Favorites in a Santa Fe Garden
This Santa Fe garden thrives, in part, because of the rich soil in the former river bed that it calls home.
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Gina Browning's delightful garden lies behind a tall adobe wall directly across from what used to be a river flowing through Santa Fe. Now a dry gulch, the former river left wonderful soil for this garden, which is divided into several interesting spaces.
The three-year-old garden in Santa Fe has served as an artistic outlet for Browning's talents. A retired opera singer, the tall, athletic Browning appeared with local opera companies throughout Europe and the U.S. She and her husband, Joe Illick, the music director of the Fort Worth Opera Company, bought the property in Santa Fe because of its garden potential. Gina immediately set out to create a different atmosphere for each area around the landscape. A native of northern Kentucky, her first vision was for an English cottage garden, but the drought that had persisted in the Santa Fe region for years led her to reconsider any ambitious plant palette.
One of the garden spaces, the "Riverdance Garden," can be seen from the piano room and the master bedroom. Named for a sculpture, the garden includes an extensive, free-form pond with a bridge. The pond is designed so that Gina's young son can get in with his pals and play with the fish (each of the other garden rooms also includes a place for their son to enjoy). The garden has a wild look, with native plants and grasses adding to the atmosphere. Aspen trees, water lilies and rocks are also features.
Another area near the front gate is called the "Rajastan" garden, so named because of an ornate swing from India that serves as a focal point. Gina views this garden as a meditative or contemplative garden. A Japanese maple and a stone fireplace are also in this area, the only truly shady spot in all of her gardens.
The main garden at the back of the house contains a grassy patch and roses. Located in this sunny space is a tree trunk that Gina is having carved into a sculpture. Another addition — a mosaic on adobe walls — recalls Gina's travels to India. Other intimate spaces with themes include the "Moon Garden" (white lavender, gaura, spirea and other white plants), the potager and orchard. Concealed at the side of the property is Gina's secret to having a beautiful garden in drought-stricken Santa Fe — huge collection vats that hold used water from the house and water from a number of rain barrels positioned around the house and outbuildings.
The arid climate and the cool night temperatures of summer produce gorgeous roses and many other colorful flowers. Some of Gina's favorites for late June are:
'Blaze' climbing rose (Rosa 'Blaze'). For the better part of a century, this has been one of America's best known climbing roses. Introduced in 1932, the climbing (to seven feet) rose produces brilliant, scarlet-red clusters of semi-double flowers in tremendous quantities in June. The rose flowers sporadically during the rest of the summer and sends out another flush of bloom in early fall. It is a rapid grower.
How to use it: Nothing is more beautiful against an adobe wall. Other good background choices would be a white picket fence or the rustic side of a gray, weathered barn.
Cultivation: This is an easy rose to grow. The best conditions will be found where the air is dry, the soil well-drained with a neutral pH and rich, organic amendments and in full sun. Roses like to be fed and kept evenly watered.
Source: Jackson & Perkins
'Coronation Gold' yarrow (Achillea x 'Coronation Gold').
A drought-tolerant perennial, yarrow comes in a range of colors from cream to yellow to pink. According to perennial plant guru Allan Armitage, 'Coronation Gold' was first offered in 1953 by Lye End Nursery in southern England to commemorate the coronation of Elizabeth II. The hybrid produces flattish inflorescences that measure three to four inches across and are a golden yellow. The foliage is gray-green and has an aromatic scent. Easily grown in Canada and in Florida, this hybrid is extremely versatile. Most ornamental achilleas are native to Europe. 'Coronation Gold' is a herbaceous perennial hardy in Zones 3-9.
How to use it: For a sea of gold in June in the garden. Plant next to the spires of deep violet salvias for a sensational effect. This is an excellent cut flower and dries beautifully. Keep the dried blooms for fall arrangements. A gardening friend placed dried 'Coronation Gold' blooms, green berries and Granny Smith apples on her kitchen Christmas tree one year. It was gorgeous.
Cultivation: 'Coronation Gold' is easy to grow in well-drained soils in full sun. In cooler, drier climates like Santa Fe's, you'll see larger flower heads, but fewer stalks on each plant. The opposite is true in the southeastern U.S. 'Coronation Gold', which is very drought-tolerant, does better in the more humid regions than the lemon yellow hybrid, 'Moonshine'.
Source: Busse Gardens
'King Arthur' delphinium (Delphinium x 'King Arthur'). 'King Arthur' is one of the Pacific hybrid delphiniums, also known as the Round Table series. This delphinium grows to five or six feet tall and has dark, royal blue flowers with a white "bee." Hardy in Zones 3-7, most delphinium hybrids are short-lived, herbaceous perennials (the Rocky Mountain states enjoy longer lives for their delphiniums). Delphiniums bloom in May, June or July, depending on the region of the U.S. In Santa Fe, delphiniums are at their best in July.
How to use it: Nothing is more beautiful than a giant delphinium rising above other flowers in a cottage garden. Grow this dark, elegant flower in a border to provide a vertical accent. This is also an excellent cut flower.
Cultivation: Plant in full sun in well drained soil for best results. Delphiniums are heavy feeders, so fertilize accordingly. The tallest hybrids (like 'King Arthur') will need staking. In warmer climates, delphiniums should be planted in fall in soil that will not be soggy over winter. Enjoy the blooms the following spring, and then replace the plants again in the fall.
Source: Busse Gardens
Climbing rose: (Rosa 'America'). This rose was bred by American hybridizer Bill Warriner and was the All-America Rose Selections winner for 1976. Large, fully double pink are suffused with salmon and coral, with lighter tones on the reverse side of the petals. The rose climbs to 10 or 12 feet, with four-inch-wide flowers that emit a spicy, clove fragrance. This is a repeat bloomer.
How to use it: This is a gorgeous subject for a tuteur (a support standing alone) or for an arch. Plant where you can enjoy the beauty of the flowers and the wonderful fragrance.
Cultivation: Climbing 'America' earned a good rating from the American Rose Society (8.4, indicating "a very good to excellent rose, one recommended without hesitation"). As with most roses, you will want to give 'America' well-drained soil that is amended with organic matter. Good drainage is essential for roses, and full sun is recommended. Keep evenly watered during dry periods.
Source: Wayside Gardens
'Whirling Butterflies' gaura (Gaura lindheimeri 'Whirling Butterflies').
Native to Texas, gaura is an herbaceous perennial that produces bright white, spurred flowers resembling tiny butterflies along wiry stems. A patch of gaura will stand about three feet high and is hardy in Zones 6-9. Although gaura hails from dry regions, it is very adaptable to more humid climates.
How to use it: Mix gaura in a perennial border or in a cottage garden for a wispy look.
Cultivation: Grow in full sun in well drained, lean soil. After the first flush of blooms, cut the foliage back for a tidier look and to produce a new crop of flowers four to six weeks later.
Source: Niche Gardens
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