Jim Martinez has been creating water-wise, environmentally friendly gardens in Dallas and Marfa, Texas for more than 30 years. He picks seven of his favorite plants to grow in desert regions, including Arizona, New Mexico, and Texas.
Landscape designer Jim Martinez has been creating water-wise, environmentally friendly gardens in Dallas and Marfa for more than 30 years. Surrounded by mountains, at an elevation of almost 5,000 feet, the Marfa plateau is subject to extreme temperature variations. “In winter, it can be 60 degrees in the day and drop to 15 at night,” Martinez says. “Selecting plants that are adapted to these conditions is the key to success.” As much as possible, he uses plants that are native or endemic to the region. A particular favorite is Hinckley’s columbine (Aquilegia chrysantha var. hinckleyana), a shade-tolerant plant with masses of yellow blooms that grew only in this area until recently, when the nursery trade discovered it. Fragrant plants grow in abundance on the Marfa plateau, and when he can, Martinez selects plants based on their hummingbird-, butterfly-, and bee-attracting abilities. For design, he takes his cues from the surrounding high-desert grassland, where grasses grow in a well-spaced pattern—nature’s way of ensuring that the plants benefit from the little rain that falls during the “rainy” season, from July through September.