Plain as dirt: Like lilcas planted in Santa Fe |

Plain as dirt: Like lilcas planted in Santa Fe

Tom Glass
Vail CO, Colorado
Tom Glass

The dog days of summer are resting full upon us, and in my mind I’m heading south to Santa Fe. I’m not going for that UV boost you get six hours due south by car. Nope. I want to go see what’s still living in the landscapes in the Land of Enchantment.

I get a kick out of Santa Fe. Parts of it don’t make any sense at all. I think everybody there is half-crazed by the light and the heat. They’re proud of that. As a simple for instance of what I’m talking about, if it’s so damned hot outside, why put more peppers on food than what hangs by the door?

Why, I do like it that way myself, most particularly when I’m down there. But that kind of pepper logic is all mixed in with that mystic, cactus vision dream-catcher stuff that everybody there is being arty about. They pot, sculpt, paint, weave, and weld down there like mad men and women.

Man, Santa Fe. It’s so simple, it’s complex. It’s so plain it’s elegant. It’s so straight-forward, it enchants. We can learn from that. They garden with weeds.

When you come upon a designed landscape in Santa Fe you see little change between the natural landscaping of the desert as it becomes part of the designed landscaping surrounding the houses and buildings.

Shade is found under trees that seemingly grew there, although they were certainly placed. Particularly the trees in the older sections are large and shady, welcoming places large enough to allow people to meet and talk. Santa Fe exhibits sometimes a perfect blend of the natural and the manipulated. It can be landscape and design displaying only that of man that is created by our simply living.

And then somebody plants one common lilac bush by an adobe wall and a sun-weathered wooden gate and you simply sit back and want to cry. Perfection from man exists! I have proof. It’s planted beside a gravel road that winds along an arroyo north of town.

The lilac doesn’t belong. It was placed. It is somewhat a violation of the natural. Waste not a drop. Except, despite its extravagant blooms, and large, thick green leaves, the deep roots and grapevine trunks of lilac bushes are made for Santa Fe. A lilac can live well there.

That’s proof to me that men and women do good things even when they are casting about randomly. Sometimes they plant the right flower despite their surroundings. We can learn from that.

Tom Glass writes a weekly gardening column for the Vail Daily. E-mail comments about this article to

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