Secret Gardens Of White Rock Discovered: Take 2018 Master Garden Tour June 2

Marjorie and Robert Selden made a high desert paradise on an empty lot at their home in Pajarito Acres in White Rock. Courtesy/Marjorie and Robert Selden


This is how the lot looked when Robert and Marjorie Selden began their home and garden adventure in Pajarito Acres. Courtesy/Marjorie and Robert Selden


Los Alamos Daily Post

The Los Alamos 2018 Master Garden Tour this year will focus on White Rock. The tour is 10 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturday, June 2 and includes five stops.

This will be the last chance to see two of the most beautiful gardens in Los Alamos County. Those gardens feature the work and inspiration of lifetime Master Gardeners Marjorie Selden and Cathy Strong. These two gardens have decades of experience to share. Both will show their gardens for the final time on this tour. 

The Los Alamos Daily Post was invited to tour the Selden garden last weekend and learn how the couple created a beautiful landscape, literally from the ground up. This is just a taste. Every garden on the tour has its own story, which will be shared with tour-goers.

Robert and Marjorie Selden purchased their slice of paradise at 624 La Bajada in 1981. Aside from the gorgeous view, the lot formerly home to a sewage lagoon and completely barren, might have seemed unpromising. But Marjorie saw its potential.

“We can grow trees and create a landscape, but we can’t grow the view,” she remembered thinking.

Another side of the Selden home. Courtesy/Marjorie and Robert Selden

“Marjorie called me up and announced, ‘We’re buying a lot!’” Robert remembered.

Then the work began. They started improving the lot and built the house in 1989.

“There’s a story about nearly everything in the house and outside in the yard,” Robert said.

The Seldons knew they wanted their garden to feature drought-tolerant plants, most of them native. They began by planting 350 native piñons and junipers, which created a natural forest on the edge of their property, screening it from the neighbors.

“We got partially-grown trees and put them on a drip system,” Robert said. Not only did they live, they survived the bark beetle infestation because of it.”

The drip system runs the gardens as well. For the patio area, the Seldon’s picked locusts, three kinds in three colors, to provide filtered light, which Robert calls “soft shade”. The side of the house closest to the road is a meadow full of wild grasses, including bear grass, which surprised the Seldens by growing nearly a foot a day!

The Seldons chose drought-resistant plants, including some from South Africa a friend brought home for them to try out in New Mexico. Flagstone and moss rock were used for patios around the house and walkway. They surrounded the house with wild and ornamental grasses, hardy perennials, succulent ground covers and dwarf conifers. The plants resist drought and critters.

“Marjorie is an expert on which plants can resist deer,” Robert said.

 “It’s a labor of love,” Marjorie said, “but it’s a good thing we’re both hard workers!”

Marjorie also works on the Master Gardener’s Display Garden across from Mesa Public Library on a regular basis.

“She built the rock garden and her fingerprints are all over two of the mini-gardens,” Robert said proudly.

The Seldens have a wealth of information to share about how to garden in Los Alamos. A Master Gardener for 30 years, there are few people who know more about how to make your high desert garden a success than Marjorie Selden.

The Selden garden is only one of the wonders available to those who take the Master Garden Tour this year. Brochures are available at Mesa Public Library and White Rock Branch Library, as well as at each stop on the tour and includes directions to each garden. 

A beautiful side yard and a view of the Rio Grande at the Selden home. Courtesy/Marjorie and Robert Selden
Another side of the Selden home in Pajarito Acres. Courtesy/Marjorie and Robert Selden


Garden Tour Stops:

  • Cas and Rod Mason Garden
  • 148 Piedra Loop
  • Cathy and Ian Strong Garden
  • 229 Rio Bravo
  • Marjorie and Robert Selden Garden
  • 624 La Bajada
  • Doris Thielemann and Charles Hollas Garden
  • 119 Sierra Vista Drive
  • Priscilla Hardekopf Garden
  • 119 La Vista Drive
  • Pajarito Environmental Education Center (PEEC) Garden
  • 2600 Canyon Road