The Wide Shot – December 2013, SW Edition

Heather at Xericstyle is doing something generalists like me appreciate…the big picture or the wide shot meme.

Many blogs show close-up images without much context, but I find contexts with some details more helpful. Since this post’s photos are from over 5 weeks ago instead of today, I’ll compensate by showing gardens I intend to post more on in the future: 2 are homes, 1 is a recently-installed streetscape I designed. (hoping I can soon participate in 1-2 various memes / month)

I no longer have my own home garden, but I do have many gardens that I design, of various scales and mostly modest budgets. At least for what I deal with in the high desert region!

Photos from 10/22/2013, in Las Cruces NM –

Jeff Anderson’s Las Cruces home, planted just 2 years ago…native and adapted plants, plus some trials

Jeff is the Extension Agent for Doña Ana County for horticulture, plus agronomy and agriculture. He’s quite skilled at design, exterior and interior, with a knack for articulated, eclectic design.

Jeff’s former home, several blocks from the first photo

Like his new home, Jeff is into a form of Danger Garden’s “cram it” garden style. And what he crammed in! It took -4F in 2/2011, with little protection, including the Argentine Cardon / Echinopsis terscheckii, L of the walk…

The almost-finished installation of planting and irrigation I designed on Red Hawk Golf Road, where it intersects the future Arroyo Road

It is not in the cram-it style, but rather, to satisfy minimums and maximums allowed by the City of Las Cruces, and look good to drivers at 35 MPH.

It needs to look good to golfers and potential home buyers, especially in winter and summer, when Red Hawk GC and the Metro Verde development are showing the merits of not going to Phoenix and Tucson.

The landscape contractor failed to install water harvesting basins on my design, but they will on future sections!

Monterrey Oak and Beaked Yucca were used in the median, ‘Cathedral’ Live Oak is in the parkways. Lower plantings include natives such as Purple Threeawn grasses, Damianita, Mexican Blue Sage, Red Yucca, ‘Sierra Gold’ Dalea, Chocolate Flower and Mescal Agave. I hope the rabbits ignore them…the soil is caliche, gravel, clay, and more caliche…sigh.

This area of town is near the south end of the Jornada del Muerto basin, and it hit -23 to -10F in 2/2011, after 0 to +5F in 1/2011…double sigh.


21 Replies to “The Wide Shot – December 2013, SW Edition”

  1. Although I’m not too happy with a front yard that is all lawn, I’m not too sure I would be happy with that much vegetation bunched up together, or crammed in as you call it. Since my highly shaded backyard has given up its lawn, I’m hoping to come up with a better landscape back there using shade loving plants or more pavers. Still debating.

    Thanks for stopping by! I too like a happy medium, or something more “pared down”…like some of the many different species in that area. It’s good to plan before doing – easier to move things on paper:-)


  2. I love that crammed-in garden! And why not cram it in if you love plants and a full look, especially since the plants he’s chosen are not especially needy of water. This is a gardener’s garden, not a streetscape — completely different things, with completely different design requirements. I love that you show both types on this post, David. Good stuff, all around.

    I enjoyed both of his places, too, and wait until I zoom in…Jeff’s having fun! It is a lush, exuberant look, like an oasis without a wall. The huge cactus in the 2nd pic blew my mind!


  3. Hi David,

    As a horticulturist, I do struggle with NOT cramming too many plants in my personal landscape, but am only partially successful – I love plants too much!

    Liked hearing about the street landscaping you are doing near the golf courses. I spent my early career working on multiple golf courses and loved creating landscape areas that were drought-tolerant and beautiful at the same time.

    I hope you are enjoying your new city and the warmer winter temps!


    Me too, though I think I’m finally conquering my plant nerdiness! Taking the same “cram-it” horticulturist to that GC streetscape will bring some balance, as it needs to be lush and colorful…more on it, soon. Winter there is the challenge. And I’m enjoying being 1 full USDA zone warmer, though a winter trip to Phx (to warm up more) is still in order!


  4. D, I can’t believe I am saying this, but I am in looove with those crammed in gardens! as always, you have so much to share and teach! thank you!

    Wait until I post more, some great plants for USDA Z 8a crammed in. Maybe it’s since we both have sparer looks, we like a different variety sometimes?


    1. True …true….

      Restraint is something too! It is not like we are lame…just more controlled….

      Yes – ”A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away.” – Antoine de Saint-Exupery


  5. Something has always bothered me about the “crammed in” look for gardens, I’m not exactly sure what. Actually I never knew the name for it, but “crammed in” is perfect! –I agree with the poster who said that combining a wide-angle shot with detailed ones is a perfect way to provide context. Great post, thanks David.

    Thanks! I hear you, though once I post more at each of the “cram it” gardens, there is some great layering / species at work. The university garden a few blocks from me crammed, so it’s a struggle to show people how to landscape better when all I have is 1 or a few of everything w/ little design.


