Learn to plant wisely at Authors Speak

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By Kirsten Laskey

Judith Phillips  is working to usher people outdoors. Not only is this award-winning landscape designer and owner of Judith Phillips Design Oasis coaxing people to experience the great outdoors, but she is showing them how to sculpt their outside spaces the correct way.

She accomplishes these objectives in a number of ways including through her business, through the class she teaches at The University of New Mexico for landscape architect students and through the several books she  has written. Her publications are “New Mexico Gardener’s Guide: Revised Edition,” “Southwestern Landscaping with Native Plants: Revised Edition,” “Natural by Design” and “Plants for Natural Gardens.”

Phillips will continue her efforts to celebrate and care for the great outdoors during her upcoming presentation for the Authors Speak series, which will be held at 7 p.m. Thursday in Mesa Public Library’s upstairs rotunda.

According to a press release, Phillips specializes in design and consulting in ecosystem–based landscape.

“I do landscape design, eco-based design,” she said. “My goal is designing a landscape to make people comfortable in the space outdoors so they use the space outdoors and go outdoors and make it a habitat for wildlife and to make it managaeable in terms of water and how well adapted the plants are in the space you put them.”

Phillips has been doing this work for 35 years in New Mexico. She also has been teaching for 10 years at UNM.

She explained she enjoys doing this work because “I guess the fact that (landscaping) is a functaional art. I really consider plants to be a medium like oil or watercolor in creating space outdoors that you can live in. I like the fact that it contributes to a better future.”

During her talk at the library, Phillips said she plans to discuss the influence garden writers have on what gets planted in people’s yards. In the past, she said, writers had a tendancy to mislead their readers. Horticulturists had been too genric  and created expectations that are suitable in all climate conditions. This can result in planting plants that are not adaptable to arid conditions and producing plants that are stunted or scarred with burned leaves.

However, in the last           25 years or so, Phillips said publishers have made more of an effort to localize gardening.

It’s not just for sake of a garden’s appearance that Phillips emphasizes growing native plants or plants that can adapt to the area. Conserving water plays a major role.

She said water is a huge issue and sometimes people seem to think because most of the planet is covered in water that it must come in plentiful supply. Yet, with the population growing there is less usable water.

Phillips described the situation in banking terms. People have  way over allocated what’s available, and as a result, that over drawn balance is going to crop up.

“I think it’s really critical people pay attention to how they use water,” she said. “That’s one of the main things that drive me.”