Transmountain Hospital – the latest

A full growing season covers all sin, or at least sin unrelated to improper maintenance.

That’s what cropping is for!

While in El Paso for other things, I stopped by the last hospital I was the LA on. It’s yet another project where the civil engineer was hired at least 3 years before the architect project team, including me. They were accommodating and helpful where possible, though.

Only the strong survive, but even the strong can’t always last. Yucca rostrata is native a mere-in-Texas 5 hours southeast in the Big Bend. Those desert-native yuccas are among the strongest here.

Of those yuccas’ other companions, most Sphaeralcea ambigua and Agave parryi ssp. truncata left are thriving.

I’ll bounce between each visit, and at different times of day in early spring and early fall. Think about the lighting, the vast site and views, and the relationship of that with architecture and landscaping.

While you’re here, consider the look of dormancy or fall growth.

The agaves, Prosopis glandulosa, and Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’ soften walkways and required fire lanes.

Other locations in front, which would offer landscaped views towards the hospital, include the only passive water harvesting we were able to incorporate. After much coordination, if you remember the firm hired previously.

Too bad only some parking lot shade trees are still growing; the rest is dead or dying.


More of the same mix in the rear drive lanes, but add in Vachellia farnesiana.

The ever-popular Sporobolus wrightii was used in clumps or masses in ponding areas and to line edges of the south perimeter walk/run path. When dormant, the gold grass clumps stand out well against the olive-green creosote bush expanses,

I need to see if any of the native trees are still alive or growing along that walk/run path.

Notice what’s different about the sotols growing below the yuccas, from a March evening to an October day. Read on.


The Kornegay containers with native Forestiera neomexicana are under-performing, as by now they should have sprawling, spreading branches, Some were even partly dead this summer.

I was told that the maintenance contractor was directed by facilities or management to shape many of the plants at this and their other hospitals around town. That’s regardless of the maintenance plan included on that work. Until that, I only suspected that.

Such unneeded work that could be reallocated elsewhere, such as proper pruning to train the above container trees. That’s based on horticultural need: less work, more benefits.


Dasylirion wheeleri don’t deserve to be turned into shaving brushes, anymore than the owner’s investment deserves to be ruined.

After all, I designed this, and I give plants ample room to mature.

The seat walls we designed provide a resting place, to only grow in value as trees fill in. Originally, more lower plants, including grasses and seasonal wildflowers softened and grounded the walls.


A leaning acacia <<< has some character.


The front of the MOB (medical office building) mostly looks good, even with a number of Agave and Damianita fatalities.

I’m always glad to find some of the original vision and client’s investment in tact, like here.

Have you ever designed landscapes or gardens on a plan, then helped implement them? Any designs for a larger, commercial scale, as part of a project team? Do you wonder about all the elements that go into a garden design, or believe it to be easy? Do you ever return to watch a design mature, year after year?

Most haven’t done the above. I encourage you to do the latter two items, and get insights to other landscapes you see daily.


Reveg to Dentist: Cool to Warm Season

After a consultation at the oral surgery center in El Paso, why not visit some of my past projects? And so I did.

And there’s no better time than the end of winter or earliest spring.

This is the revegetation part of landscape architectural work done for Lundy Elementary School, in northwest El Paso TX – photos taken on 3/9/2022:

This school site was once bisected by a deep, canyon-like arroyo. The undisturbed slope, arroyo channel, and wild plants are on the right (south); the disturbed slope revegetation with now-establishing native plants is on the left.

Revegetation work used a mix of species once growing on this site. A number of plants were salvaged prior to mass grading and construction, plus additional seeding with native grasses and wildflowers.

Salvaged plants were first stored and later transplanted into the design, to once again grow on-site. That grounds it to the ecoregion aesthetically, providing functions such as erosion control and a source of food or shelter for pollinators and wildlife. The seeding helps to further knit the groundplane between larger salvaged plants, the roots providing additional erosion control.

The entire area, plants and seeding, was temporarily irrigated with an in-ground, rotary head system. That can be turned on again during droughts.

Salvaged plants included Agave lechuguilla, Fouquieria splendens, Opuntia macrocentra, Echinocereus dasyacanthus ssp. dasyacanthus, and Yucca torreyi.

Seeding included Aristida purpurea, Baileya multiradiata, Bouteloua spp., and Sporobolus cryptandrus. Those grow more sparsely here in desert scrub than in desert grassland, but they are still present.

Past experience proved again, how other native species unavailable for purchase will volunteer into revegetation areas, over time. The larger green shrubs, Baccharis sarothroides, are the only non-native, invasive species observed.

Muhlenbergia porteri, Parthenium incanum, Glandularia wrightii, and Gutierrezia microcephala were some of the locally-native plants that added themselves into the revegetation areas. A few other plants will also volunteer in, if they haven’t already.

Though not a typical ornamental garden, natural desert has it’s own year-round appeal.


Back to the dentist where I started, I took some photos of their new landscape; I’m unsure of the designer, but it works well. I hope to see this design mature over the next several years, like my own projects.

Sporobolus wrightii was hard to find for use in landscaping 20 or more years ago, but that adaptable riparian native is hard not to find in today’s landscapes.


Fast forward to the last months of this past growing season, following a productive monsoon season in late summer. And back to Lundy Elementary School’s revegetation project – photos taken on 9/28/22:

This not only has a different appearance than the end of winter given months of growing season warmth, but plants have grown in more.

Gladly, little growth of invasive species and weeds common to the area were seen. Nor has there been any removal or shaping of native species in the reveg areas.

The choice of chain link fencing or it’s placement were not my decisions; that material was a budgetary decision made by the engineer, and the placement closer to the street and sidewalk than on the base plans I designed from was decided later, in the field.

To think those areas, barren during landscape work years ago, now look more like the design intent than the ornamental landscaping!

Architect: MNK Architects

Crazy Cat

After a most satisfying breakfast at Crave, in and out before the Sunday crowds, I was in the mood to walk over to an old bike shop project.

As usual, the planting bones are what’s left, while smaller plants like Chrysactinia mexicana and Bouteloua curtipendula are needlessly gone. You can scroll down for past blog posts on Crazy Cat Cyclery, showing before and progress scenes. Photos from 10/30/2022 in El Paso TX:

But on the bright side, the volunteer Yucca torreyi is hanging tight with the usual Dasylirion wheeleri and Yucca pallida. With help from Adobe Illustrator or some other software magic, I still might change the three live oaks along the street to what they should have been.

If I do that fun exercise, you’ll know first.


Peering down into the communal sitting area, that Quercus fusiformis clump is the only live oak that should be there. It’s in need of some interior, structural pruning, to remove the tangle of crossing branches and grow more vigorously, with character.

The rock walls that retain and define a few garden spaces worked, as did my seat walls. More than once, I relaxed there after mountain bike rides on nearby trails. Rectilinear forms are often the best solution, in spite of or because of their simplicity.

That same sitting area is now seen from below in the parking area. Those tough and evergreen Yucca pallida just keep on, but do you see what I mean about pruning to benefit this live oak clump?

24/7 is the truth – all the things that go wrong never stop working. While mortals like me must rest, eat, and so on.

Yet it’s amazing that we or what we do manages to prevail!


Past posts on this project:

July 2014

August 2014

October 2014

December 2017

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