Office Space (former)

Another stop, where in this building from 2007 to 2010, I rented a small, minimally air-conditioned and heated office.

Photos 5/18/20:

Cloud or sun, native plants here shine.

Yucca elata / Soaptree quickly grew trunks from starting as 10 gallons, Alkali Sacaton / Sporobolus airoides, Mescal / Agave neomexicana from 1 gallons, and even arcticist-vilified Honey Mesquite / Prosopis glandulosa grew from small, 24 inch boxes.

My work helped earn this a LEED-NC Gold certification.

Geography and luck play large roles in how garden spaces are valued. That from my past, bittersweet decades in landscape architecture…

It’s too bad their mesquites didn’t receive basic, arboricultural pruning after I moved on.

Their original intent to grow up and spread, to shade parking spaces better, could be mostly recovered, only requiring a larger saw. I was told, “but trees don’t get pruned in nature”. (oh yes they do) As always, I tried.

Over a decade ago, I finally appreciated Alkali Sacaton. The delicate seedheads dance in evening light in the Rio Grande bosque and on the desert grassland by Carrizozo.

On to the west side for other office entrances…

The Star Jasmine / Trachelospermum jasminoides was happier than I envisioned in the site’s hot but too-dry microclimate. Including its intoxicating fragrance

I wish I could see the Alkali Sacaton fully grown out after the spring cut-back, to their usual 2 feet .

Finally, onto the northwest side of the landscape, sun or under some clouds…

The architect’s gabion walls using urbanite (broken, reused concrete) worked great.

This microclimate also proved to extend bloom seasons for two much different wildflower species: Desert Marigold / Baileya multiradiata between the agaves (added by me later but inadvertently removed by one of the architects) and Firecracker Penstemon / Penstemon eatonii (brilliant red trumpets for the hummingbirds early spring and again in late fall).

Security fencing that’s locked outside working hours is a necessity nowadays, with their town’s climbing crime rate.

Also challenging but working over a decade later, is the use of shade to inferno-tolerant plants on the north walls in the tight parking area planting areas, including the Arizona form of evergreen Beargrass / Nolina microcarpa and summer-blooming Sunset Hyssop / Agastache rupestris.

The Old Neighborhood

Though I moved from Albuquerque in 2013, over 2 decades there including 15 years in the foothills left its mark.

After visiting a client’s and now-friend’s landscape, I high-tailed it up in elevation where I found more pleasant temperatures in the high 80’s and some familiar highlights. Photos are from 5/18/20.

Rt 66 / NM-333 medians:

Actually, this is the larger of two guerrilla-planted medians from 1998! It’s unirrigated and uses xeric natives including Prosopis glandulosa and Dasylirion wheeleri.

I quickly measured and designed both medians after moving across town to a new home. Since this was to be my most likely route, I needed a planting more adapted and interesting than their usual streetscape then and still today.

Like a bad cross of 1970’s Midwest and Napa Valley-minimal. More on this later, as this landscape and the range of reactions were telling.

It worked! Doing more with less wins again.

From the opposite side, a rhythm of Opuntia engelmannii or O. lindheimeri were added, as well as volunteer Ericameria nauseosa allowed to stay, their gray complimenting the green of the cacti.

My guess is a contractor friend from ages ago played a part in those additions, plus some light pruning. He helped me with pruning, weeding, and hauling out here one morning 10 years ago, and he lives 30 minutes east in the mountains, so that’s my guess.

If so, thanks, Tim!


My former home:

The Ephedra viridis took and outgrew any I’ve seen, even in their native habitat in the Four Corners and west. That in spite of no drip irrigation on the property, and the thin soil layer atop granite bedrock.

The mesquites are mesquiting. They look good and rugged including braving the periodic east canyon winds that I will never miss, as their roots rip into the bedrock. Most of the other plants are growing, including Penstemon eatonii, P. parryi, Aristida purpurea, and others also reseeding.

Some of the reseeding isn’t managed as it could be, so that’s not ideal. Though that’s mostly unimportant, as it’s still enhancing the area.

