Foliage Follow-Up: 11/2014 in El Paso

It’s suddenly not just fall-like in El Paso, but there are even hints of early winter. 5 days straight now where there’s no way to wear shorts…tragedy!

I haven’t yet seen a hard freeze, but 29F and 32F lows mean a frost and freeze, and that timing was almost right at our average first frost date. Even one sunny day’s high of 48F made summer seem a distant memory.

Photos from 11/12 to 11/16/2014 -



Chinese Pistache / Pistacia chinensis – dry USDA z 6b


some issues on my 2008 design, these trees should be 3x larger…

But what remains at Sierra Providence East years later isn’t bad. You know how much I like the contrast of leafy and soft with sharp and spiky, like foreground Red Yucca plants and the background groupings of Torrey Yucca and Ocotillo.

Those plant forms are crucial to hold a design together during our cooler months, more crucial than fall color.

Both forms may be even better, but with those two skyline accent plants, it’s obvious we’re in the Chihuahuan Desert and not Chi-town.


stunning orange and red on this individual tree


Ocotillo plants are dull this fall (too much moisture?)…but on the right…


some pistaches, like this one, turn burgundy and then red

That tree near my place started getting fall color 5 weeks ago; it seemed to respond to changing daylight more than other pistaches nearby changed to changing temperatures.
Seasons. People who don’t like the natural aspects that make their area great, no matter their income or time there, often don’t or won’t get it.

When I was on Twitter, someone living near where I now live chimed in on a conversation some of us were having, including a photo of mine showing a garden or plant in her town in a good light.

No acknowledgement of anything, except how she was from the east coast, and how it is “always summer here” and “always too warm”. And “no fall color or seasons” like back there. She added how she lived in this region “15 years”, implying broad regional experience and climatic / horticultural facts are trumped by selective perceptions and dislikes.

With this area’s averaging of 50+ nights / year below 32F and 100+ days / year not the growing season, and much more, you’ve got me. But back to another fall, though many seem different than the last!


a new Texas Red Oak / Quercus buckleyi , USDA z 5b

These trees are at a new portion of the landscape at my ongoing hospital project, with some nice color starting up. Right on time, if the right species was planted.


but I’m unsure this leaf shape is the oak I specified…I’ll soon find out


Virginia Creeper or Woodbine / Parthenocissus quinquefolia, USDA z 4 (hardiness depends on the selection sold)


brilliant in the land of dusty yellow falls…


the 2nd / last time of any year Bradford Pear deserves mention…


especially on a chilly day, when there are some raindrops!



tougher palm trees deserve a look, since they make up winter green here…

Green is a color, too; color is not just dinner-plate sized foliage having a riot of other colors in autumn!


less fibers than many of these…


California or Desert Fan Palm / Washingtonia filifera, dry USDA z 8a


one of the “palms of the high desert” out in front…Torrey Yucca / Yucca torreyi, dry USDA z 7



decent for a removed lawn…Arizona Ash / Fraxinus velutina, USDA z 6b


clouds kept blocking the sun, when I wanted to show this yellow’s intensity!

But we wouldn’t want to leave yellows using [tr]ash as an example. :-)


underused Western Soapberry / Sapindus drummondii, USDA z 6a

Thanks for hosting Foliage Follow-Up, Pam. You can see her post and links to others’ posts – here.

And I may skip my Sunday beer at Craft and Social, to go stretch out somewhere my hands can thaw out with a cup of hot coffee!

Neighbors on Tour 1/2

My neighborhood, historical and eclectic Sunset Heights, just had it’s annual architecture tour. This year I was able to attend, so attend I did. Of course, I also spied the garden areas for anything of interest.

And a few other scenes within a block of my abode. Photos 10/5/2014 -

The Wallace Apartments (built in 1908, where I also live):


Queen’s Wreath AKA Coral Vine / Antiogonum leptopopus…

That vine is part of a mass along one street’s frontage, and it’s one of few appropriate plants used at my apartments. In fact, it’s one of the only plants there…more on that later!


