Margaret Joplin’s work has a definite elemental appeal. Its celebration of steel and stone speaks of earth and industry and craftsmanship. You can almost hear the sounds of forge and fire, hammer and chisel. And the studied awareness of water apparent in her landscapes is simpatico with the Southwestern surroundings that trigger Joplin’s creative muse.
Charles Conn is a patient man. Others might have rushed to the garden center for a cartload of quick-fix annuals to tide them over until their new garden matured. But Conn has watched his native-based landscape gradually come into its own over the past four years, reveling as tiny columbine seedlings volunteered and a family of foxes set up housekeeping in the rock wall.
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.”
In arid northern New Mexico, the climate can be a hard row — 300 days of virtually cloudless sunshine, blistering summers, freezing winters and a temperature difference between night and day of as much as 40 degrees. Not to mention the mere 12 annual inches of rain and snowfall combined, which makes water a precious commodity and much on the mind of even the average, non-gardening citizen of the state. Runoff might be a nuisance in some places, but in Santa Fe, every drop counts. Yet the tough, natural beauty and distinctive Southwest character of the region are spellbinding.
Among the heartaches of landscape design is that most any given front yard must contain a big slab of heat-sinking, water-collecting pavement upon which homeowners drive and park. But one possible solution has been under our feet all along.
Say “rain barrel” and most of us think of a retired whiskey cask with algae lurking beneath the lid. Lately, though, the green push to save water and reduce impurities in our gardens has brought rain barrels into the present, complete with updated designs and high-tech add-ons.