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CDRI Desert NewsFlash
February 2021
We loved this picture taken at CDRI by CDRI friend and member Danny Hancock, Lubbock, Texas.
Cactus Museum brochure.
Changes are Coming to the Garden

Usually, January and February are slow months when the garden doesn’t make too many demands of needing water or extra care like it does as soon as the outside temperature warms up. And, the amount of visitors slows a bit during the winter – usually. That’s usually. But what has been usual about anything since 2020 began? And now, 2020 has rolled right into 2021, and here we are! Although some of our operations are different as we continue to work through the pandemic, and programs have been put on hold for a while, we've kept things fun and exciting!
In truth, each day at the Nature Center has been exhilarating and fun! It has been everything and anything but quiet as we welcome visitors who are happy to be outdoors. Additionally, we’re making some changes to the Botanical Gardens. The improvements cover two areas of the Garden: the Cactus Greenhouse (see: information in this section) and the Pollinator Garden (details follow in the next article).
 
The Cactus Greenhouse
In December 2020, we received a wonderfully generous donation from the Estate of Maxie Templeton. Maxie was a philanthropist from San Antonio, whose husband, Arleigh Templeton, was the President of the University of Texas at El Paso. Before that, he was the first President at the University of Texas at San Antonio, and he served as President at Sam Houston State University. Maxie was the gracious hostess, wife, gardener, cook, and ultimately, philanthropist.
To show our gratitude, CDRI is renaming the Cactus Greenhouse the “Maxie Templeton Cactus Museum Collection.” Being one of the world’s largest collec-tions of Chihuahuan Desert cacti, CDRI is bringing long-deserved recognition to the Cactus Greenhouse.  
Once you are inside the fenced Botanical Gardens, you’ll see colorful signs along the path directing you to the Maxie Templeton Cactus Museum Collection. Additionally, as you approach the greenhouse, you’ll feel welcomed by new, thoughtfully designed landscaping and a seating area around the greenhouse structure. Visitors will be able to enjoy the outdoor cactus garden, as well as get design ideas for their own gardens at home. And, they will also have the opportunity to learn about cacti of the Chihuahuan Desert from the new, interpretive signage.
Inside the Greenhouse, each display table will have a visible, colorful, and easy-to-read sign that names the Genus of cacti on display. There will also be new signs identifying the cacti in the rock garden located at the south end of the greenhouse. And, a 38-page, supplemental guide-booklet will be offered for sale at the Powell Visitor Center at a cost of $2.
As for how the work is progressing, presently, the walking paths and planting beds are now defined with rock borders. Plants will be arriving soon. The end result will be transformational. We hope you’ll agree.
We look forward to welcoming you soon!
Thank you!
There is a lot to see in the above image. Not only have we created signs directing visitors to the Cactus Museum, but there is also the Cactus Museum guide. Included in the above image is a sample of a table identification sign (Coryphantha). In addition, we've updated all of the trail guide booklets for Modesta Canyon, Clayton's Overlook, The Botanical Gardens, and Geology Guide, as well as updated the trail and garden maps. 
The Pollinator Garden is getting a makeover
 
When Seth, CDRI’s Head Gardener, began working at CDRI in September 2019, he almost immediately began working on the Pollinator Garden – as kind of a mini-makeover. That project included trimming and shaping the large Emory oak at the beginning of the Pollinator Garden site.  Next, last spring, Seth was busy planting annuals at the Pollinator Garden. When Steven, CDRI’s Maintenance Supervisor, came on board in July, he immediately went to work tidying and sprucing up the trail that encircles the Pollinator Garden around the bottom of the rock outcropping. Then, in November, Seth and Steven collaborated efforts in cutting down and removing a large, dead juniper that was blocking the view at the high point of the rock outcropping on the Pollinator Garden Trail. Removing the tree has opened up some of the more beautiful vistas from the CDRI site. (The remainder of this article continues after the photos.)
The following series of photos that follow have been included to give you a peek at the view from the Pollinator Garden Trail. 
Keeping with the theme of a remodel, we are delighted to add that more good things have come to CDRI.  CDRI is the fortunate recipient for the third consecutive year of an extremely generous grant from the “Unnamed” Family Foundation. The family foundation is kind and generous, but to be able to maintain their privacy, they wish to remain anonymous. Their donations have allowed many upgrades to the CDRI site which we would not have been able to do without their gifts. Thank you!
Part of the 2020-21 grant from the family foundation includes replacing the signage in the Pollinator Garden. Pollinators play a key role in maintaining the balance in a healthy ecosystem, providing the means by which plants, including food crops, are able to produce fruit and seeds. The garden signs will help to inform visitors of the importance of pollinators as well as inform them about the variety of pollinators that frequent our garden.
We’ve included a few preliminary images (they are still in the editing stage) to give you an idea of what you will see on future visits.

