Charles Mann

An aspen and conifer courtyard mimics the Sangre de Cristos

Sharon Cohoon,  – September 12, 2005

It’s no secret among locals that quaking aspen (Populus tremuloides) is beautifully at home in Santa Fe gardens. The tree’s tall, narrow habit allows you to plant it in multiples, even in a small, confined space like this, says Richard Wilder, the landscape designer who laid out Robert and Mary Platt’s entry courtyard pictured at left.   “When aspen trunks are set closely together, it gives the effect of a woodland,” he explains, “because that’s the way you see them growing in nature.” Planting in colonies also accentuates the sound and movement of the tree’s leaves and, in autumn, makes the most of their brilliant golden color.

The tree’s shape and deciduous habit have other assets. “Aspens are tall enough to use as screening, but sparse and open enough to let in light,” Wilder says. Come winter, when you need warmth from the sun, the trees obligingly drop their leaves. The white bark is another plus ― it’s striking against dark fencing and stucco.

To play up the paler nature of the aspens, Wilder contrasted them with dark-colored bristlecone and mugho pines. He completed the Platts’ woodland garden by adding blue fescue as a groundcover and Russian sage at the forest’s edge.

Design: Richard Wilder, Wilder Landscaping, Santa Fe (505/989-8524)