Common is Never Overdone if Native

Common? Boring? Effective?

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It’s just another scene here with natives Chilopsis linearis / Desert Willow and Yucca torreyi / Torrey Yucca.

Evocative of place? Namely natural place or ecoregion?

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How about something else so native, it was already here? Complete with a focal point right in front of my neighborhood volcano, Picacho.

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That landscape is typical of the hills east of the Mesilla Valley with sparse desert grasses like Bush Muhly and Fluffgrass, Creosote Bush and Mariola, all cut by arroyos lined with Whitethorn Acacia, Littleleaf Sumac, and Apache Plume.

But no matter what, the Dasylirion wheeleri / Blue Sotol with the new flower stalk stands out. Yet it’s in more front yards than I could count.

To me, it might never get old.

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I’m now on the best part of any design, which is the construction observation phase. That’s the fulfillment of intellect, addition, and then reduction. It’s for the future home for a couple who’ve been married many moons, with the request and means for plants and other features nobody else has.

This tree, Monterrey Oak / Quercus polymorpha, is not native but is adapted. It’s perfect for the limited oasis area either side of the pool.

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To the architect and myself, what “nobody else has” required more thought. Of course it meant some uncommon plant species, methods, and hardscape. It also meant using the common in an uncommonly purposed manner – even species native to the western bajada of the Franklin Mountains, used well or poorly in many landscapes.

Are you glad I didn’t do the trendy misuse of “curate” in the above?

Stay tuned for more on that project, which will now evolve quickly with the specimen trees in. Everyone’s vision is coming together.

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I’m about to re-pot two poor agaves that have traveled with me since late 2012 in the same now-undersized terracotta pots! Though it’s too warm outside for that right now.

So, I’ll begin sketching visions for my own house.

But first, some notes for a suburban home along an arroyo here in Las Cruces and another upcoming, mountainside residence in El Paso. And a proposal for the first, though I know it’s Sunday.

And a margarita before I grill up dinner.

6/10/18 weather:
98F / 70F / .00″ or 37c / 21c / .00 mm

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Evening Light: A Drive-by

Someone is reading my casual or pointed rants via Instagram. Or so I think.

Back from a hike at the neighborhood volcano (extinct), it appears the landscape lighting is being moved to correspond with the plants. Possibly like the original design.

Fingers crossed that’s not just a coincidence.

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Most every time I flew home from Las Vegas, I exited 215 to McCarran past a series of widely-spaced Dasylirion wheeleri. That and the sotol spacing on medians near my then-Albuquerque house may have inspired me. (the latter I pirated several years earlier – yes, it’s true)

But lit up, they add ambiance to the dry breeze wafting in at dusk.

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I need to find old photos of these Fouquieria splendens soon after installation. They’ve really grown in from the smaller, seed-grown plants – not wild-collected.

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What I do as a landscape architect is much about evoking moods using light and shadow.

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5/31/18 weather:
99F / 64F / .00″ or 37c / 18c / .00 mm

 

 

Sunday: Garden Bloggers Fling ’18

Rejoining my Garden Bloggers Fling tour group on Sunday, that last day seemed laid back. Our bus was in good hands as we went up and over the hills to each stop.

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The McClurg Residence was a heavily-planted garden, using a mix of native and adaptive trees, with plenty of interest from sculptural plants mixed with so much flowering.

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To me the highlight was this arbor made of bent rebar supporting common Pyrus calleryana. Here that pear is used exceptionally, as a shady canopy for sitting at the generous table.

One element to note is the native Diospyros texanum and it’s exfoliating trunks, not to mention the leafy understory.

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These views are the other way, and again the skillful use of focal point plants, such as Nolina nelsonii. Looking closer, there’s even a sculpture of the ubiquitous Grackle bird!

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The Lucinda Hutson Garden came next, with it’s use of colorful hardscape to match her personality! Her originally from El Paso, I recall a couple houses where I lived a few years in Sunset Heights that made festive use of tiles, paint accents, and all manners of handmade ornamentation.

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Color, color, color!

As a designer far more into trees than fleeting flowers, seeing a Ginkgo biloba that was actually not a struggling curiosity, but rather a large and healthy tree with presence, was one of my favorite aspects of Lucinda’s home.

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Back to colorful and handmade accents, this offset brick planter with the pottery shards reminds me of the fiesta version of what archaeological sites reveal in my part of the world.

