twin. 🙂

  2. Thanks, Antonia! Yes, she’s a gardening pal!

  3. Oh, I’m so happy for you. Someone to get to know with deep local roots who will help you to get to know the plant people in the area. I have great hopes for glorious blogs with all the color and texture that grows in the southwest.

  4. Thanks, Julie! It is exciting to be learning an entirely new palate! Kathryn xoxo

  5. [Post from Carol Davis. KH] Good morning Kathryn – from Sonoma CA. Oh goodness I was so happy to have your blog appear in my email. Good to know you are thriving in your new location and have made a gardening pal that appreciates and creates beauty with plants, color and arrangement. Is Antonia there with you?

  6. Hi, Carol Davis! Lovely to hear from you there in Sonoma! Yes, I am loving New Mexico! Antonia does happen to be here now! A big plus! Kathryn xoxo

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