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  • Jennifer Jewell


The compelling relationship and narrative of Land & Water in the Southwest. Phone by Hunter Ten Broeck, all rights reserved.



Hunter Ten Broeck is the founder and president of Waterwise Landscapes, a landscape design & build firm in Albuquerque, NM. He sits on the Xeriscape council of NM and is actively involved in their annual 'Land & Water Summit,' held each year to promote sustainable and innovative practices in land and water management. Even Hunter's company name, Waterwise Landscapes, gets to the heart of his work and to the heart of the upcoming annual Land & Water Summit being held by the Xeriscape Council in Albuquerque Feb 22 and 23rd.

For 25 years, Hunter has specialized in maintaining and using native New Mexican and other high desert, drought tolerant plants in his work. His goal is to implement water conservation techniques, texture and color in the service of functional and pleasing environments that reflects the personality and the gardeners AND the climate of New Mexico.

Land and Water. No matter where we live, or how differently our land and our water supplies and sources may look, our gardens and our nature love are wholly interdependent with these two much larger elemental forces. For 25 years, Hunter has been working in his garden design, garden crafting and educational advocacy to improve people’s relationship to and understanding of their own land and water.

February 22 and 23, Hunter will be part of a the annual Land and Water Summit, produced by The Xeriscape Council of New Mexico. This year the theme is: The Ripple effect - Stormwater and our Tree Canopy. There’s lessons here for all of us, no matter where we live.Hunter joins us today to share more from the studios of KUNM public radio in Albuquerque.

“Stormwater and water run off are underused natural resources I'm trying to get more people to use

both in public and in private. We’re also trying to revitalize our tree canopy here, with things

like curb cuts in parking lots so that the water runs into the low areas where the trees are.

So when it does rain, the trees can take advantage of the extra water. We’re trying to get

people to use permeable paving and other green infrastructure to bring water in to the

trees so that the trees are better taken care of. Trees for their part improve the standard

of life here providing shade, habitat and making life a lot more pleasant,

but they also act to help to reduce erosion, storm water velocity and pollutants.""

Hunter Ten Broeck, Landscape Design Build and Environmental Activist


Hunter’s work is informed by his and his wife’s deep love for the land and flora of the American Southwest, which they came to love in their early adulthoods. Since they settled in the Albuquerque area, they've worked to inspire and educate other garden and nature lovers to work with this unique and beautiful landscape and climate as well. While it might look quite spare at first glance, the fact is that the plant diversity is quite rich. Hunter notes that around Albuquerque itself there are on the order of 30 – 40 species of native grasses.

In these 25 years, Hunter is happy to note that there’s been a remarkable change in public perception and embrace of native plant, climate adapted, habitat gardening. Permaculture techniques such as rainwater harvesting and designing for taking advantage of rainwater when it does rain are no longer new or extraordinary elements of home gardens and public landscapes. But there’s always room for improvement and plenty more gardeners and landowners to inspire.

Water is life and when it comes down to it – we are ALL stakeholders at this table. It’s a good to note that in the make up of people involved in the upcoming conference, The Xeriscape Council of New Mexico includes landscape professionals involved in design, construction and management, homeowners, farmers, artists, business people, teachers, hydrologists, ranchers, climatologists, wildlife advocates, and policy makers to find equitable ways to share our state’s water. Council members are experts on water conservation, promoting the use of native and arid-adapted plants, rainwater harvesting, utilizing low impact/recycled building materials and landscaping/irrigation methods. The organization’s primary goal is to educate the public about resource conservation and best practices for improving local landscapes.

To find out more about registering for the conference go to, registration closes Friday the 16th.

A few of the things that have me jotting down notes through this conversation with Hunter Ten Broeck is his clear understanding about the relationship between his native landscape and water sources and his work in his own gardens and those gardens he helps to create. You can see this vividly in his own photography as well as through this conversation.

Are you aware of the aquifer that feeds your home and garden? Of the larger watershed that feeds that aquifer as well as your home and garden? The geologic history and rock and soil composition of your area? Sometimes these are wider concepts that get lost in the details of our day to day – especially perhaps for those of us who garden in more urban environments.

But these interrelationships are foundational to our climates and the quality of our lives - especially our lives in plants. For me this conversation is not unlike when you travel by plane and you can see the whole lay of your land in overview - it’s such an eye-opening, revealing experience. One that directly relates to why the plants that thrive in your garden thrive there, and why the plants that struggle there might struggle. Interesting expanded awareness.

So here’s my challenge to you this week – if you don’t already know it – find out the names of your primary watershed and aquifer. Let me know the answers by a voice memo or regular email (, or on this week’s CP episode post on Instagram or Facebook. I’m looking forward to hearing from you!

And make sure to follow Hunter's work and advocacy on Instagram and Facebook as well through his photography and writings featured in these publications:

And, as a guest ranter on The ‘Garden Rant’ blog

Cultivating Place is an award-winning co-production of North State Public Radio, where it airs every Thursday at 10 am PST.

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