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Christopher Hall on a boat, picture

Santa Fe's Botanical Beauty

Posted by Christopher Hall on January 08, 2016
  • rose and lavender section of Santa Fe Botanical Garden, picture
    Photo credit
    Photo: Christopher Hall
    Photo caption
    Sit under a ramada and breathe in the fragrance of the garden's lavender and roses.
  • cholla in bloom, picture
    Photo credit
    Photo: Christopher Hall
    Photo caption
    Don't get too close to the cholla. The barbed spines will cling to skin and clothing.
  • bloom of Echinocereus triglochidiatus arizonicus or arizona hedgehog cacti, picture
    Photo credit
    Photo: Stan Shebs
    Photo caption
    The showy Arizona hedgehog cactus, native to the area, is listed as an endangered species.

Santa Fe, New Mex., boasts a terrific list of major attractions, including galleries, museums, restaurants, and architecture. When you need a break from the art, the adobes, and the chile-inflected pleasures of the cuisine, a visit to the city's most recent attraction is in order.

The Santa Fe Botanical Garden at Museum Hill showcases native and non-native plants found in northern New Mexico. The initial two-acre phase, dubbed the Orchard Gardens, opened in July 2013. Eventually, the botanical garden will fill its 13-acre site outside the center of town, straddling the Arroyo de los Piños and adjacent to some of the city's premier cultural institutions.

The Orchard Gardens combine dense plantings with architectural elements like wooden ramadas—Southwest-style arbors—and walls of ochre-colored, hand-hewn New Mexico stone. Peach, apple, and cherry trees are backed by a shady ramada covered in grape vines. A central walkway skirts fragrant plantings of roses and lavender. The dry garden features stunning desert plants such as low, bristly cholla cacti, hedgehog cacti, and spiky New Mexico agave. And in a meadow, native plants and grasses put on a changing seasonal show with a granite sculpture resembling three large boulders serving as the focal point.

One of the garden's more unusual features is a once-abandoned 1913 steel truss highway bridge. Plucked from its original site elsewhere in New Mexico, the bridge got a bolt-to-beam renovation—including a coat of fire-engine red paint—and now spans the arroyo. Don't be surprised if you see a beaming bride and groom on it. At 62 feet long and 16 feet wide, it's proving a popular spot for weddings and other special events.

This blog post was first published in January 2016. Some facts may have aged gracelessly. Please call ahead to verify information.