Who's Working Behind the Scenes on These Projects?

We have put together a great team to get the projects moving forward and to see them to their completion. They include the CDRI Team of Seth Hamby, Head Gardener; Steven Hamilton, Maintenance Supervisor; and Lisa Gordon, E.D.
But there’s more! We have the assistance of two immensely talented gentlemen, Jim Martinez and Jim Fissel of Marfa, Texas, who jumped in from the beginning (back in December) to get things rolling.
Jim Martinez serves as Vice-President on CDRI's Board of Directors. He has shared his landscape design expertise by developing an extensive, thoughtfully designed landscaping plan around the Cactus Greenhouse. Jim M. has also ordered gravel deliveries and is helping with obtaining plants for the project.
Jim Fissel's background is based on designing critical communication brochures and interpretive signage. Using his design and communication skills, Jim F. has taken the lead on designing the signage for both the Pollinator Garden and the Cactus Greenhouse, as well as designing the Cactus Museum brochure, and the redesign of the existing trail brochures and maps.  
Volunteers David Gutierrez and Randall Moose, students at Sul Ross State University (SRSU), have worked hauling rocks, shoveling, and raking gravel. Rose Shipman, visiting from out of town, worked with Seth for several days.
There will be plenty of other volunteer opportunities if anyone wants to join in on the fun. To volunteer, please send an email to lgordon@cdri.org.
Photos for all of the projects are courtesy of Alan Wintz, Andy Morgan, Jim Fissel, Seth Hamby, and Lisa Gordon. 
We thank everyone who has been involved from the giving to the planning to the doing. There's a lot more to be done. Our line of communication is always open and we welcome you to join us as we complete the renovations. 
Above, Jim Fissel (left) and Jim Martinez (right) discuss landscape design and planting ideas for the area.
Above, Randall Moose, Rose Shipman, and David Gutierrez level the area under the awning of the Maintenance Building to construct brick dividers for soil and gravel used when potting cacti.
Garden Notes
Trans-Pecos Wildscaping
By Seth Hamby
 
