Guest Post: How I learned to relax and enjoy heavy rains in New Mexico’s high desert


This is a guest blog post by Ray Gulick, a satisfied Hilltop customer who lives in Santa Fe, New Mexico.

I’ve lived in my house for seven years, and during that time, I’ve learned to fear heavy rains. Maybe not fear, exactly, but they make me nervous. Not because I don’t like moisture; I appreciate it as much as the next high-desert inhabitant. But my house sits below the road, and my driveway (and all of the front yard between the house and the road) slopes down toward my garage. Really heavy rains send muddy water into the garage. The first time it happened (unexpectedly), it ruined some books in boxes sitting on the garage floor. Since then, most of the stuff that can be damaged is up on pallets or blocks, which we’ve occasionally discovered are not high enough.

It didn’t occur to me when I bought the house during a very dry summer that this would be an issue. Most of us don’t think of things like this in the middle of a drought. It obviously did not occur to the builder. And it’s funny that the previous owner or their realtor never thought to mention it…

When Jim Forrester, The Hilltop’s president, walked around the property with me, he saw the problem right away, of course. But then, he’s been in the landscaping business for a while, and things like that jump out at him. He assured me we could route the runoff around the front of the garage and down an arroyo behind the house. While we were at it, we discussed ways to make the front courtyard more appealing.

Within a few days, one of The Hilltop’s folks came out and took measurements, snapped photographs, and made a lot of notes. That information was taken to one of The Hilltop’s landscape architects, and in a couple of weeks I was reviewing plans with Jim in his office. They included colored concrete walks, gravel, boulder features, shrubs, and a new tree or two, along with an automatic drip watering system.

Jim encouraged me to make changes and notes on the plan, but it all appeared so well thought-out that I didn’t see a reason to do anything except add a sitting area in the front courtyard (now that it was going to be an inviting place to sit in the evenings).

Not long after, a crew of 4-5 guys was working in my front yard and courtyard. They dug holes, poured concrete, planted plants, hauled stones, installed an automatic drip watering system, spread gravel, and reset flagstone in mortar until the courtyard and driveway looked great! And they completed the work in a remarkably short period of time.

As for the drainage issue, several things were done. First, a gentle swale was added to the driveway to channel water to the side instead of toward the garage. A concrete pad with a drainage channel was added to the front of the garage to catch any water that made it past the swale. Then, a trench from the side of the house to the nearest arroyo on the backside of the house was dug to drain water away from the side of the house. Finally, a depression or “holding pond”, dry most of the time, was dug to collect water that drains toward the driveway from the front yard. Now, I can’t wait for the next heavy rain. I’ll be like Sergeant Dan (from Forest Gump) in the storm: “Is that all you got!?”

If you need landscaping help like I did, you can’t do better than working with The Hilltop. They have great people who do great work, and they thoroughly understand New Mexico plants and landscape issues. Give them a call and let them fix whatever’s keeping you from enjoying your yard.