Northern New Mexico is a land balancing beautiful extremes. Awesome elevations with thick piney forests, high mountain meadows and spring-fed streams. The once and future floodplain of the wide Rio Grande now holds tidy rows of young chile, beans and corn guarded over by mammoth old cottonwoods, trunks ten feet in diameter. Dry pink hills dotted with juniper and piñon contain an incredible diversity of edible and useful plants. Alkaline flatlands are covered with miles of ancient greasewood – some plants dated at thousands of years old.
Precipitation levels vary widely here, even within a few miles. Travel up a few thousand feet and you gain 10 inches in rain and snow fall. Temperatures swing. In the mountains summer nights are a cold 45ºF, while summer days reach into the high 90sº. The soils vary just as much. Old river bottoms at the base of limestone cliffs have soils so alkaline you can squeeze a lemon and watch your garden dirt fizz. Others are encrusted with white saline salts. Others dark, loamy and deep. Most are densely mineral rich and devoid of any organic matter to speak of.
The year here is half winter and half not. Spring winds come in at hurricane speed. Hot dry summers are finally broken by torrential monsoonal rains dropping more than a fourth of the year’s moisture in a few hours. Pink and green lightening colors our skies, half sunny blue, half raining black. All of these extremes breed resilience and brilliantly adapted plants communities. 80 foot taproots, leaves with wax, spines, poison and fierce perfumes, seeds that grow, bloom and die within the space of a few weeks, plants that sleep until wakened by rain.
Most run-of-the-mill garden center plants will die here. Our plants flourish in these tough conditions, their smart defenses useful to us. Their strong scent compounds the desert perfumes that we are seeking after. The high desert is a land balancing beautiful extremes.
Come wander the wilds with us.