A cozy courtyard in Albuquerque

Behind a wall, they created an intimate garden

A cozy courtyard in Albuquerque

Charles Mann

A few years ago, Judy Propper and her husband, Tom Cartledge, bought a home in the Sandia Heights neighborhood of Albuquerque. At that time, Propper recalls, the backyard was a "wasteland" of brush and scraggly fruit trees. Looking for guidance, the couple enrolled in a course offered by the University of New Mexico titled "Master Planning for the Residential Landscape." Coincidentally, they wound up hiring the instructor, landscape architect Alana Markle, now with the Albuquerque BioPark. "We wanted an enclosed garden," Propper says. "We had the concept, and Alana did the design."

First, they removed an old wood fence and built a stucco-on-cinderblock wall around the yard. Inside the wall, which steps up in height from 5 to 6 feet, they planted aspens, desert willows, honey locusts, and piñons, installed tiered flower beds, and created inviting spaces for outdoor living. For example, in the northeast corner of the garden pictured here, they erected an arbor with a swing beneath. To cover the arbor, Propper and Cartledge planted climbing Lady Banks' rose (Rosa banksiae 'Alba Plena'). This frost-tender rose doesn't bloom every spring in the high-desert climate, but Propper likes the lush canopy of glossy leaves. "When it does bloom, it's really beautiful," she says.

A path of Colorado Red flagstones laced with woolly thyme leads to the arbor. Yellow-flowered coreopsis and purple Spanish lavender flank the path. Hall's honeysuckle climbs the wall to the left. Hardy perennials such as black-eyed Susan, catmint, delphinium, dianthus, purple coneflower, Russian sage, Shasta daisy, and yarrow provide seasonal color, with red, pink, and purple penstemons stealing the show in May and June. A drip-irrigation system waters the perennials and trees.

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