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)