Bev Todd, 52, has been planting and gardening for 12 years on the acre of land behind the newly remodeled 1950s ranch-style home she and her husband own in the old Dodge subdivision off Butler Avenue.
This year she decided to continue her quest to increase the local canopy by donating more than 350 native tree and woody shrub seedlings to friends and nearby sustainable gardening groups.
Todd bought Arizona Walnut, Netleaf Hackberry and Buffaloberry trees along with False Indigo bush and assorted shrubs online. They arrived two days later, each in black plastic tubes, packed in boxes stuffed with shredded paper.
"I thought this would be a great way to find homes for the seedlings I won't use," Todd said. "The program sells the seedlings in bulk amounts, so I thought it would be a fun way to share."
One of those recipients is the New Beginnings Garden on West Apache, which donates its harvests to the New Beginnings Transitional Shelter for survivors of domestic violence, the Navajo Mission and the Echo food bank.
Lisa Ohlson has represented the all-volunteer, 2-acre garden since its creation three years ago.
"I am looking forward to our planting the seedlings Bev has offered us," Ohlson said. "Her gift - and the idea behind it - is just wonderful."
Todd purchased the seedlings from the New Mexico State Forestry Division's Conservation Seedling Program.
The New Mexico
Dan Ware, a division representative, said more than 60 different species have been available since sales started in December.
"Our main customers for the tree and shrub seedlings are ranchers and farmers who buy in bulk," Ware said. "They use them primarily to install windbreaks, provide shade or to rehabilitate landscapes that are more prone to erosion."
He said the seedlings are also purchased in large amounts by Christmas tree farms.
The forestry division's seedling-sales program has been running for decades, he said. All proceeds from the sales are reinvested into the program.
And while he said the division does receive requests from small groups and some schools, the goal of the effort is to encourage large-scale reforestation throughout the state.
"We don't want to compete with local nurseries or businesses that tend to supply mostly to individuals," Ware said.
A requirement for sale is that owners have at least one acre for planting in New Mexico.
Landowners must also ensure the trees are used for conservation purposes -- erosion control, wildlife habitat, reforestation, riparian restoration, windbreaks and tree plantations.
Todd meets more than one of these purposes.
Her south-facing, many-sloped backyard is an oasis of shade and diversity where hundreds of trees and shrubs grow helter-skelter throughout the property. Indeed, Todd's yard encourages an ambling pace -- leaf-covered, interlaced pathways are overhung with countless curling branches.
A year-round supporter and practitioner of sustainable gardening and "permaculture," which means permanent agriculture, a term coined in the 70s that follows three guiding principles.
First, each part of the ecosystem performs multiple functions. A fruit tree, for example, supplies food, rinds or skin for compost, leaves for mulch, dead twigs for kindling, and shade for people, animals and other plants.
Todd also follows the guild concept of planting that brings together a variety of species of trees and plantings that encourages the diversity of species within an area.
Todd's acre lot easily qualifies as irregularly placed Chinese and Lacebark elms stand in close proximity to ash, locust, fruit and Cottonwood trees.
"The guild ecosystem is one that's healthier by virtue of its wilder, varied arrangement," Todd said. "One plus one is always more than two in a guild."
One of her interests - "sometimes more of an addiction," she admitted - is tree shaping. Todd has twisted and tied together various trees, elms and fruit varieties - that caused the trees' trunks and branches to twist and turn together in knotted configurations.
A few she calls "stick figures," trees she is shaping to resemble standing people amidst the arboreal splendor. Others she twists, vine-like, so the trees fuse together over time.
"The ones that don't quite fuse together still make for amazing shapes and gestures," she said. One elm that resisted Todd's shaping spirals into the sky like a 20-foot-tall crazy straw.
Todd's yard also includes a 20-foot-tall geodesic "growing dome" that houses a 2,000-gallon koi pond and provides a warmer space for fruit trees and herbs. She installed a solar-powered fan that circulates air through buried piping to warm the soil for herbs that otherwise would not survive the cold winters.
"In our area, shade's not a bad thing," Todd said. "The more tree planting we can promote, the better. And the more awareness of the many, many benefits to keeping in touch with our outdoors, too."
James Fenton can be reached at firstname.lastname@example.org; 564-4621. Follow him on Twitter @fentondt.