If You Like Pink Floyd…

Another person in an online forum once noted, “Marfa. What your town would look like if it was run by NPR.”

I’ll let you decide, as I see elements of both references. Some of the odd art placement, or the context, really shouts the legendary British music group’s album covers and music.

Musical pairing, “Shine on You Crazy Diamond, Parts 1-5” by Pink Floyd.

Don’t forget to read more on other mind-provoking art in town – here.

Hot Date in Vegas – Pt. 1

Date Street, silly! It’s a project I was the LA on, as part of a contractor-design team for the federal government. And it’s just outside Las Vegas, during a heat wave in already-toasty June.

Get it? Get it?? From 6/23/2014 –


only Mojave Desert natives near the entry gate

Parking lots are a necessary evil, especially without enough budget and space for many more shade trees. I would have preferred a medium-sized tree for every 4-5 spaces, set into parking space-sized depressed basins, for all 5″ of yearly precipitation to flow into. But that would take out many needed spaces.

At least nursery-grown-from-seed Joshua Tree / Yucca brevifolia are establishing nicely; so is the dotting of White Bursage / Ambrosia dumosa, with some Creosote Bush / Larrea tridentata, to buffer the lot’s east side.


lower Mojave arroyo plants on the west side of #200

More on the execution, substitute plants and maintenance another time; this area’s function is similar to an arroyo, handling and absorbing runoff, hence Desert Willow / Chilopsis linearis, grasses, and shrubs.

Do you see a pattern here, or with my work? Desert willow, mesquite, desert shrubs, and so on.

It’s partly nursery supplier limits and partly what works. Each project is a similar application of similar plants, but because of each unique site’s character, they don’t come out the same. Here, it’s industrial – modern, and in the Mojave Desert – even drier than where I live in the Chihuahuan Desert.

Someday, you’ll be able to sit on that board-formed wall in morning shade.


the accessibllity ramp to #200 required that tree shade become shrubs

So, the mesquites and desert willows became more creosotes with grasses at the bottom. There’s barely 10′ of width at the bottom, plus underground infrastructure like drainage pipes and utilities, so trees would be futile.


‘Blue Glow’ Agave and large, reddish granite rock a good pair

Not to worry, the spiky plants are in a raised area, safe from “conflicts”.

Did I say it was down to 105F when I stopped by?


the Bermuda lawn at #100 still lacks both “big ash” trees to be complete

Those would be once-valley-native Arizona Ash / Fraxinus velutina. I’m told both trees are being grown from cuttings taken off the remaining Date Street #100 tree, once a duo of ash trees in the original 1930’s planting.

Arborist Dennis Swartzell consulted for the general contractor, and that tree was determined to be in decline, unlikely to survive after required security bollards were built in the root zone. It was removed.

That slope should stay more moist and the lawn edge more lush, once it gets afternoon shade.

Some Reclamation employees wanted a thirsty fescue lawn, instead – this is the most common turf used in Las Vegas. Is it any wonder Lake Mead is near a historic low level, plus drought?

Westerners can do much more, to be at a greater balance with the desert – still grow and advance, still have loads of wildlife and human habitat. More pleasant places to live, that give more than take.

Hence I’m a conservationist, not an environmentalist or exploiter. Balance.


soon, a tree-shaded breezeway between #100 and #200

Simple, modern, and pleasant. Function to let the occasional motorized cart drive through, with form and greenery to let people and songbirds enjoy a break. Like elsewhere on this project, the architect and I placed the seat walls so people could interact, or be alone.

In your area, how do you see the need for development balanced with pleasant spaces – even if small? Solutions?

Patio Surprise

Returning from a 4 day trip – part-work, part-use-those-Southwest-Rapid-Rewards-Points – and what greeted me?

A good sign on what I thought might die, only a month ago –


see anything new?

On the way home, I washed my car (it’s been months), but a thundershower hit from this year’s early start to the monsoon season. That soaking rain washed the grit off the roads and dirtied my car some, but never reached my patio planters. Its covered and only open to the north, so I water every few days like on the evening before my trip.


native Tecoma stans var. angustata put on 2 blooms, plus a flower bud


container #1…growing nicely

Agave parryi var. truncata / Artichoke Agave looks good, and they are each growing wider leaves, as I’d hoped in only indirect light. The smaller trio are pups liberated from my San Diego aunt’s plants.

Agave bracteosa / Squid Agave is happy in this spot, and even its pup survived the transplant into this new container. The mother plant was a gift from David in Dallas before I moved from ABQ.


containers #2 and #3 …not much growth, but everything healthy


breakfast time before it gets hot and another workday

I left out the potted aloe clump, as it’s still in that state of, “do I perk up, or do I say ‘no more’?” Also missed was my Agave americana ‘Mediopicta Alba’ in the terra cotta pot; it’s finally spread its leaves out.

