| Spruce Park -- Albuquerque
Peaceful and quiet, this small neighborhood park is like an oasis of serenity in the midst of the bustle of everyday life. Surrounded by a low fence, the wide lot is filled with wildflowers, shrubs, and other natural vegetation of the Southwestern variety, a true testament to Xeriscaping. Cottonwood and desert willow trees, creosote and juniper bushes, and yucca and prickly pear cacti, can be seen in the area, along with a variety of desert grasses and plants. Among these plants are apache plume, skunk bush, and fourwing saltbush.
The park has been divided into a number of small subsections. An old oak tree looms over a plot of land that looks to be planted with various kinds of herbs. Basil, rosemary, and mint are some of the more familiar herbs, but it looks like there are many others. A new swing creaks in the wind in a small children's play area, while an open air amphitheatre is often the site of neighborhood gatherings and the occasional community theatre production.
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| The open-air amphitheatre:|
One corner of the park has been transformed into an open-air amphitheatre including a covered backstage area. The stage itself is a raised platform and the seats are plain, yet comfortable, benches. This seems like an ideal venue for a small community theatre production, children's theatre, storytelling hour, etc.
The children's play area:
This section of the park has been transformed into a fun play area for children of all ages. A whimsically painted jungle gym and benches made to look like toadstools are surrounded by a small topiary shaped into wild and magical creatures from film and literature. Familiar characters such as Peter Pan and Snow White surround a climbable sculpture of the White Rabbit looking at his watch. A slide and a sandbox are also in plain view.
The swing near the play area:
A brand new swing set stands near the edge of the play area. Four seats are big enough for adults and older children, while two can be converted to be used by smaller children. The swing creaks only slightly, a testament to frequent maintenance. The frame of the swing is painted in stripes to match the rest of the fanciful play area.
The community vegetable garden:
The small community garden is well tended and kept free of weeds by various volunteers. A sign proclaims that no pesticides are ever used in the garden. Several planters contain fall and winter squashes, including pumpkins, while another has sunflowers, their bright faces turned toward the sun during the day, curled downwards at night. Easy to grow vegetables like potatoes, carrots, and radishes are all planted along another patch of ground. There is another small sign which asks visitors to respect the community garden and not take too many vegetables.
The Zen rock garden:
A small section of the community park is styled like a rock garden. Neatly groomed sand stretches out, separated by various rock formations and smooth sections of basalt. Cacti sit in planters and a miniature waterfall burbles quietly, a sign nearby assuring visitors that the water is recycled. Whorls and patterns in the sand can be created by a smooth-handled rake which rests in a special holder nearby.
The herb garden by the oak tree:
An old oak tree casts a partial shadow over a plot of land that looks to be planted with various kinds of herbs. Basil, rosemary, and mint are easily spotted, but there are also less immediately familiar herbs like agrimony, burdock, evening primrose, fennel, goldenseal, mugwort, and many others. Each herb is neatly labeled; it is obvious that this section of the park receives a lot of care.
The summer gazebo surrounded by benches:
This lovely gazebo reflects more innocent times of Sunday park walks and five piece jazz bands soothing the black of night into a feeling of calm, deep blue. The gazebo has seven railings to provide the illusion of privacy. The wide wood planks are painted in white and contain hollowed out stencil-cuts of hearts and diamonds styled above and below an elongated oval. Along the foot wide railing are brightly painted flower boxes containing numerous tendrils of greenery. For those who want to dream the world away, watching the park in the day or night is always an option, especially with the smooth benches in and around the gazebo. The gazebo's roof jaggedly reaches many feet up towards the sky, allowing birds to make their nests amongst the criss-cross of beams.
The plants in the park are especially lush, despite the fact that many are low-water succulents, a tribute to well-executed urban Xeriscaping. Shrubs and wildflowers such as broom snakeweed, blazing star, prickly pear, purple nightshade, aster, black grama, sand dropseed, galleta, threeawn, blue grama, alkali sacaton, fluffgrass, winterfat, and mallow are among the other plants also found here, giving sections of the park a semi-natural state.
At dusk or at dawn, it is possible to have an animal encounter here, in this tiny semi-tamed oasis of greenery. The most common animals one might see are gophers, mice, kangaroo rats, ground squirrels, horned larks, sparrows, sparrow and cooper hawks, lizards, horned lizards, snakes, grasshoppers, praying mantises, carrion beetles, ants, and spiders.