Garden Party

Ashley M. Biggers - April 1, 2009

(Excerpted from the Print Edition)

David Salman
President and chief horticulturist, Santa Fe Greenhouses
and High Country Gardens, Santa Fe

David Salman’s flagship business, Santa Fe Greenhouses, has been a go-to retailer of high-desert, xeric (low-water-use) plants in the City Different for more than 25 years. Salman opened his company’s mail-order branch, High Country Gardens, in 2006. He excels at creating new plant species, and so far has introduced more than 25 species variations with an emphasis on native, cold-hardy, and xeric species. Salman has earned several awards for his contributions to the field, notably the American Horticultural Society’s Paul Ecke Jr. Commercial Award in 2008.

What would your ideal garden look like?
It would be very plant-focused. Regardless of what your style
of gardening is, interesting and colorful plants will make the
difference between an ordinary landscape and an extraordinary one. It would have lots of flowering perennials, like lavender
(Lavandula), Penstemon, and Agastache—one of the plant families that I specialize in breeding and growing.

What New Mexican plant is exciting now?
Desert zinnia (Zinnia grandiflora). It’s very colorful, and typically
a late-summer bloomer. It grows in practically any gardening
conditions, thrives in any soil type, lives forever, and is beautiful and found throughout much of the state.

For info: Santa Fe Greenhouses, 2904 Rufina St., Santa Fe,
(877) 811-2700,;
or High Country Gardens, (800) 925-9387,

Rick Hobson
Owner, Jericho Nursery, Albuquerque

When the Albuquerque institution Rowland’s Nursery closed its doors in 2005, longtime employee Rick Hobson opened his own nursery with a few pots and a couple of racks of pansies. With his 26 years of experience and, he says, divine intervention, he’s since parlayed his business, Jericho Nursery, into a versatile garden center with two locations. And as the host of Garden Talk, a weekly call-in show on KKOB-770 AM, he answers New Mexicans’ most pressing flora questions.

What would your ideal garden look like?
I’m more of a free-flowing guy when it comes to garden design. Your house and property line form a lot of right angles and straight lines. Plants break that up and make your yard less linear. I like a mix of annuals and perennials. I love color and want it all the time. That’s what you get with annuals. They take more maintenance—you have to water them and check for bugs—but they’ll bloom for you their entire lives. I’d also have a huge vegetable garden with beans, sunflowers, tomatoes, peppers, and more.

What New Mexican plant is exciting now?
Generally speaking, perennials are the most worked-on plants. The plant growers are really on the cutting edge and are always looking for improvements and ways to hybridize perennials so they will do well in our climate. They are taking plants that have always done well here, like blanket flower (Gaillardia) and purple coneflower (Echinacea), and making new variations in lemon, orange, peach, and pink colors.

For info: Jericho Nursery, 101 Alameda Blvd. NW, Albuquerque, (505) 899-7555; and The Village Mercantile, 3675 Corrales Rd., Corrales, (505) 897-9328; Garden Talk airs on KKOB-770 AM every other Saturday at 11 a.m.

Joe Kane
Retail Sales Manager, Sierra Vista Growers, La Union (south of Las Cruces)

Joe Kane earned a degree in horticulture from New Mexico State University and ran a landscape business for eight years before joining the team at Sierra Vista Growers in 2008. As retail sales manager, Kane trains Sierra Vista’s employees and trains the teachers of a La Union after-school program in which children learn the skills needed to produce food for themselves and their families. Sierra Vista Growers sells both retail and wholesale, and is the largest nursery in southwestern New Mexico.

What would your ideal garden look like?
I’d create a mix of annuals and perennials, and get a layered effect of tall and small plants. If you took plants like the Angelita daisy (Hymenoxys acaulis), blackfoot daisy (Melampodum leucanthum), lavender (Lavandula), chocolate flower (Berlandiera lyrata), Texas betony (Stachys coccinea), and firecracker penstemon (Penstemon eatonii), you’d have a stunning array of color from spring to fall. I’d incorporate decorative rocks and boulders as well. The overall goal would be to have drought-tolerant plants suitable for [USDA Plant Hardiness] Zone 10.

What New Mexican plant is exciting now?
New Gold lantana (Lantana camara). It’s pretty much a staple in our landscaping in the southern part of the state because it’s drought-tolerant. It’s a perennial and gets three to four feet tall. It is easy to care for, and tolerates our dry, alkaline soil and the extreme heat we get here. They are somewhat susceptible to winter damage, but the New Gold lantana is the hardiest of [the Lantana varieties]. As long as it gets cut back in the winter and mulched over to protect its root system from freezing, it’s fine. Its bright yellow flowers also give it great curb appeal.

For info: Sierra Vista Growers, 2800 N.M. 28, La Union, (575) 874-2415;

Photograph of David Salman courtesy of
Photograph of Rick Hobson courtesy of Ashley M. Biggers
Photograph of Joe Kane courtesy of Sierra Vista Growers