Wednesday, September 27, 2023

Placitas Garden Tour: Inspiration and Tips for Adapting as the Climate Warms Up


Savor 360-degree views of the Rio Grande Valley and beyond from a stunning 5-acre ridge-top property. Walk in the footsteps of Las Huertas Canyon’s earliest inhabitants on Placitas Village land now used for growing fruit that’s made into small batch wines. Stroll down the steep, winding paths that descend from a street level home into its rugged backyard arroyo.

Drive to the furthest edge of wild horse territory to see how one homeowner uses a mature orchard and native shrubs to frame the long view of Cabezon and the Jemez Mountains. See how rock, sculpture and strategically placed water features can provide a dynamic backdrop for outdoor gatherings. Learn how to make the most of a small lot with a very big view.

These six experiences are part of this year’s Placitas Garden Tour, held 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10. Tickets are now available at placitasgardentour/2023-buy-tickets, $15 in advance, $20 day of, youth 16 and under free with adult.

All serve as inspiring examples for high desert gardens of all types. Each has been planted to reflect the owner’s personal preferences, to maximize the property’s unique microclimate, and to include features that address the hotter, drier years to come.

“The gardens showcase sustainable features to conserve and collect water, minimize erosion, build healthy soils, sustain pollination and provide wildlife sanctuary,” said Sandra Liakus, Master Gardener and tour founder.

“They also utilize native planting in unwalled spaces. Visitors may come away feeling inspired and encouraged to believe that beautiful and sustainable gardens can and do exist, no matter the challenge. It’s a good chance to learn and to get new ideas.”

For example, at Larga Vista Garden in the Anasazi Trails neighborhood, roof runoff is directed through pipes in the walls to deep detention ponds that create landscape interest and allow larger trees to benefit from nature’s watering system. Placitas Winery relies on water from a centuries-old acequia when Las Huertas Creek is running, and the Magnificent Mesa Garden uses raised beds with seasonal hoop shades to conserve water for vegetable crops.

Rock lined terracing at the Flowing Garden diverts rain water toward the arroyo and helps with erosion control. Hardscaping, water features and minimalist plantings let the view do the talking at the Shifting Moods and Views Garden, and flowering plants such as sunflowers, wild sweet peas and hollyhocks attract pollinators on several properties.

Liakus organized the first tour in 2016 as a way to showcase the historic community’s knowledgeable, creative gardeners and to raise money for local nonprofits. This year’s recipients are Sandoval Extension Master Gardeners and Placitas Community Library.

Master Gardeners, owners and other volunteers will be on hand in each garden to discuss design concepts and answer gardening questions. Veteran grape grower Peter Colton also will offer pruning demonstrations at Placitas Winery, and each site will host a local artist at work on a piece that reflects the site.

"There will be a lot of original art developed during the day of the tour. and that will be on display at the library along with a gallery of garden art," Liakus said.

Tickets and information will be available at Homestead Village, and advance ticket receipts can be exchanged there for admission booklets. From 9 a.m. to 6:30 p.m., brunch, lunch, supper and wine tasting can be purchased at Placitas Winery, 26 Camino de Los Pueblos.



Placitas Garden Tour

WHEN: 9 a.m.-4 p.m. Sunday, Sept. 10

WHERE: Various locations throughout Placitas. On the day of the tour, information and ticket sales at Homestead Village and Placitas Community Library, 453 Highway165.

HOW MUCH: Tickets are $15 in advance at; in Albuquerque at Alameda, Jericho, Osuna and Rehm’s nurseries; and in Placitas at The Merc and Placitas Community Library, 543 Highway 165. Day of tour: $20 at the Homestead Village and the library.

SUSTAINABILITY AT A GLANCE (optional if you need more text)

Shifting Moods & Views Garden, Tierra Madre: Joann and Scott MacKenzie’s landscaping emphasizes simplicity, dog friendliness, soothing water sounds, views of the Sandias, shaded backyard entertainment space and flagstone pathways.

Larga Vista Garden, Anasazi Trails: George and Sharon Arthur built sustainability into the design of their custom home and landscaping. Roof rainwater flows inside buttress walls to seven diversion ponds that supplement irrigation. Rock mulching prevents erosion, and 47 plant species, mostly native, soften the spare hilltop acreage.

Small Pleasures Garden, Sundance Mesa: P.K. and Dean Williams cool their small interior landscaping with colorful plants to attract pollinators, containers and water-wise gardening techniques.

Placitas Winery, Village of Placitas: Barb and Ty Belknap’s property, inhabited by Ancestral Puebloans, land grant Spaniards, farmers and winemakers, has a heritage of sustainability. The Las Huertas Creek acequia delivers water; fruit trees and vines used for winemaking are maintained close to the winery, and native plants and grasses cover the rest of the property.

The Flowing Garden, Juniper Hills: Rob Yin and Jill Hensley built their home on a ridge top that falls steeply to Las Huertas Creek. After planting their street-level courtyard with Xeriscape species, Rob began developing more than 1,00 feet of flowing, rock-lined pathways leading down to the arroyo. A second-level leech field supplies supplemental underground watering to plants along the way.

Magnificent Mesa Garden, Ideal Acres: R. Rene Strong chose the solitude of a two-acre parcel near the end of the road in northeast Placitas, then refreshed existing gardens with drought-tolerant species. Thirsty vegetables are grown in raised beds, and a seven-zone drip system customizes irrigation schedules throughout.


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