Espresso and Yuccas

Hoping all the yuccas were in bloom, I detoured to Crazy Cat enroute to my office. Only a few started blooming, but others are getting close –

still not many flowers on yuccas

still not many flowers on yuccas

Chrysactinia mexicana about finished...what's the yucca root-sprouting

need Chrysactinia mexicana seed?

I’m curious about the yucca that’s root-sprouting inside the damianitas. Is it a once-existing Yucca torreyi? The leaves seem too thick for juvenile leaves of the yucca that’s planted.

some yuccas in bloom

some yuccas in bloom

Yucca rupicola, blue and bold

Yucca pallida, blue and bold

The espresso was amazing, by the way. Robert, the owner, made me a mean cup while I finished looking around.

sitting on the shady wall was nice

sitting on the shady wall was nice

so was each last drop of my espresso

so was each last drop of my espresso

Drive-by Ocotillos

And a few more plants deserving attention.

I left my camera at my place when I drove to my first mountain bike ride in weeks. Tragedy, on both accounts. But when I returned and stretched (which I also forgot to do), I grabbed my camera and retraced my route.

Do you know any place that grows so many ocotillos in the stature they reach in El Paso or Las Cruces? In my travels, the Las Vegas, Nevada areas does, too.

Since the early to mid-morning light is better, when I started my ride, I’ll return to Arroyo Park, and show you the ocotillo forest in full bloom. Stay tuned…

Sunset Heights to Kern Place: Tight and Bright

In the US, it seems we once lived simply but kindly, then everything became bigger-is-better no matter the offense. Now, we have both and sometimes side-by-side – excess and simplifying. True simplifying – not the superficial kind that publishes in the glossies, but costs more.

Small lots don’t allow room for thirsty, larger trees and lawns, but that only opens up things for better – perfect when you’re on an arid diet.


the Sphaeralcea lining the wall looks great with both home styles

Of course, I chose an angle to hide the lawn relic out front! Just down the street a few blocks, a small project I designed the landscape for last spring…


my communal area works, but…

The only oaks should be the one in this sunken space. The seat walls became garden walls thanks to the contractor; too high for this 6′ guy to sit and his feet touch the crunchy, chat floor…maybe it works if you’re 6-6? The owner’s dog stays here, so watch your step! Not one person seems to use it, yet.

I should sketch how this would look…it would be lechuguillas instead of pale yuccas up on the side, a mix of rock sizes, and as on the trail, ocotillos, yuccas or acacias. A compromise, yet it’s not as big of a loss as I’ve been dealt.

Years ago, I started tracking my projects, listing what worked or didn’t, why, and how to avoid the latter in the future, at least from my end. I hope I can put that into high gear, for my own survival or even betterment.


the outside is starting to grow in…onward


repitition works…rock with Opuntia ellisiana


great house and especially that wall and mini-terrace

The curcular drive and mesic plants against walls and concrete: not so good.

Those of any means can make smaller spaces great, as the cost of large scales is simply not there. At least I position clients well, though it’s all up to the owner afterwards.


Writing this post, I’m on my patio…the cool air feels great. (needed some heat in my car earlier, sunroof and window open) Yesterday, many places in my region below 4500′ hit their first 90F high, and we weren’t far behind, with the low only in the mid-60’s where I live. And dry. Same today and maybe tomorrow, before cooling back to averages.

Good coffee, breakfast tacos, and the sound of mourning and white-wing doves, thrashers, and other birds in the air. Can’t wait to plant my containers :-)

Morning in a Sunset Garden

Back to my neighbor Joel’s duo of houses on the recent garden tour, right here in Sunset Heights. His home was apparently built from a Sears & Roebuck kit! Giving new meaning to “craftsman”.

Is it any wonder morning light is my favorite in the desert? I’m an addict after 23 years and counting.

My current neighborhood may be hard and in the process of entropy, but it beats gentrification from the lucky.

Living in the warmer reaches is USDA Zone 8 or Sunset Zone 10 has its benefits. Incredible breezes waft through much of the time, as Sunset Heights is located above the stuffy air of downtown and central El Paso.

And we also have great sunsets!

Plant Sale Day

I needed a couple hours off from some nasty deadlines (they come in multiples, now), so I enjoyed the final afternoon of UTEP’s annual plant sale. Though blustery and spitting rain drops, the chilly air smelled so fresh.