– – –

El Paso has cooled at the start of normally the hottest few weeks of the year into the low-mid 90’s. Our humidity has increased with the monsoonal flow – enough to cause my swamp cooler to work less well, but it’s not uncomfortable…and no more 100F+ highs for a while. Patio time!

Do you have a spot to relax before it gets too warm to be outside?

Desert Alfresco

I’m interested in how people can better embrace their ecoregion and built environment, plus I like food, so outdoor dining seems to be a key. Dry air makes it possible, while intense sunshine much of the year is a challenge.

Photos from the week ending 6/20/15 –


Hotel Paisano before dinner…I bet this beats Dallas and Houston

I found out the Capri event space sells great lunches from their kitchen area, perfect for a healthy but tasty meal in a garden.


even the sky from the Capri is amazing


I could hang out here all day…in the shade


a microcosm of far west Texas mountains and central Texas

The former has the Mexican Feathergrass / Nasella tenuissima, grayish Artemisia ludoviciana and Lippia spp., plus other fragrant plants; the latter the clump Escarpment Live Oak / Quercus fusiformis, plus Twistleaf Yucca / Yucca rupicola. (or is it Paleleaf Yucca / Y. pallida from north Texas?)


I hope they open for breakfast someday…60F lows often


spare use of water, architecture and plenty of shade

A Mexican Elder / Sambucus mexicana, lush and overgrowing the water…perfect for this riparian tree. Luis Barragan would smile upon this scene.


grape arbor seating, too


prolific apricots this year…too bad I’m not into them


another evening, in the cool of a big tree

Padres’ gravel patio is perfect, to enjoy a cold beer while writing my day’s meeting notes on the laptop. With three offerings from Alpine’s #Big Bend Brewing Co. on tap – complete with their handles at the bar – it was a La Frontera IPA for me.

And at $2 more than at the few El Paso eateries selling it, or $5+ more than from my fridge via Specs, one beer was it.


that’s a 30′ tall Colorado Piñon / Pinus edulis

Marfa White

In clothing or walls, white tends to be safe and clean for a background; black tends to slim and provide mystery.

I’m unsure what inspired all the white and pale grays on so many renovated buildings in Marfa. But it’s a relief from tan to brown stucco on most everything, or Santa Barbara or Tuscany meets Miami Vice.


maybe it’s the look of miles of Yucca elata blooms


or just being clean and fresh


even inside their apartment my few nights


the cumulus clouds do the same…white billows


pale and creamy white…and blue, blue-green


facing the back of my project


always the clouds, sky and Yucca rostrata blooms

Flower Power on the Desert Grassland

The images can speak for themselves, all are native xeric plants that bloom and those in gardens are used well.

The last part is so crucial. But just seeing these images, I hope planting design becomes as clear as it really is?

It’s hard to believe how different it is a few hours east this year. We just had our hottest day of the year Sunday, 101 Monday, 103 at my place. There were many 100-109F highs in the area, in fact up to just past Albuquerque only a couple degrees less.

That’s quite normal for our hottest two weeks of the year, where we get it out of the way early.


Grasses: Masses and Rows

I enjoy how much Marfa embraces the simplicity of its setting into its landscape spaces, almost as much as most with a design sense would challenge other places’ shunning of their settings.


Chihuahuan desert grassland NW of Marfa…note the bunch spacing

These are not meadows, these are desert grasslands…arid-region bunchgrasses. It’s a dominant species or two (Black Grama / Bouteloua eriopoda), with many less of a few other species of grasses and wildflowers…plus some mesquites.

Still diverse and resilient, but oh-so-stunning

When the skilled designer with their desert eyes on sees this, they abstract it down further into a space. Marfa seems to get that more than many.


in town, Nasella tenuissima

Oddly, Marfa’s grasses used are often the same species, not found in the open space outside town for many miles. Where I once lived and now live, the desert grassland has most of the same species as Marfa, but those grasses grew more sparingly – it’s more arid.


the double row hides a few agaves, framing where to move

In Marfa, they grow as lush bunches, taller and denser, yet they’re used more in drier areas in medians and parking islands, or along golf course roughs.

What gives?


softening adjacent radio station walls, not blocking…Muhlenbergia lindheimeri


another grass, SW foothills native Bull Muhly / Muhlenbergia emersleyi


the masses are an effective understory to the mesquites

Rows and masses that work with the form of the space – the space’s architecture.


a soft screen from the sidewalk, too


more of the overused, but an effective frame without the shrub foundation look