David Salman – a water gardening pioneer, avid plant explorer and charismatic storyteller – passed away on Sunday, June 5, 2022. His dedication to growing a palette of beautiful aquatic plants transformed gardening in the American West.
Founder of Santa Fe Greenhouses, High Country Gardens and Waterwise Gardening, David Salman was an expert in the field of water gardening and xeriscaping. He was a distinguished recipient of the 2008 American Horticultural Society Great American Gardeners Award. For decades, he encouraged eco-friendly gardening practices, long before “organic” became a household word. He was also an enthusiastic and much sought-after speaker on these topics. Gardeners who had the chance to speak with David or hear his presentations were sure to be captivated by his knowledge, experience and passion.
Armed with a degree in horticulture, a shovel and a spirit of adventure, David set out on a mission. He started in 1984 with a single greenhouse and brought his revolutionary vision of the future of gardening to the community of Santa Fe, New Mexico. Over time, through a commitment to aquatic, native, and habitat-friendly plants, his company has become a brand that has inspired millions of Americans to consider sustainability in their own backyards.
David had a knack for researching and propagating unique plant species native to the wild landscapes of the Southwest. His many years of intrepid exploration collecting seeds and specimens from around the world have led to over 60 plants being introduced into the horticultural trade. In 1996, his introduction of Agastache rupestris caught the attention of gardeners and plant breeders across the country; the rare species with showy flowers in sunset colors and a delicious aroma have become an instant sensation in the garden. Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ PP #22048, a selection of native blue grasses with distinctive horizontal seed heads, was patented in 2010 and remains a staple for landscapers.
A self-described “quirky plant enthusiast” and a “plant explorer with a gift for talking to plants”, David’s passion began at an early age. Growing up in Houston, TX and La Cueva, NM, her playground included bayous, mountains and arroyos. He observed that development was encroaching on butterflies, insects and the plants that support them, and he became determined to make a difference. In 1979, he graduated from Colorado State University with a degree in horticultural science. Five years later, he founded Santa Fe Greenhouses focusing on cold and drought tolerant plants. The company quickly became a mythical destination for gardeners.
David was also a founding member of Plant Select, a collaboration between Colorado State University and Denver Botanical Gardens. Founded in 1992, the organization has brought together leading horticulturists, plant breeders, landscapers, and commercial plant growers with the goal of introducing plants that thrive in the Great Plains and Intermountain states. The organization allowed David to introduce many of its more than 60 plant varieties.
In response to the ever-increasing demand for his plants, David and his wife, Ava, started High Country Gardens in 1993. David focused on plant development while Ava ran the print catalog and website. The catalog won four Silver Awards and a Gold Award for Best Gardening Catalog by Catalog Age Magazine and inspired many loyal fans.
After nearly 30 years in the business, David was ready to devote more time to plant breeding, his home gardens and exploring the increasingly rare wild landscapes of the South West. In 2012, the Salmans closed their garden centers and sold their mail order division to like-minded online retailer American Meadows. David remained on as High Country Gardens’ Chief Horticulturist, where he played a vital and highly respected role in product development and education. David’s passion for plants persisted, and in 2013 he returned to the Santa Fe market with a new wholesale business, Waterwise Gardens. There, and in his continuing role with High Country Gardens, David focused on the art of plant propagation, inspiring gardeners and deepening his vision of sustainable gardening.
Although he sometimes claimed he was better at talking to plants than people, he was an avid storyteller and spent countless hours mentoring the next generations of horticulturists and plant lovers. David’s legacy will live on in the many gardens he inspired and which grow more beautiful every year.
High Country Gardens is the nation’s leading online retailer of beautiful native and aquatic plants. HCG offers gardeners knowledge, inspiration and plants to help conserve resources, restore biodiversity and preserve the environment. Founded in 1993 by award-winning horticulturist David Salman, the brand is committed to making a difference through sustainable gardening.
For more information, visit www.HighCountryGardens.com/contact us