I see why this resident had a smile on his face…views into Mexico and the Sierra Juarez out one side of his portal…

I like this with some reservations. Carpet on the deck = yuck. No railings = not ideally safe or code-compliant (at least so I think). But this particular apartment must be highly coveted by renters around these parts, even though it has a swamp cooler like the rest of us have.


and the Franklin Mountains the other way out his same portal…

Our mountain actually looked (and looks) much clearer and bolder than my photo, but I wanted to capture the patio more. And I’m still a luddite with a hand-held, point-shoot camera!


another apartment done up well by the new residents…one good-looking ceiling…


impractical and space-eating, great windows

A good, downward view towards the street and the date palms. The way this 2nd story apartment sits, one doesn’t need $$ curtains for privacy like my place requires, though there’s no patio. Trade-offs.

A house 2 doors up the street from me:


two doors up the street, the wide view…

There’s nothing unusual here, as to architecture or landscape in the UTEP part of town. Like many homes – especially the other place I moved from – the planting is all about one of everything instead of design, unity, and plant groups or massing.


‘Mexican Fire’ Acanthus / Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii ‘Mexican Fire’…he just needs a few more…


lantana left front (yawn)…Texas sage right rear (not enough space)…but center, a primo Black Dalea / Dalea frutescens ‘Sierra Nigra’

Just one Black Dalea, just like the 2nd neighbor I used to have across the street from me. I never did buy her several more so it would look more stunning…

You might remember this place now, which includes this tree grown from seed, which I collected years ago. I think this tree is the only plant having more than one individual specimen of it, at least in their front landscape – this tree got planted as a deserved trio, not a loner.


Gray Oak / Quercus grisea…looking better this year

Apartments on Prospect:


just a few blocks downhill…nice plaster / stucco with color and recessed windows…


out front under the portal / veranda…definitely an old California image here and for a while…Algerian Ivy / Hedera canariensis, Date Palm / Phoenix dactylifera…

Mostly non-native plants to evoke the Mediterranean or Tahiti, just like old California. Probably still some newer parts of it there or here, as not all are turned onto native dryland plants, even used well. And since this is a small oasis near wild, sere, gorgeous Chihuahuan Desert, it seems like it’s still a winner to me and a welcome oasis corner.

But the Mediterranean region is in my blood, literally…hence my appreciation.


coarse, lush texture with Algerian Ivy…as long as you keep it well-watered, or it will die out fast…my shoes are size 9-1/2, for perspective


nice fountain *placement* and the accompanying sounds…it was 88F that day…

Hopefully, no kids will fall in and drown in even 4″ of water, like someone I know “learned”, so refuses to have a working fountain……… #CantMakeThisUp #AmbulanceChaserLawyersTrumpClassicGoodIdeas


an original palm here, i.e. 1916…California or Desert Fan Palm / Washingtonia filifera

El Paso Womens Club:


Mesa Street here was a dirt road when this building was erected…typical trailing rosemaries, but…

You can also see it was another rough weather day in El Paso.


glad to see a stray Desert Bahia / Bahia absinthifolia find refuge and brighten this planting…


of course I wouldn’t forget the stunning clump of Torrey Yucca / Yucca torreyi…I bet it is older than, and will outlive, the cottonwood behind it…

Back at the rancho my abode’s tiny patio:


when it was time to grill up dinner, I noticed I had a visitor…


I’m sure he’s a sweet boy who would *never* do such a thing…

Hopefully, Erik will learn to appreciate desert plants and others’ property, and not “get stabbed” by more dangerous plants in the future.

I’ll show the rest of the home and garden tour soon. Stay tuned!

Yucca Down, Grasses Up

When I returned to my office after errands, I somehow missed the bad news,  across the corner from where I turned right.

anything missing on this Yucca torreyi?

An hour later, the news made it’s way to my text messages. Thanks for the picture, Martina the architect, even though it was bad news.


tragic for everyone, especially the yucca…

My guess is this yucca was planted when the building was new…the mid-1960′s…and for initial impact, it was probably already 6′ tall, or more. So, it’s likely at least 10 years older than me.

A Crazy Cat employee told me they carefully sawed off the huge fallen limb.

nothing suggesting green or life apparent…

It was time. Old age combined with a few years of drought (and we’re already a desert), decades of inadequate room to spread roots, and people working on the site (even though extremely careful). Adios, Señor Y. Torrey.

