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  • Lauren Springer

Beauty with a Purpose • David Salman

On June 5th we lost David Salman, the innovator who started High Country Gardens, Santa Fe Greenhouses, and Waterwise Gardening LLC. A pioneering plantsman, David also introduced more than eighty new plants to American gardeners. Not only did he change what plants we garden with here in the interior West and make them available to all with a mailing address, he shifted the paradigms of how and why we garden by focusing his passionate environmentalism on selecting and promoting waterwise, pollinator- and bird-friendly plants. What’s more, he never forgot the human desire and need for beauty: his keen eye for selections followed his motto of beauty with a purpose.

A thoughtful man with a deep love for the land, David was ever the student in the garden, the greenhouse, and especially the wild. He embodied the values of the old-school west in his humility, generosity, kindness, and reserve, always finding time to teach, share plants, donate his time, and quietly mentor other horticulturists. He had the pragmatism and innovative resourcefulness of a seasoned ranch hand, whether fixing things mechanical or making impromptu origami-like seed packets out of paper scraps when necessary.

David could read and feel a place, intuitively knowing where a plant would be growing in the wild. On countless plant explorations with him, we’d come to an abrupt halt in his pickup, jump out, and with Leatherman and pruners on his belt and a tiny ever-present notebook in his pocket, he’d be bounding up some rocky hillside. David also embodied the values of his generation—fierce environmentalism and a distrust of big government and large corporations. He was among the first to bravely speak out on a national level against the use of neonicotinoids on nursery plants and in landscapes and gardens.

This same man had a gentle down-home warmth and love of living things, with a genuine smile that deeply crinkled his eyes, and an almost secretive chuckle that often seemed amusingly postponed or to spring out of nowhere. He filled his home and trial gardens with plants to feed his beloved hummingbirds and consistently promoted this plant-bird connection. When passing by a lavender plant, he would brush his hand over it for the fragrance, and he made sure to offer dozens of selections of this favorite plant of his—old heirloom varieties lost to the trade, European cultivars not yet offered in the States, and his own introductions. And did he ever love his dogs, several of which were abandoned roadside rescues. On our last hike together in his home habitat, the beautiful mountains of northern New Mexico, I remember him throwing sticks for them, making a cup with his hands for them to drink water from our bottles, and sharing our hardboiled eggs and cheese with them while pondering aloud how the silver pussytoes at our feet seemed a bit more vigorous and larger than those we’ve typically seen. Let’s honor this great man by continuing his legacy of promoting and planting resilient, planet-respectful, beautiful landscapes and gardens that support and enrich the web of life.

Lauren Springer



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