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Albuquerque Innsights

Former New Mexico innkeeper knows secrets and tells anyone who will listen.

Albuquerque Gardening, A Challenging Climate

I have been very negligent of my blog lately. Geeze, my last post was at the beginning of April. Well, I will just have to remedy that. It’s just that the weather in Albuquerque has been so outstanding this month, and I have so much work to do outside as a result of the crazy winter weather we had this year. Lots of plants that normally make it through the winter here in Albuquerque died this winter. Our climate isn’t usually that harsh, and I am glad for that.

Oregano and toad hut at Adobe Nido Bed and Breakfast

The oregano wintered well with monthly watering.

One of the reasons I chose to live in Albuquerque is the climate. I like Albuquerque’s four seasons, but not the extreme winter we experienced this year. Even in a good year, gardening in Albuquerque can be a challenge.

Albuquerque, being a mile high on average, is considered “high desert” and we can’t grow many of the plants that are usually associated with deserts by most people not from this region, like saguaro cactus, agave and joshua trees. Our climate is more like the higher areas of the Mediterranean regions in Spain, Italy and Greece, with lots of sun and little water. Our soil is similar too…alkaline. High, dry and alkaline.

We had a dry winter this year, and to make it worse, at the end of January and early February this year (2011) we had record low temperatures from the New Mexico/Colorado border to the north all the way down through the state to Juarez, Mexico. The sub-zero temperatures hung in for several nights, (and that is Fahrenheit temperatures, folks), bursting pipes, closing schools and businesses and generally raising havoc everywhere. Albuquerque last saw temperatures like that forty years ago in the winter of 1971.  Here is what normal or average temperatures are in Albuquerque:

A new photinia bush at Adobe Nido Bed and Breakfast in Albuquerque

The nandina that died has been preplaced by a phitonia bush with liriope at its feet.

Annual High / Low Daytime Temperatures ABQ Airport:
34°C / 8°C (93°F / 46°F)
Average Daily January Temperature ABQ Airport:
8°C / 46°F
Average Daily June Temperature ABQ Airport:
32°C / 90°F
Annual Rainfall/Precipitation ABQ Airport:
225 mm / 9 inches

As a result of that anomalous cold snap, lots of plants died all over our city, including my yard, so the nurseries and landscapers are doing well this year. I have to replace a nandina, an oleander, pumbago, phlox, yarrow, daisies and even mint. Several rosemary bushes need to be completely replaced or at very least a severe pruning. I know they will recover the pruning, but they look very bare and naked right now.

I have learned a lot over the last 30+ years about gardening in Albuquerque. As a novice gardener I tried to grow the things that were planted in my mother’s garden, but that was in NJ and the gardens barely hung in through a season, never mind making it through to the next year. I found out about a Master Gardener here in New Mexico who teaches and writes fantastic must-read books about gardening in this climate. Her name is Judith Phillips, and without her help I may as well have just given up trying to grow things here. She also came from another climate and found that gardening in New Mexico was an extreme sport. Determined to succeed, she eventually became an area expert and her it is in her books that I glean my knowledge. Despite all I’ve learned, though, many of the hardy perennials, native and non-native, that I have come to depend on did not make it through this past winter. Sometimes you just can’t win.

Honeysuckle ay Adobe Nido Albuquerque bed and breakfast

Coral Honeysuckle made it through our harshest winter in forty years.

The good news is –  I love to garden, so off I go…there is more planting to do. Must make our Albuquerque bed and breakfast as pretty as possible!

I know the best things to do in Albuquerque!
Sarah Dolk, Adobe Nido Bed & Breakfast
Expert on Destination Albuquerque and Central New Mexico!

New potted oleander at Adobe Nido Bed and Breakfast in Albuquerque

We will take precautions with this oleander if the temperature dips below zero again.

Culinary Sage at Albuquerque Bed and Breakfast, Adobe Nido

Salvia Officinalis, Culinary Sage, is well established and thriving.

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3 Responses to “Albuquerque Gardening, A Challenging Climate”

  1. Paul says:

    I live in Las Cruces, NM and we too have harsh cold snaps. We are usually around 5 degrees warmer during the cold seasons. Last years February freeze damaged numerous plants and trees including Mexican fan palms that have been around for over twenty years.

    Most Oleander around Las Cruces have come back you just have to be patient. Usually until mid summer before seeing signs of life.

    Thanks for this great post.

  2. dkzody says:

    Oleander will come back after a freeze. It is grown in the median of the freeways here in California, and one year the freeze was so bad as to kill the oleanders back. Just left to their own devices, meaning no watering or pruning, they were back to normal by the next winter. It is an unbelievably hardy plant. Same for those nandinas. Gosh, I wish the cold weather would kill some of mine. They just keep propagating!

    By the way, I am coming to your fair city in June and hoping for warm temperatures.

    • adobenido says:

      We waited and waited to no avail….the oleanders are dead…all over town. They have been handling sub freezing temps for years, but several nights of sub ZERO was too much, and many of the nandina thought so too. This weather was so severe that our neighbors 30+ year old ash trees are very damaged as well. A very anomalous winter, indeed.

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copyright 2009 :: sarah dolk, adobe nido bed and breakfast, albuquerque nm :: photos by susan see, abq, nm & marianne groszko, mariannephotography.net