Steven A. Gunther

This Tesuque, NM garden is in a class of its own

SHARON COHOON  – August 14, 2005 | Updated February 8, 2019

“Unclassifiable” might be the best adjective to describe Gwill Newman’s courtyard garden. True, it has many of the elements of a classic Santa Fe courtyard ― heavily plastered walls with sensuous, rounded edges; deep, shady portals held up by peeled pine logs; a central fountain sparkling in the sun. Yet, somehow, Newman’s garden doesn’t come across as traditional. Maybe it’s her restrained use of plants: Instead of the usual riot of annuals and perennials, Newman narrowed her plant palette to two pairs of gray-green ‘Wichita Blue’ junipers and a series of yellow ‘Graham Thomas’ roses. The result feels almost Tuscan or Provençal, and the paler-than-typical colors she’s chosen for gravel, sandstone, and stucco reinforce this Mediterranean mood.

Newman daydreamed about owning a courtyard like this for decades. When she and her husband, Bruce, moved to Santa Fe from Chicago, she set about creating a courtyard garden that was uniquely hers. The Mediterranean colors of the plants and hardscape, for instance, reflect the pale floors and pastel furniture that Newman favors for interiors. The style is Bauhaus-influenced. “Those architects believed in stripping away all nonessentials,” she says. “They thought living that way would make people behave better. Plotting evil would be very difficult in this space,” she adds with amusement. “It makes me much too happy.”

INFO: Peter Meek, PLM Construction Services, Santa Fe (505/424-4100)

Landscape lessons

Keep it simple. If you want your garden to exude calm the way Gwill Newman’s does, eliminate excess. Start by keeping hardscape colors monochromatic. The sandstone tiles, gravel, and stucco in Newman’s courtyard are all in closely matched shades of soft beige. Her planting scheme is equally restrained, as in the yellow ‘Graham Thomas’ roses climbing the columns.

Watch scale. For a simple space to feel balanced, all elements have to be in proportion, like the pool and fountain in Newman’s courtyard. Because the courtyard is large ― 46 feet by 46 feet ― Newman knew she needed a dramatic central focal point. But when the white marble fountain was installed, she decided its final tier was too massive and had the tier removed.

Add texture. To give interest to a garden without disturbing its serenity, vary textures. Newman counterbalanced the smoothness of sandstone and stucco with crunchy gravel. She also contrasted the sleekness of the walls with more rugged wood, starting with the wood-and-iron entrance gates, imported from India. Wicker furniture and metal chandeliers add more textural variation.

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