The Chihuahuan Desert Gardens at UTEP are like a walk through another world. Located on an urban campus, surrounded by concrete, very large brick buildings, and a stones-throw off of Rt. 10, the gardens are a respite from the hustle and bustle of its surroundings. Set on approximately two acres, the garden meanders around the Centennial Museum. The path takes you through a variety of settings and habitats, including a water garden, patio garden, a small amphitheater, a cactus garden, gardens featuring succulents, native turf, sensory plants, among others. Along the way there are plenty of quiet places to rest and enjoy the garden, watch the birds and butterflies, read a book, or talk to your sweetie. A pair of fox inhabits the gardens and sneak out occasionally but don't seem to bother their human visitors.

The garden is completely devoted to the display of plants native the Chihuahuan Desert and houses approximately 800 species. It is a natural-looking garden that seemingly meanders around unhindered, though the truth is in the guiding hands of curators Wynn Anderson and John Smith. The specimens are mostly allowed to keep their natural forms throughout the growing season. However, a light touch keeps the more feisty plants and weeds from taking over.

Interesting features in the garden include a water catchment system that employs natural slope, French drains, and a ponding basin, or hueco, to hold runoff. There are also several fountains that specifically cater to the local bird population with shallow cups and slow water movement. The water features are specifically designed with the garden wildlife in mind as well as to minimize water loss. The retaining walls are built to double as seating and there are benches throughout. The El Fortin garden is built to demonstrate the traditional fort used by early Hispanic settlers in the region. The attention to detail in the design of this garden makes it an exceptionally comfortable and seemingly natural habitat.

The garden is located on University Avenue at the Centennial Museum on the UTEP campus. It is open from dawn to dusk, 365 days/year, and admission is free; wander in at your convenience. Further information is available at http://admin.utep.edu/Default.aspx?tabid=60234. . (Filmed and photographed June 2010)

Within the Keystone Heritage Park lies the El Paso Botanical Garden. The Garden, a work-in-progress, is a recent addition to the El Paso map. Funded by the Junior League, Rotery Club, various business, and civic organizations, the Garden began with a large outdoor gazebo and surrounding landscape suitable for weddings and other formal events. This beginning helped pay the way for the gardens that followed. A huge fountain and reflecting pool greet visitors upon arrival. The walkways wander through various demonstration gardens including a healing garden, a sensory and culinary garden, a cactus and sensory garden, a large pond area, a butterfly garden, a children's garden, and a xeric demonstration garden.

The garden deftly combines the attributes of landscape design with native and adapted plants, from desert to high mountain species suitable to landscapes throughout the region. This Garden is a must-see for homeowners new to the area or thinking of converting a conventional landscape to a xeriscape. The designers have arranged many of the gardens so that homeowners can see how various combinations of plants will look in their own landscape. Homeowners will also see the growth habits and color and texture combinations, and thus be able to evaluate plants suitable for different areas of their yards such as front yards, kid and pet spaces, and patio spaces.

The garden is open year-round on Saturdays and Sundays from 10:00 AM until 2:00 PM. The garden hosts various events, so periodically check the online calendar. It is located at 4200 Doniphan Road, El Paso, TX 79922. http://www.elpasobotanicalgardens.org/index.sstg (Filmed and photographed June 2010)

The Water-Wise Demonstration Garden was sprung from an unkempt, trashed, poorly-graded city lot in 2001. With support from the city of Rio Rancho, the Rio Grande Basin Initiative, local businesses, and Master Gardener volunteers, a visitor now would never guess its pseudo-landfill origins. Never. It is an award-winning, beautifully landscaped, comfortable, water-wise space.

The gardens are informal, using readily-available plants, and demonstrating a variety of landscape ideas that homeowners can apply to their own yards. In addition to plants and layout, the gardens demonstrate the use of mulches, water harvesting techniques, various irrigation methods, and an olla watering system. This garden is one of the few that demonstrates native meadow grasses such as buffalo and blue grama. A cool patio with built-in seating is overhung by a fully-loaded grape arbor - a project easily replicated in a home landscape. The arbor provides much-needed relief from the hot summer sun and offers a soothing view of the primary gardens.

The Master Gardeners allow the plants in the gardens to ramble naturally, demonstrating to homeowners their natural growth habits and behavior. The goal is not perfection; it is reality. If a plant looks ugly in late summer, it is left so homeowners will see that it will need hands-on management. If a plant had an insect or disease or climate-related problem, it is treated and allowed to stay through recovery or removed if it succumbs. This is truly a demonstration garden, demonstrating many possibilities, including the full range of the plants' seasonal cycles and management requirements. It is a must-visit for people who are new to the area or who are planning to re-landscape to a more water-wise yard.

The Garden is open year-round, 8 to 11 AM in Summer and 9 to 11 AM in Winter. It is located at 950 Pinetree Road, SE in Rio Rancho NM between the Post Office and the Esther Bone Library. http://aces.nmsu.edu/county/sandoval/mastergardener/water-wise--garden.html. (Filmed and photographed July 2010)

If you live nearby, are in the vicinity traveling through, or if you just make a day trip of it, stop in at the NMSU demonstration garden in Farmington. The garden is located 3 miles north of Navajo Hwy 3003 on Hwy4063, a 2.5 to 3 hour drive from Albuquerque.

According to garden director and irrigation specialist, Dan Smeal, the Farmington xeric plant research and demonstration garden is unique in that it is split into four differently-irrigated quadrants to demonstrate the growth and quality of the same plants (about 100 species) in each of the four quadrants. The plants featured in the Farmington garden are native or adapted to most regions of the Southwest US, are readily-available, and are common to home landscapes. To see photos, recommended watering schedules, and other information about each species, go to http://aces.nmsu.edu/aes/farm/xeriscape-plants.html.

The garden, at its showiest in late-May and June, is currently located on less than an acre and slated for expansion in the coming year. Both self-guided and pre-scheduled group guided tours are available during regular business hours, 8AM to 4PM M-F except holidays. For additional information or to schedule a tour, please call 505-327-7757 or -7758 or email to farmingt@nmsu.edu; visit at http://farmingtonsc.nmsu.edu.

The drive to Farmington is scenic, from the sandstone and limestone cliffs north of San Ysidro to the peaks of the LaPlata and San Juan Mountains near Farmington. There are many attractions and activities in the area, including the Salman and Aztec Indian Ruins, some of the best trophy trout fishing in NM is found in the San Juan River, great hiking trails, and plenty of dining choices. You can check out activities and events at http://farmington.org. (Filmed and photographed July 2010)