And those walls, with a few accent natives like Nolina greenei or Opuntia engelmannii

And no, this isn’t “trying to look like Phoenix”. It just isn’t Denver, Oudolf, Rudolph, or Midwest enough for some!


Even the tangle of the still-unbuilt lot and on my former home’s terraces is OK. Considering those terraces are 95 percent compacted grade and face west. Persisting or multiplying in spite of being parched are a duo of Fouquieria splendens, Fallugia paradoxa, Ericameria, Larrea tridentata, Opuntia, and who knows what else.

Ignore the few, stray Tamarix

The locals including rabbits, western diamondbacks, or velvet ants enjoy it the most.


But once past my home, then their town’s endless areas in entropy, my constant mountain bike rides and hikes got me many rewards in the forms of stiff workouts through amazing scenery. That preserved my health, too. Just a quick visit there…

My favorite trailhead:

Trail #365 and the south foothills look parched, but with the same stunning views as ever.

The natural areas near my new home west of Las Cruces appear to have had more cool season precipitation than my old home, before the moisture supply shut off.


Some nearby residential landscapes:

Two of the original three Nolina nelsonii are happily growing in with other native or adapted xeric plants on their front slope, rock and boulder-strewn. Even a small water harvesting cistern…


The huge Yucca faxoniana still stands, and the long hedge of Opuntia subarmata is slowly hiding the concrete retention trough. Unkempt in a negative manner, the regional plants and even the fading Spartium junceum help.

I often rested here riding uphill before the fun part, the trails.

Stay tuned, since this day trip isn’t even over.

To and Fro Phoenix: Ferns and Ironwoods

Another doctor visit to Scottsdale, and this time a different way going and returning home to Las Cruces.

2 hours from my home, west of Lordsburg, this is a favorite view including distant mountains. Especially when it’s not windy and I’m not strategically navigating the more rude semi drivers of I-10. The playas (dry lakes) getting closer are often filled with rainwater during El Niño winters like this last one, but they’re just white with the dry heat.

Like the 5/19/20 sky:

And 4 hours after leaving, it’s a quick dinner with Gayle, before the last 90 minutes of driving and another stay at a still empty, new hotel near the clinic. Tucson has some architectural soul even in a few strip malls.

Excellent containers for those potted Asparagus Fern, which looked good for these May photos. Following a more recent, late summer visit even this east exposure seems too hot in Tucson to use these.

Perhaps a low desert designer or horticulturist reading this can enlighten me if I’m off.


All went well at my doctor’s appointment in the rather light traffic of Phoenixn. I headed home via the more scenic route of US-60 and US-70, a less arid and higher part of the Sonoran Desert.

Not that much of Arizona or New Mexico aren’t scenic. Just some routes are more scenic than others, as both states can be picky given what we can choose from!

Ironwood / Olneya tesota signals summer beginning in a more subtle manner than golden palo verdes signal spring in Arizona’s Sonoran Desert. We’re far enough west yet just high enough in elevation, there’s a richer plant diversity here than to my west or the last section of Sonoran Desert in the Gila Valley west of Safford.

I drove back and did a U-turn to get these Ironwood photos! What’s 20 more minutes added to one 5-1/2 hour drive?

These hills look enjoyable to more than a driver, including by horseback or mountain bike.


This heavily farmed area between Pima and Safford blurs what the original vegetation cover was here. The climatology and nearby, wild areas indicate to me it’s the ecotone where the Chihuahuan and Sonoran deserts overlap.

Which I’ll explore in a future blog post, to see which desert overlaps more.

That distant plateau in tan grasses, Frye Mesa, looks like it would be interesting to explore. Especially with the range of elevations, 2,900 feet where I took the photo to 10,700 feet on the top of still-snow-capped Mount Graham.

7,800 feet of elevation change in a short distance must hide many treasures.

Which is yet another post, how some southwestern towns have amazing mountain backdrops and changes in plants and climate. Those are to be enjoyed, but not used to justify forcing colder, wetter plant species in town to deny place.