The plan is to replace him with a newer plant of the same species, salvaged from future construction on some nearby mountainside.
Onto better news, summer is over, and we ended it with bountiful rains and humidity August and September. Untimely, but weekly moisture surges and downpours hit as recently as a week ago. And with early fall warmth continuing far into fall, plants are growing. Including the native grasses on this project.

no, not this nasty Bermudagrass that will get sprayed more…

these young native grasses…

That cobalt, space-blue sky!

Sideoats Grama / Bouteloua curtipendula…growing.

Green and Yellow

Our incredible September-like weather just goes on…chilly mornings, then lukewarm afternoons in the shade…though the burning sun is a negative. But this may be one of my last early morning bike rides before work, as it’s a bit chilly and not light until 7.


nothing here for you, so just move along?

Of course not! Though I’m moving, it’s on my mountain bike, to get back into my needed work-outs and get restored in a manner that only comes from being in natural areas.


yellow flowers and cactus again?

Why yes!


Thymophylla pentachaeta (bottom), Bahia absinthifolia (top), Opuntia macrocentra x camanchica (right)


approaching something else?

Too bad I missed the stunning light on my bike rides since a month ago, as what I saw without a camera starting in late August is now gone. Next year…

Ocotillos are rarely in leaf long in April or May, when the lighting is similar. But thanks to the monsoon season – some rain and humidity, less heat – they often stay in leaf longer then.


the rain really helped…ocotillos and other plants still so green…

The rain was so hard at times, it eroded hillsides and trail sections beyond my technical skills, too.


a forest of Fouquieria?

Yes, an Ocotillo Forest. I always enjoy where this kind of forest grows, and I’m hoping to design a couple into a current project, with slopes and room for this effect.


the best part is riding through this…plenty of elbow room is good, too…


downhill is even better, but today I went the opposite way…


groups of groups…ocotillos, desert bahias…one cactus clump…


someone else lost a reflector, maybe blown away at such a huge flower like me…just a young Datura wrightii…


maybe it’s too dry to get the sweet floral scent?

Ocotillos, creosote bushes, and even daturas are common. Yet, there’s almost always something rare, hiding on the trail.


a Chihuahuan Desert native, Hibiscus denudatus

Do you ever note what grows and where, when on a hike or bike ride? Do you ever wish some of those plants were actually sold, instead of the same-old?

Sept in Oct, Sweep Away Summer

El Paso had March and April in May, June through July (hot), September in August, August in September, and now it’s September in October (heaven). As odd as that is, climate is what you expect and weather is what you get.

And the final part of a new project is going in. Photos from 10/2/2014 -

SP East-AltProg01-SML

most of the contractor’s layout of planting beds, basins and berms was fine; I just repainted a couple lawn / bed lines in need of more gentle “curvage”…

The weather everyone envies. Just don’t forget that scorpions, vinegaroons, diamondback rattlers, centipedes like it too!

The last part of the Sierra Providence East tower landscape is starting - the only lawn on the vast site, my alternate was approved.

hard work, but it’s not 109, or even 89 anymore…


all are cool and crisp in the morning, swept away overnight…monsoon season humidity gone…we finally scored rain-wise…at our 7.5″-to-date average

We can see El Paso stands out as much warmer than even its neighbors. #UrbanHeatIsland…..nobody in the region measures anything remotely like that, except Phoenix and Las Vegas!

physician parking (they get shade canopies),…maybe someone will see the difference from overly-pruned and non-pruned grasses…I will certainly relate that…Giant Sacaton / Sporobulus wrightii

Perhaps this winter, I will see full, dormant grasses at least until spring, and shrubs left alone. Perhaps…

tight spaces = small, resilient ‘Hachita’ Blue Grama / Bouteloua gracilis…

and other plants, with more room…including Chinese Pistache / Pistacia chinensis for shade…someday…

did another landscape architect sneak into the physician spaces…and even a daredevil doc?…my guess 6 docs – 1 outlander…

Meanwhile at the medical office building…

new (small) shrubs in front, 4 year old plants in back…all doing well…

Sporobulus wrightii here mysteriously small, but the rest looks OK…flowering plants are mostly gone except a few Salvia greggii…those Ocotillo / Fouquieria splendens…splendid, radiant…and seed-grown :-)