Photos from 4/26/2014 –

UTEP Cent Mus N-Arch DesPlants_2015-04-26-SML

Astrophytum spp. and Echinocactus grusonii w/ Dalea greggii in bloom…and another striking view

Just in case you don’t know, this isn’t my look, and I like lots of looks.

This is really a plant collection more than a botanical garden – there’s little design to create serenity. The hardscape and architecture do all the work, as the plants go along. I know serenity, since I create it, even out of necessity (income) on thankless projects mostly about deadlines, bottom lines…sad those are.

I know serenity not just because I lived in a place named Serenity Hills a long while. Serenity, design…worth pondering.

As a designer, I can separate the parts from the whole, while I don’t expect others to do that. And the parts being native to here (Chihuahuan Desert) or to adjacent ecoregions, that is good.

No gestures to denial here, so another good thing other than the parts.

UTEP Cent Mus-UmbrellaSage_2015-04-26-SML

Salvia farinacea is great with the orange umbrellas

The front terrace at the UTEP Centennial Museum has always been a favorite place since my first UTEP plant sale in 2001. Living at the time in a horticulturally represssed / dyslexic town, seeing these massive desert willows anchoring other native plants with cool architecture was refreshing.


Calylophus hartwegii makes up for mostly cloudy


Gila region native, Anisacanthus thurberi


dull day, feathery native Artemisia filifolia cooling

Until now, I never noticed how this ‘Maverick’ Honey Mesquite’s trunk frames the distant gold of Parkinsonia x ‘Desert Museum’.


an “only in El Paso moment”: prayer flags from Bhutan, Chihuahuan Desert plants dance

Remember Danger Garden’s “cram-it” style of gardening?

I’ve shown a couple nearby gardens doing that, and I have a few more. It’s appropriate in a cram-it university planting, that I’m shopping for plants to fill my patio containers. And yes, there shall be cramming at my own place…I have the planters and sterile space literally begging for such a treatment. Begging, I say!

Did you really think I forgot there was a plant sale?


*some* of the plants I bought for my patio

Stay tuned for the part about my plants :-)

10 Thoughts on Texas’s Trees

You might enjoy this article, by a landscape architect I’ve heard speak on relevant tree topics, Peter MacDonagh –

He’s from Minnesota, yet he notes the importance of integrating water harvesting into plantings. He gets how much water we let or even make drain away from our Texas landscapes, not to mention so much of the arid desert southwest.

Desert Willow / Chilopsis linearis, with my former Honda for scale…in a place that was formerly in Texas (E of the Rio Grande)

My favorite line of his (no offense to the conscious engineers out there): “when arborists or LAs show up at a meeting and recommend green infrastructure (water harvesting, soil / rooting technology, etc), we need to use every calculation, fact and figure. When an engineer shows up at that meeting, all they have to do is shoot from the hip. It’s an engineer’s world, so don’t you forget that.”

I think I’ve been to those kind of meetings!

A Week in the Life of a Yucca

Never mind, it took 3 weeks for all this. Time flies!

One of my favorite skyline accent plants is right off my tiny patio, and it bloomed for the first time in at least two years.

Photos from 3/30 to 4/18/2015 –


3/30 – Torrey Yucca / Yucca torreyi

talk about exotic…so rich…take that, crepe myrtles!

3/31 – unfurling

to think we grow this stuff so effortlessly

That’s an all-too-common sky, until recently. I know, no pity for the other 85% of the time, or our temperatures at least 85% of the time.


without pucture wounds, I measured this flower stalk just under 36″ tall (36″ sounds more impressive than 3′)

Maybe it paid off, to dump my mop water at the base of this clump every couple weeks? Or a (finally) winter with decent moisture? Maybe combined it help develop this display.


4/7 – uh oh, top-heavy

The flopping over certainly hasn’t been from our spring winds. I think 2015 has been the most mellow for wind and sand storms I may have seen in 23 years, in the region known for free tooth cleanings many spring afternoons. While most of you are getting verdant…

falling over, or just groovin’?

4/12 – clouds back, flowers fading

back to the dust

adios, until next spring…and hola, cobalt blue sky

It’s not like yuccas are lame, like bradford pears and russian sage are.

But seeing our everyday yuccas soar into the sky, then add flowers, helps take the blahs of ordinary from the high desert.

Does anything in the plant world do that same thing for you?