Early Winter at the Roundabout

After a few years in the high desert, the more savvy designers learn to design based on winter, so the landscape looks good all year.

They aren’t fooled by glossy catalogs based on cool, temperate garden models yet with regional architecture. Those depend mainly on warm season vibrancy and total cool season dormancy, interest often lying in seed heads that withstand snow. Those are not our reality or potential.

Our autumns and springs seem long, but they can be so fleeting.

The road to the Red Hawk Golf Course near my future neighborhood reflects early winter’s low lighting and gentle rest.

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Agave neomexicana, Yucca rostrata, Chrysactinia mexicana, and some volunteer Larrea tridentata are often in my bullet-proof mix.

Though the developer or maintenance crew may have thought less of the native Aristida purpurea than I. Like most, they prefer and replaced mine with the mesic, habitual Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’. Remember, we average 8-9 inches of rain per year. Aristida happily grows and reproduces here with that, while that Muhlenbergia grows natively where 40 inches or more rain per year in southern coastal areas; that’s regular drip irrigation unless you prefer stunted.

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There were once native wildflowers at the median ends from my original design. This time of year, though, they would not be evident even if still existing.

Looking southward, the Quercus polymorpha are trying to be semi-evergreen but losing all green, while the reliable Nolina microcarpa are simply evergreen.

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Before our couple days below average, with lows in the high teens and highs in the high 40’s, these Chrysactinia mexicana look like they got in some late flowering. It quickly returned to average, which is lows in the mid-high 20’s and highs in the upper 50’s.

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Sculpture and textural contrast, seasonal dormancy versus evergreen, low maintenance, and low water-use are all ideas here.

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12/10/17 weather: 59 / 25 / 0.00

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Walking to a Park

After enjoying breakfast and walking a neighborhood I may move to, I visited a tiny park missed on cross-town drives.

Mostly bullet-proof plants for Las Cruces’ arid Zone 8 were used.

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The ubiquitous Chilopsis linearis and Fallugia paradoxa are near a small, cobbled swale, plus a sturdy, appealing upright Juniperus and a few unidentified Opuntia with a healthy dose of cochineal.

Nothing exciting for the hoarder collector of what nobody else has.

Though for the realities of a public space, these are appealing and tough plant choices. There are also inviting, shaded places to sit. The economical site furnishings and colors are a plus.

This park demonstrates good plants in a harmonious composition, and there is a healthy amount of shade using trees that thrive here.

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Now, onto the concerns I have, though I won’t refine or redo the design in this post; I get paid for that kind of gig.

You can call me “Captain Obvious”.

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1. Most of this park doesn’t demonstrate the “lush” part of the title, nor is there adequate relationship between water harvesting and a denser planting, or even fragrance and sound, which could compliment.

2. This was a light traffic day, but this street is often busy. Being a medium-sized agricultural town, picture the sound of huge pickup trucks all day, many missing a muffler.

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Wouldn’t visual buffering or softening of Spruce Street be in order? Either plants died or also likely plants were removed due to the loud words of a few misguided folks unable to balance safety and aesthetics. That view needs better psychological separation; screening with reasonable visibility. Balance!

3. Don’t demonstrate over-maintaining and ugliness with such pruning. Who wants to lose winter interest or seasonal flowering, and get less for more money?

This pruning and hot siting of Nandina…ugh. But the use of Calliandra…more of that in such a spot!

LushLeanPark1-Front5-SMLLushLeanPark1-Front6-SMLWith my main criticisms, for a low cost and maintenance public space on unusable land, this is mostly a good greeting from 35 mph.

With more thought, it could become stunning from the front.

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Other functions are in back along a small side street: a permeable DG area to park vehicles, plus an easily-irrigated Bermudagrass lawn.

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When I wrote “bullet-proof” at the beginning of this post, you knew there had to be a yucca.

This time, here’s a single Yucca rostrata, which our 4,000 ft elevation sweet spot grows better than most. Phoenix and Tucson have native saguaros and palo verdes, Austin and central / south Texas have non-native but adapted agaves galore, so naturally we have our own spiky choices to provide power.

Cliche and heavily-used, sure…worthy, definitely.

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Near the sidewalk, the few Salvia greggii are declining. Perhaps that’s due to over-pruning, too small of drip emitters or under-watering, or too much late afternoon heat in summer from improper siting.

Everything else is common but tough; mostly native within 200 miles, 1000′ in elevation, and is low water-use.

I do tougher critiques on my own array of projects, so all I’ve related on this small park adds up to “good job”.

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2 blocks across Spruce Street. Will I or will I not buy this adobe, with a high asking price for the neighborhood and tight interior spaces?

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The cobalt blue sky is included, though. Stay tuned.

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12/1/17 weather: 62 / 44 / 0.00

Minimal With Warmth

The title sums up when I create a garden space, in the way many larger clients like Tenet require more for less, here at the new Transmountain hospital.

Sometimes less is more.

You pick. Minimal with impact? Or just subtle impact?

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Yucca rostrata and Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’, companions in the Chihuahuan Desert below the Big Bend, are united here.

Not naturalistically, but rather, with the architecture of the space, visibilities, and negative space.

To think, this success involves “a yucca and rock”, but with shrubby companions to add warmth to the scene. Those into minimalism or modernism only need to warm up and humanize their spare scenes.

Some can do it, others can’t.

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I rarely find that less is less, or more is more. It’s really about how one does either. But I’m not a hobbyist or collector!

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Desert skies and mountain vistas don’t hurt, either.

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11/20/17 weather: 67 / 30 / 0.00