Chihuahuan Desert Gardens

As COVID continues to rage we took an outdoor hiking vacation to El Paso and the surrounding parks. A flat tire left us stranded in El Paso for an entire day waiting for a replacement. We ended up checking out several local gardens including the Chihuahuan Desert Garden at UT El Paso (UTEP).

The garden meanders around a museum. I was expecting the “introduction to native plants” you find at many state parks, but the number and quality of specimens was amazing.

The most common common name seemed to be “shindagger”. Multiple plants carry it. Seems to be a big issue in the desert.
UTEP has its own architectural vernacular which melds well with the garden.
The campus itself is landscaped with native and adapted plants with the jaw-dropping backdrop of the Davis Mountains. I wish UT Austin would do more of this.
This Algarito specimen is amazing. A plant that in our wet environment I expect to be spindly was bushy and full in their garden.
We all loved the shape and remaining seedheads of the Mexican Tree Sunflower (Tithonia fruticosa).
Assuming this is a bigtooth maple with fall color (I didn’t take a picture of the sign). We saw a lot of these up in the Guadalupe Mountains, but they had all lost their leaves.
Lots of Queen Victoria agaves that were much more open than I’m used to. Is this because of the dry air?
An amazing caterpillar we saw chomping away. The neon greens and blacks reminded me of an energy drink can.
For my friends who think my garden is too spiky, at least I don’t have this plant. The aptly named “allthorn” (Koeberlinia spinosa).
In the middle of the garden was this respite from the sun – a delicate water feature.
And leaving my favorite plant for last – this is a Desert Willow. No really. My daughter is provided for scale, and she’s 5’9″. I have never seen a Desert Willow even remotely approach this. We all had to look at the label like 12 times and compare it to some of the smaller specimens in the garden. Now I have high expectations for the one outside my back window.

The UT El Paso campus had some amazing views and kinetic sculptures.

I-10, the wall, and Juarez.

Our vacation was supposed to be hiking and this wasn’t on our schedule, but it was an unexpected surprise. This has definitely gone one my list as one of my favorite gardens in Texas. I can’t wait to go back and see it in the other seasons.

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