Since time immemorial, cultures across the globe have been rooted in a deep sense of place. A connection to the landscape, the flora and fauna of an area, the seasonality, and the ebb and flow of life have been at the core of the human experience. In a world where the majority of people are living in big cities of boundless concrete or in sprawling suburban seas of manicured lawns, we are increasingly disconnected from that place. Even for those of us living close to nature, it is not always easy to ground ourselves in an appreciation of that sense of place.
As human civilization continues to encroach into wild spaces, it becomes essential that we humans bring wild spaces into our built environments. By one estimate, we have already reached a point where the weight of concrete outweighs all plant life on Earth. In the U.S., manicured lawns requiring countless gallons of water and fertilizer, cover 40 million acres, roughly the size of Florida. The best way that everyday Americans can help to offset habitat loss while bringing beauty, joy, and appreciation into their own lives is through wildscaping.
Wildscaping can be defined as the creation of intentional landscapes designed to provide habitat for wildlife. Habitat refers to the biotic and abiotic features of an area that can be used by organisms to support survival and/or reproduction. The goal of a wildscape garden is to support as many different species as possible throughout their entire lifecycles. As you can imagine, planning, implementing, and maintaining a wildscape garden is a very thoughtful and dynamic process.
In addition to the main goal of creating a habitat for wildlife, a wildscape garden must also work for you and your lifestyle, as well as the community you live in. Before embarking on this journey, consider your level of dedication, your aesthetic, and the feelings of your neighbors. Sometimes, people will not understand what you are trying to accomplish until long after it is finished and you invite them over to experience it for themselves. This is an opportunity to evangelize about the benefits of wildscaping and encourage others to follow suit.
So, how does one begin the process? All landscaping projects should begin with a visual inventory (aka a map) of the property including structures, boundaries, and existing vegetation. Before any planning commences, a period of observation in which you seek to familiarize yourself with the land and its processes is critical. Which area of the property receives morning sunlight, midday, and afternoon sunlight? How does that vary throughout the seasons? Are there existing trees or structures that create shade? If so, your plant selection will need to reflect the light availability. Is there a strong prevailing wind? Would your garden benefit from the protection of a wind-blocking hedge? If you live in West Texas, the answer is a resounding yes. What kind of soil is on your property? If sand or clay, you might benefit from the addition of organic material. If you plan on planting xeric species, perhaps the addition of grit and gravel would be appropriate. When it rains, how does the water move across your property? You may want to create a series of small berms that will direct the flow of water and help it to infiltrate into the soil, therefore decreasing the need to water.
Along with berms, now is the time to begin planning other infrastructures such as water features, delineation of beds, placement of large stones or logs, bird/bat/bee houses, and feeders. Remember that the three key things you are trying to provide are water, food, and shelter, and the more redundant you can be, the better. Central to increasing biodiversity is the Habitat Diversity Hypothesis, which posits that the more habitat types an area has, the greater the biodiversity. In a small area like a backyard, habitat diversity can be achieved with the creation of microhabitats. A microhabitat is just a small habitat within a larger habitat and can be as simple as a rotting log, a pile of leaves, stacked rocks, a heavily shaded area, or a consistently damp area that provides a unique environment.
Now that you have taken an inventory, observed your site, made a general plan, and built the infrastructure, you are ready for what most people will consider the hardest part, plant selection. What I consider to be the most important part of choosing plants is the selection of all, or predominately, native plants. The use of native plants in a wildscape garden has manifold benefits. Most obvious, is the fact that native plants have coevolved with native wildlife and will therefore attract and sustain more native wildlife than non-native plants will. This is not to say that I am a native plant purist. It is certainly okay to include a few non-native species in your garden, as long as they are not invasive. Another benefit of natives is that they require less costly inputs of fertilizer and water than most non-natives.
A helpful analogy when planning your wildscape is to mimic the structure and ecology of natural ecosystems. Think of the natural canopy layers of a forest -- large canopy trees, mid-canopy trees, shrubs, herbaceous perennials, groundcover, and vines. If you want to include multiply ecosystem types, such as prairie, desert scrub, or savanna, this analogy can be translated to these systems as well. Remember that layering of sizes, colors, and textures, as well as creating small groupings of the same species (3 works best for the eye) will bring structure and cohesion to your wildscape. It is also important to intersperse evergreen species for winter color. Surprisingly, there are tons of Chihuahuan Desert plants that are evergreen.
The most critical part of plant selection is finding plants that provide food, nesting, and cover throughout the entire year. For instance, you want to have at least one, ideally many, plants that are flowering in every season. A diversity of flower form and color is also important for accommodating as many different pollinators as possible. Two plants that will flower reliably, even in the winter months, are four-nerve daisy (Tetraneuris scaposa) and prairie verbena (Glandularia bipinnatfida). There are also plants that play host to various species of butterflies, moths, and other insects, that are worth researching. Oaks, hackberries, and kidneywoods come to mind. Also important is to consider the seeds and fruits produced by plants. Many birds and small mammals rely on these food resources. Sumacs (Anacardiaceae), sunflowers (Asteraceae), and peas (Fabaceae) are notable for their fruit and seed value to wildlife.
Maintenance of your wildscape should also be a thoughtful process. You may want to leave fallen leaves in place to help build soil and provide habitat and overwintering sites for wildlife. When pruning back perennials, leave at least 6-8 inches of stem above ground for stem-nesting native bees. Patches of bare ground are also incredibly important for ground-nesting bees. From late fall to early spring, be sure to provide supplemental food resources for migrating and resident birds.
No matter how elaborate or how small your wildscape is, you are doing an important service for native wildlife. Even planting a few flowers, putting out a bowl of water (with platforms for insects to land), and regularly filling a bird-feeder is a wildscape because you are providing food, water, and shelter for wildlife. I guarantee that you will be amazed at how much wildlife you can attract with a few simple steps. In the process, you will develop a greater appreciation for the natural world as well as a more profound sense of place. 
Above left: Mexican redbud, 3-20-20; above center: Fragrant ash, 4-13-20; above right, Cat's Claw Acacia, 5-1-20.
Above left, Narrow-leaf rosewood; above right, Birchleaf buckthorn. Both plants were photographed on 6-5-20.
Above left, Salvia bed, 10-16-20; above right, Tecoma stans, 7-15-20.
Thank you CDRI Members!
 
