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Meet Our Community: David Cristiani, desert dweller and ecoregion junkie

Let’s get to know each other!

Since we’re not able to meet up in person this year, let’s meet online. Every week we’re introducing a member* of our Fling community here and on Instagram, in their own words. We’re excited to see what everyone’s talking about and sharing with their followers!

(*Any garden blogger, vlogger, podcaster, or Instagrammer who follows our Instagram or is a member of our Facebook group. If you’d like to be considered or recommend someone for a Meet Our Community profile, email us.)

David Cristiani

I got into gardening as a kid, growing vegetables and melons in our garden plot at the Alabama Air Force base where I grew up. Attending college in Oklahoma, where I studied meteorology and landscape architecture, led me west, where I was inspired by more-open landscapes. My first job was in San Diego, and spending time in the harsh but exciting terrain of Anza-Borrego Desert State Park, just 90 minutes east, sparked my interest in the desert. By the time I moved to New Mexico and bought a home, it had become important to me to make a garden with a sense of place.

I live in Las Cruces, part of the little-known Chihuahuan Desert, sitting at 4,000 ft. elevation with an arid, warm, temperate climate, a late-summer monsoon season, and year-round sunshine. It’s a happy medium without infernal summers, long and cold winters, or bipolar extremes. Yet the public here is only mildly interested in gardens, and there are few nurseries within a 3-hour drive. That should change. We can easily grow an untapped diversity of xeric native plants and the more-common adapted plants.

I’m into ornamental landscapes that balance a distinctive aesthetic, that prioritize form over fleeting flowers, with functions like outdoor living and water harvesting. If water or maintenance are cut off, a garden should still shine. To me, design is about executing a thoughtful plan tied to the space, to cause understated elegance.

My blog, It’s A Dry Heat, focuses on appealing landscapes of the Desert Southwest, built or natural. Posts include visits to designs from my former career in landscape architecture, my upcoming garden, and drive-bys of other landscapes. My blog also documents my design journey. I’m trying to help bridge the gap between New Mexico’s dramatic land of possibilities and landscapes that could be anywhere else.

My favorite plant is a local: ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens). Though winter-deciduous with a brief flowering or two, it stands out and up anywhere it’s placed. Paired with Southwestern oaks and anything bold and evergreen, and contrasted with masses of seasonal grasses or a scattering of desert wildflowers, it’s got staying power! My favorite garden is the nearby University of Texas at El Paso Centennial Plaza, a half-mile from the Mexican border. There’s a reason for constant photo sessions there, from quinceañeras to wedding parties. It’s a coherent design with great plantsmanship, many native species, and sleek but simple hardscape.

My plans include continuing a book I started years ago about dry-region garden design for the western US. I’m also developing an ecoregion-based application for climate zones in the West.


Thanks for sharing your work and your gardening passions with us, David! You can follow David on his blog, It’s a Dry Heat, and on Instagram.

Photographs courtesy of David Cristiani.


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