2023 #6 Magnificent Mesa

Subdivision: Ideal Acres
Owners: R. Rene Strong
Garden Type or Features:  A beautifully landscaped and productive remote garden property with mature fruit trees, raised garden beds, native shrubs, and perennial flowers planted against awe inspiring panoramic mesa views Cabazon peak and the Jemez Mountains.  

Artist in the Garden:  Mary Louise (Mary Lou) Skelton

Description: After a long search for property that would blend her desire for solitude and memories of a childhood in Corrales and summers with her grandparents in Santa Fe, René Strong settled on a two-acre parcel near the end of the road in northeastern Placitas. Magnificent views of Cabezon and the Jemez Mountains sealed the deal, and in 2020 she retired to her “dream home” and began making it her own.

She inherited a mature backyard orchard that provides shade as well as abundant plum, apple, peach, apricot and figs crops. Beneath the trees, established raised beds were ready for Strong’s vegetable gardens, and a variety of native shrubs framed the lovely views. A water spigot and stock tank are the only improvements outside the back wall, there to provide water for nearby wildlife communities, including wild horse herds. The front courtyard teemed with mature lavender, rose and peony plants, many of them at the end of their life cycles.

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Strong wanted to provide a peaceful landscape that would blend with the beautiful natural environment outside her walls, so she got to work thinning out beds and clearing out clutter by removing extraneous and dying plants and replacing them with drought tolerant species. An elderly Spanish broom was removed, for example, leaving room for a lilac bush to thrive, and a large iris bed was downsized, with much of it repurposed for desert and native plants. An updated drip system was installed that divided the yard into six zones plus the raised beds, delivering only the water needed by the plants in each zone.

Bees now pollinate the flowering shrubs, and hummingbirds drink nectar from the feeders. Bats have found a home hanging from the front and back porch vigas. Gopher snakes often stop by and are always welcome for a mouse lunch. “I worked 47 years for this,” René said. “I wanted my childhood back.”