Prosopis glandulosa in the shallow basin, Sophora secundiflora x ‘Silver Peso’, and more are all happy…but Sporobulus there way too small………..

sweeps are so swell…Deergrass / Muhlenbergia rigens softens large gravel areas and spikiness…

Older parts of the campus, designed years ago, are filling in. I was able to make contact with the owner’s architect, to initiate the process of improving their maintenance and plant health, while reducing unnecessary and counterproductive maintenance. I will take the maintenance plan I developed for the tower and ER expansion, and use that as a starting point.

spiky and stately at each section between the glazing = Giant or Coahuilan Hesperaloe / Hesperaloe funifera…and that soft sweep…

SP East-Hosp01-SML

the first plantings out in front of the hospital

At least the Torrey Yucca / Yucca torreyi and the Fouquieria are standing tall and happy, even some Echinocereus and Sporobulus are left. Yep, I need to make inroads on the maintenance. Can I?

Big: Not Just the Trucks

West Texas and it’s neighbors of New Mexico and Arizona have much in common: geography, culture and even some cuisine.

Many of those similarities must be insanely different from many coastal and international visitors’ realms. It’s fairly easy to see why people from even Austin or Houston visit! Photos from 9/27/2014 -


Xeric Pinus edulis and Yucca faxoniana…

Happy together on nearby mountains, these two common plants don’t seem to mind being together at a relatively low 4,000′ elevation, either. The drip irrigation needs to be buried, to not be so unsightly, and some underplanting of compatible natives would really help.

always scalloped block and Italian Cypress somewhere………

While I like breaking down perceptions and elevating reality, there is a reason for some stereotypes. And that’s fine.

And I bet restaurants serve grits here, but not green chile – it might be 2 hours west for that.

any questions where we are…these are small trucks for here, though…

Now to something more typical, and more grand, stately Y. faxoniana; some on this hotel’s property look to reach nearly 20′ in height. When planted with live roots, they grow to a similar size in Albuquerque, where it’s often called Palm Yucca.

The coolest place I’ve seen this species still look good is Santa Fe, just smaller. I’m not sure how they mature in the hotter, low desert areas such as Palm Springs or Tucson.


a more typical truck for here…it’s huge…but the yuccas dwarf it

Can you imagine those yuccas instead of palms in a prominent garden location?

Films Out Here

Returning to a favorite place of mine, still well within the Chihuahuan Desert, for a mini weekend to decompress – the Desert Dust Cinema in Lobo, and a stay in Van Horn.

Photos last night and this morning -

dusk and the waxing crescent moon, Sierra Blanca picnic area…

granite boulders and hills like this, with desert plants, will always delight…

the Lobo former-gas station / now-theatre and porch, to view an array of interesting short films

I’ll try to share more of the crowd and films if I stay.


even local native, Boyd Elder taking a smoke…

I’m one of the few people here who doesn’t smoke. Boyd lives in the nearby metropolis of Valentine, a character who designed one or more album covers for the Eagles, ages ago.

our regional landmark, Palmilla / Yucca elata…lit path to the distant outhouse…

I just read the latest population for Frankfurt is 2.5 million in the city limits, and 5.6 million in the metro area. The 2nd largest city in Germany, it is quite the global banking and commerce center, with impressive skyscrapers that are like nothing I recall from being a kid travelling from nearby Belgium. Perhaps this might offer clues on what they like a remote, quiet place like Lobo!

inside, many people here…I only came in for a beer and to take a look…

Lobo – well, locals here chuckle, wondering what the German friends and colleagues who bought it will do. After talking with them, and most seem to be from Franfurt, they like the peace and having no plan. Though they are into some more upkeep, even for their limited time there.

the next, damp and cool morning…

water is still a pleasure to hear…nice tile details…

so glad a peaceful breakfast is included here…

you always know where you are…not so much in El Paso…


some high desert locals, healthy Piñon / Pinus edulis and Faxon Yucca / Yucca faxoniana…

Mild, but unusually humid with all the rain…El Paso is noticeably drier and warmer. Their soft sky and clouds are telling of what it is like for my trip.

I may go to tonight’s films (left), or drive home (straight)…that a’way