El Paso’s initial entrance into the world of Open Days Conservancy in 2006 not only illustrated the diversity that comes with gardening in the southwest, but also exposed hidden talents that were enjoyed by over 2,000 guests. Anne Davis and Maria Woody were the regional representatives for Open Days Conservancy and recruited seven exceptional garden hosts.
Three of the seven hosts featured in this article provide you with a snapshot illustrating the talent of these very dedicated gardeners.
Maria and Darren Woody have been sculpting and designing their landscape since its inception in 2000. Their vision and design schemes have evolved into a lush landscape with hints of xeric with overlaps of perennial color. Your first impression of the home provides an open courtyard theme that offers spacious, but welcoming, ambiance. Included in the ambiance is a large Chilean mesquite tree that provides cool shade along with beautiful locust, red oak and ash trees. To add structure to the garden, Mrs. Woody designed a Tuscan-style stone fountain, which accommodates aquatic plants and fish. The side yard includes a dry creek bed bordered by a grove of sycamore trees, cotoneaster, bird of paradise and Italian cypress trees. The backyard has another lovely dry creek bed bordered by Vitex, Yucca, Chilean Mesquite and a Golden Ball Lead tree with a most unusual growth pattern. As you stroll around the Mediterranean style pool, you will soon be pleasantly surprised. Behind the walls you will find a secret garden with several raised beds of herbs and vegetables. Sheltering the herb gardens are fruit orchards, which arouse the scent of apricots, quince, apple and pear trees. As you exit the landscape, you are greeted with the sound of trickling water flowing from a cobalt blue vanishing edge fountain.
The Davis garden should be described as an estate, encompassing over two acres of beautiful gardens and twenty years of gardening devotion. It is no surprise that their gardens have been featured in House and Garden and Garden Illustrated books.
Several themes encompass this estate. A magnificent topiary garden which exhibits holly, juniper, boxwood and a variety of other specimen plants begin the garden tour. The Koi pond is actually comprised of two Koi ponds conjoined with a narrow stream. The pond, combined with the manicured Rosemary and Rill border, creates a serene, Zen-like atmosphere. The 24-to-30 inch Koi that inhabit the pond will follow you as you walk the parameters of these waters. As you pass along the Koi pond you will come upon an all white garden consisting of Iceberg roses, lilies and white bougainvillea. From here you will soon approach the grass garden. Many interesting grass textures and colors delight the eye. Variegated Zebra grasses, Lariope to Miscanthus, demonstrate the well designed garden with some specimens that are rare to El Paso. The most fascinating area of the garden is the Mexican Folly Cactus Garden designed by the celebrated architect Martha Schwartz. This is a journey every person will want to explore. This cactus garden is an eclectic maze of color and dimension that exhibits unquestionable imagination.
The third garden on the Open Garden Tour is the published Nash Garden. This old world style house built with Colorado moss rock is an integral part of this garden. The front yard rock garden includes many large boulders with overgrown mounds of flowing Sweet Potato vine. The walkway to the front door is constructed with large slabs of flagstone using Dichondra as its mortar. This garden may be described best as a resort in the desert. It has the feel of cool tropics, with its many waterfalls, palm trees and tropical plants. As you enter the backyard, you will walk through an antique brick archway that is partially covered with fig ivy. Perhaps the most notable feature of this garden is the beautiful hardscaping. The garden features 3000 square feet of multi-level antique brick patios surrounded by a large stone fireplace, custom built stacked stone seating and a stone swimming pool. Covering this enchanted garden is an over-arching Honey Mesquite tree, which provides much-needed shade to the many flowers and shrubs that adorn the pool.
As you leave the pool area you will walk up a railroad tie and brick staircase leading to an additional acre of gardens hosting 200 linear feet of perennial flowers. Plants include Rudbeckia, Daylilies, Corepsis, Sunchokes, Victoria Salvia, Neriumbergia, Red Rock Penstemmen, Shasta daisies, Butterfly Bush, Gallardia, Monarda, Lavender, and Artemisia Here, you will also see a golf green complete with grass mounds towering 20 feet tall and a sand trap in the foreground. Beyond the perennial beds is a cactus garden which incorporates large Saguaro cacti, Golden Barrel cacti and many other varieties.
The initial garden tour attendance was the most successful in the history of the El Paso Garden Conservancy. Next year’s gardens have already been selected. If you missed the tour in 2006 you definitely want to attend the 2007 program. For information the website is gardenconservancy.org/opendays.html. A special thank you goes to Maria Woody and Anne Davis, regional representatives from El Paso for the Garden Conservancy.