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Details………….

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Yep! I’ve known both…

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Her office with the timber construction and leathers appeals to my desert need for something more mellow and dark, once I’ve had a year’s supply of vitamin D in 30 minutes of Las Cruces.

Even in Austin’s mellower sunlight, this is a nice contrast to all the color outside.

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Balmy morning – meet the woman, the myth, the legend.

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The Ruthie Burris Garden was after driving over more steep, rolling hills.

But then I stepped out of the bus and eyed a pair of limestone columns framing the driveway, reinforced with Cylindropuntia imbricata. Was I dreaming?

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No. It was real.

To echo what a colleague says about predicting an unproductive client relationship when they want all their creosote bush removed in her former city of Phoenix, the same is true when folks immediately dismiss chollas, desert plants, and all native species that love it where I am.

“You called me, and why?”

While not quite native in Austin’s ecoregion, this south Texas subspecies of cholla is plenty happy here on their green, rolling, and rocky uplands.

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Though the Zoysia lawn (?) and Yucca rostrata are not native (parts of South Korea for the lawn are closer in climate to Austin than is Terlingua for the yucca), the Salvia farinacea, limestone ledge rocks, and preserved Juniperus ashei in the background tell me where I am. They ground this garden most importantly.

The adapted plants simply add forms and textures that are not so easy to find in local flora.

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The understated elegance of the design tells me of those living here. Having talked with Ruthie the designer and briefly with her husband, it made sense.

I told her as an LA myself, that she would never need someone like me except to hang out with to bounce ideas off of. Or something like that. She’s quite capable of implementing her style!

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Of course, I’m biased with the previous and final scenes…

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I’ve wanted to visit Zilker Botanical Garden since my 2nd or 3rd trip to Austin ages ago. But other things barely fit into my time. This time, the bus took me there.

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It’s what I expected, actually. I enjoyed the differences from other gardens I saw. This would have really appealed to my ideals of a garden as a teenager, when I was slowly gaining interest in horticulture, then later design.

It still appeals, just on a different level with more years behind me.

And this funky gate…to think people in the desert often don’t like the desert and especially that evil word spoken in fear, cactus.

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Tait Moring’s Garden captured me too much at the top, that I missed more. But I was out of my zone much of my time in Austin…a valid excuse.

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The crisp lines of his comfortable home, architecture to plant contrasts and restraint, grabbed me at once. But every new area was a different scene.

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Just like the San Francisco Bloggers Fling I went to, more than a few women cooled off in the pool. From meeting some of them, I can imagine conversations ranged from writing to rocket science. Really.

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But I had some kind of mission to accomplish. Like see some great vignettes, and just wander around. Except for my new home and the things I like to do in my medium-sized town, this was good getting away from everything else.

One last vignette at Tait’s home that anyone could do. Well, maybe not some!

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Kirk Walden’s Garden spaces were our last stop, on that steep hill from you-know-where!

But I digress.

I spent time in front, while most seemed to stay out back with the view. But first things first. A cottage effect that reminds me of some montane areas during teenage escapes to the Rocky Mountains, then-30 minutes west of my then-home in the Denver metro area.

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I forgot to take more photos of people taking photos, since it’s always entertaining.

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Oh, it’s the view towards the Colorado River and the green Hill Country. Lime green, deciduous Quercus buckleyi accent the darker greens of evergreens Quercus fusiformis and Juniperus ashei, to name a few.

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The mix of mounded plants here works, most of these not xeric where I live, but they are with 4X my area’s annual rainfall, comparing extremes or means.

The small pops of spikiness with the palm and agaves add to the soft Gaura lindheimeri and a bullet-proof groundcover I and other aficionados of arid-region horticulture use to advantage – Teucrium chamaedrys ‘Prostratum’.

And this attractive understory plant I saw in many shady spots there in gardens.

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I made the mistake early on to not stick with meteorology in college, and I only took 1 geology course. Yet, this rock layering with some moss and algae growth in cracks, then the Trachelospermum spp. on top, conspire to tell the story of ancient and contemporary Austin.

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Unless there are some garden details I post on, this is my last for the ’18 Garden Bloggers Fling. Thanks and endless (but virtual) agaves, cor-ten, and margaritas to the sponsors, garden owners, designers / maintainers, and of course all who put this together.

And virtual queso from New Mexico. We have you on some things!