Sunday, January 8, 2017

A Gem of a Western Botanical Garden

I’ll always love the lushness and greens of the Mid-South but a trip to New Mexico gave me new appreciation for the browns, sharp angles and deep blue skies of the West.

A visit to the Santa Fe Botanical Garden at Museum Hill provided a quick lesson in the possibilities of gardening in a dry, high desert climate. It is more than cactus and sand!

Driving through neighborhoods to see how fellow gardeners adapt to their climate and soil is enjoyable. However, a visit to a botanical garden offers an efficient way to learn more about the opportunities and challenges for gardeners outside of your home zone. It can inspires some “out of the box” thinking for your return home.

The Santa Fe Botanical Garden at Museum Hill is a treat not to be missed if you’re in the area. Phase One, known as the Orchard Garden, opened in 2013 and is the only area open at this time. A total of 14 acres will be developed in four phases. 

I’m often overwhelmed by large public gardens. I find myself racing from place to place trying to see every nook and corner, look at every plant and vista. The Orchard Garden's size and layout encourages slow strolling and sitting to admire the views.

Nestled into a hillside, it features a meadow garden as well as a dry garden. It also marks the permanent entry point into the gardens. A temporary Visitor Center holds a small Garden Shop. Future plans call for a contemporary garden that will serve as a “hands on” outdoor classroom with plants used for healing, food, weaving and dying. Other phases include a series of courtyards highlighting the culture of Santa Fe.

The Museum Hill garden contains mostly native plants along with others appropriate for the area’s climate. Artfully arranged, the plants frame the stunning views. This provides inspiration for gardeners who wish to incorporate views from the surrounding area into their landscaping. The pathways weave through the gardens with comfortable seating that encourages you to relax and enjoy the view.

Art exhibits rotate regularly. The current exhibit  is sculpture by Bill Barrett, a metal artist with studios in New York City and Santa Fe. The 16-piece show, titled “Visual Poetry,” incorporates the ever-changing beauty of the landscaping with the light and vistas of the West. It also reflects the vibrant art community in Santa Fe where there seems to be a sculpture on every corner. The work will remain until mid-May 2017.

Along with the Botanical Garden at Museum Hill, the Santa Fe Botanical Garden also manages the Leonora Curtin Wetland Preserve. For more information, visit


  1. Hi Cindy- thanks for your great article! One correction, SFBG no longer manages the Ortiz Mountain Educational Preserve. If you could edit that one detail, it would be great. Thanks, Cristina Salvador, cristina at santafebotanicalgarde dot org

  2. Thanks for the feedback. Information has been updated.


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