The support we’ve received from our Members, especially through 2020, has been beyond belief! Thank you to each of you – both new members and those of you who have renewed your memberships. 
Even as we are maneuvering through a pandemic, your belief in CDRI has not wavered. Our membership has remained steady and is pretty close to what it was at this same time last year! That stands in contrast to nature centers and museums across the country reporting losses in membership as great as 50%.
We know how fortunate we are to have such loyal members. Thank you very much!  Your membership helps support nearly 15% of our annual operating costs.
We love getting to know our members, seeing you all return, and then seeing you return again, and again. We also love how so many of our members become involved as volunteers. Again, thank you very much!
If you have been intending to join, this is a good time to do just that.
Just click on the link below.  

Click Here for Memberships!

Cactus Sale Update
Due to the continuing pandemic, CDRI will not have its Cactus Sale this year. We have made this decision out of the utmost concern for the health and well-being of our volunteers, the CDRI Team, and our visitors.
Thank you for your understanding. 
Host Camper News

Many of you know how valuable our Host Campers are to the operations at CDRI. They not only are a great help, but they also become good friends during their stay and beyond that time.  And, you have likely met each of our Host Campers over the past five, going on six, years.
BJ King has been working at the Nature Center each October through January since 2017. This year, she helped us out by staying an extra two weeks. BJ will be leaving for Arizona on February 15. We are sad to see her leave, but we look forward to welcoming the "Membership Queen" back to CDRI next Fall. 
Rolling in on February 15th will be new Host Campers Dale Pilcher and Wendi Bates. With Fort Worth as their home base, Dale and Wendi have bought some property in the Davis Mountains Resort, where they are currently fixing up and finishing the cabin that came with the land.
In a normal year (without a pandemic to work around) Wendi and Dale would be working as stagehands with the Fort Worth IATSE 126. Wendi creates and builds theater sets and scenery, as well as operates and troubleshoots A/V gear for theater productions. Dale is the Assistant Properties Master for the Texas Ballet Theater, Fort Worth. Being a fully trained harp maker and technician, Dale also owns and manages Wiliams Harp Gallery (www.williamsharpgallery.com). He is also an antique restoration craftsman, and a licensed residential construction and remodeling contractor.
We are very happy to welcome Dale and Wendi as our next host campers at CDRI. They will be working at the CDRI site Thursday, Friday, and Saturday for the next three months (maybe longer!). We hope each of you will get a chance to meet and get to know this interesting couple. 
Dale Pilcher and Wendi Bates.
Celebrating the Life of Tom Younger

We were honored to welcome the Younger family who came to CDRI to hike to the top of Clayton's Overlook in a celebration of life, remembering Tom Younger, Midland, Texas, on the first anniversary of his passing. Family members included his widow Brandi; sisters Meredith and Katie; Brandi's children Claire, Lexi, and Will Parr; and Meredith's dog Dagger. 
In the above photo, standing, are Claire and Lexi Parr, Katie, Meredith and Brandi Younger, Will Parr and friend; sitting: Dagger (Good boy!).

Snowbirds at the Nature Center
Images by CDRI friend and member, Alan Wintz, Alpine, Texas.
From "the best rural Nature Center in Texas" 
we wish you happy days and
happy trails! 
The CDRI Team looks forward to
welcoming you on your next visit.  
Thank you!
Chihuahuan Desert Research Institute, P.O. Box 905, Fort Davis, TX 79734
432.364.2499

www.cdri.org


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