WRITTEN BY Bek Mitchell-Kidd
The Santa Fe Botanical Garden got its start in 1987 thanks to the vision of a small group of local gardeners, botanists and environmentally oriented citizens wanting to establish a botanical garden in Santa Fe.
Described as an “outdoor living room,” the Garden has been inspiring visitors for over 30 years. As the Albuquerque Journal says, “everyone can connect with nature, marvel at amazing plant varieties and benefit from a place for contemplation. Visitors can relax under shading ramadas, discover a century-old red bridge and explore the Art Trail, where changing exhibitions of sculpture encourage return visits. With its many native and traditional plants, awe-inspiring stone and metal work, and breathtaking vistas, the botanical garden is the essence of New Mexico.”
And, because one garden is never enough, the Santa Fe Botanical Garden features two sites on more than 55 acres—the original Botanical Garden at Museum Hill and the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve in La Cienega. The Botanical Garden at Museum Hill is near the heart of downtown Santa Fe, while the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve is 14 miles south. Both locations celebrate, cultivate and conserve the rich botanical heritage and biodiversity of the region.
Designed by nationally recognized landscape architect W. Gary Smith, the Garden is obviously a great place to visit year-round, but there are particular times of the year that will really knock your socks off—including the fruit trees blooming in the spring, the lavender gardens and roses peaking in August, and the fall colors that transform the Garden in October.
But, it’s September for the win, according to Lindsay Taylor, marketing and public relations director, who says, “September really holds a special place in our hearts. The rains from the monsoon season have come and ‘gold season’ takes over—from the aspens to sunflowers to chamisa blooming—everything turns golden. Paired with the early fall light in the late afternoon, the Garden truly glows!”
Approximately 60,000 people visit annually from all over the world and especially love the Ojos y Manos: Eyes and Hands (ethnobotanical) exhibit. Every plant has a purpose (area titles include Herbs & Healing, Fibers & Weaving, Wood & Carving, Crops & Cooking), but they were also chosen because of their importance to the area’s native pueblos and later the Spanish communities. Ojos y Manos features terraces that are used for growing crops—the fruit and vegetables that are grown each year are donated to a local food bank.
Making it all possible is a unique and impressive water catchment process.
A series of wandering rock channels throughout the Garden slows the flow of fresh rainwater, maximizing the infiltration of water to nourish the plants. The system allows the Garden to use less municipal water per square foot than the average Santa Fe household. The plan is to be completely off municipal water once the native plants are fully established.
Letitia Chambers, former board president, says, “The Santa Fe Botanical Garden provides a wonderful opportunity for both children and adults to learn about the unique geography of the Santa Fe area, where several geologic zones come together. Understanding the diverse plant life and climate are crucial to the sustainability of our region. Plus, walking in the garden is a wonderful way to enjoy nature for Santa Fe residents and tourists alike.”
SPECIAL ART EXHIBITIONS
Gardens Gone Wild
Dan Ostermiller’s beautiful, whimsical bronze sculptures of animals (“Pelota de Oso” pictured left) are displayed throughout the Garden against the dynamic backdrop of the Sangre de Cristo Mountains. The delightful menagerie of mammals, birds and reptiles has been a big hit with visitors, especially young children as they search for the animals and get to know their personalities. Gardens Gone Wild runs through mid-May.
Opening on May 25, 2019, Human Nature will feature sculptures by David Pearson, Allan Houser and Jonathan Hertzel, artists who are known for their unique depictions of the human figure in bronze.