  6. I think when I first started my current garden I was “collecting” more…and when I put things together, I was mostly concerned with creating contrasting pairings and groupings, rather than thinking of the big picture. The longer I’ve gardened here, however, I’ve developed a more focused view of the big picture. I tend to stop now, when presented with a new, desirable plant…if it doesn’t contribute to the overall aesthetic of the garden, I put it back (novelty for novelty’s sake is no longer a driving force). In the end, all the fussy pairings, while appealing in the beginning, lost their thrill…and I’ve been paring things back ever since. I read somewhere recently (I think it was on Grounded Design) that a young garden is about plants…a mature garden is about place…perhaps it’s all part of “growing up” with our spaces ;-)

    Excellent…makes sense, going from detail to overall. On both houses, I did the opposite (how I roll, including on books!), starting with a plan, then adding a few many new plant additions to try (some combos, not all worked), then pared it all down again. All a process…I think I always started with place, then embellished, then returned to my original place but far more refined. I too read that on Grounded Design…plants (or hardscape for those who struggle with plants), then place.


    1. Sort of like first gardens are all about the flowers. Mature gardens are all about foliage.

      Well-said – maybe same with designers, gardeners. Flowers = spark, foliage/form = fire.


  7. Wow! That first garden is only two years old? It’s really done well.

    I like wide shots of gardens. Closeups are good, if you want to see what a particular plant looks like. But, I like to see how plants relate to each other.

    I like the ‘crammed in’ look. But, I like negative spaces, too.

    And, I looked up the Three Awn grass. I like it, too. Wonder if that’s the grass I see growing along the side of the road here. Very pretty.

    Yes, gardens work more when looking at the whole than taking them in smaller parts. Purple Threeawn is native as far E as your area; feel free to send pics, and I’ll try to ID. Rabbits leave it alone, and it takes all, except 5″ rainfall years!


  8. Love Jeff’s ‘crammed in’ designs. Look like desert cottage gardens to me and I bet they attract birds & butterflies to boot.

    Definitely when I’ve been there, but so do the same plants of other design styles. Maybe his is a Mediterranean-Desert hybrid?


  9. I am guilty of all of the above. However my newest goal is to design for winter interest with the bones of the garden. Of course this too may change! lol. New installations can begin so desolate, that’s why we need professional design, as professional designers have vision and faith. Faith that it will be maintained appropriately.

    By the way, this is Bedlam week. Any wagers?

    Good points, and good idea to bump up the volume with some bones…let your house be your guide. Faith in the designer’s faith, and vice-versa for a good client! Bedlam – I’m not getting hopes up, as OSU is the most formidable opponent OU has had in 2013. Wager…I’ll think on it; you, since you’re ranked 15-20 places above us? :-)


    1. The current line is 10 points in favor of state, which I think is exorbitant. As you know “Sooner Magic” happens. he he. Even up for a native plant from the losers territory.

      There’s also the weather factor (low 8 / high 26…may keep the total score under 100 pts), and the “Big Game [to choke at] Bob” factor. So, we’ll see. 1 gallon max native plant it is if OSU wins, a burger (since I’m renting) next time I’m in KS if OU wins…


  10. Although I appreciate the context photos, the big picture photos, I rarely put them on my blog. There are a number of reasons to show only close-up shots. When you are a collector, using the cram-it style of gardening, the big picture can be a mess. When you are a collector, rarely is the focus and intent the big picture, but rather a fascination with each plant. So if that’s how you see your garden why wouldn’t you show it that way? Also, when you show a big view, and are showing the context of a plant or design, you may also be sharing the location. That’s okay when it is a public space, but what about your. Home, particularly if it is distinctive or you live in a small town? What if you accidentally mention that you are leaving town on vacation for two weeks?
    Just thoughts, not criticism…

    Valid points, actually, vacations on social media or privacy for some. A friend in Austin is that very way on her home, and on my website portfolio I leave out names, including to avoid some interviewing clients about me! My 5′ courtyard wall was for privacy against bad elements. But on a blog, especially a landscape many have seen on tours or otherwise, I ask if it’s OK to post, then go for it. In most cases, the wide view helps, unless it’s only about each part.


    1. I like to use close up shots and context photos together. Each enhances the other. The context shots show the design which most American gardeners need to learn more about. The pretty/cool plant part Americans get. There are plenty of opportunities to illustrate both views while visiting gardens open to the public on Garden Conservancy Open Days, for instance.

      I tend to agree with that approach, one feeds the other, not either-or.


  11. Oof – guilty as charged for “instant design” by cropping. Part of the reason I resist wide shots on my blog (or so I tell myself) is that the smaller photos don’t translate quite as well when shooting large format views. Part of it is also the reality that there is always work going on in my beds and it would be a rarity indeed that the entire front curbside (IE) would be weeded at one time.

    I like the cram it all in style a great deal but am slowly coming to appreciate negative spaces more in my own surroundings. It is hard and getting harder to sustain lush appearances (even with natives) with water restrictions in play.

    Though a caution for some on wide views, below! Negative space is good, especially when more than just gravel or wood mulch, but reliant on form or something less voluminous. When I was at my old house, I loved the wide view, but used to cringe I hadn’t weeded in a few weeks months! In your area, negative space can be a mass of low grasses…I must post on this.


  12. Jeff’s new landscape has softer plants at the edges. Both are well done.

    Gold dalea is one I need to look for. Dalea is one of the best plants in my garden.

    It’s really an interesting way he does things! He was thrilled when I asked him if I could blog on it.

    Daleas do very well, and there are so many…this one is carpet-like, but deciduous. I’ll post on some landscapes using that Dalea, it is D. capitata ‘Sierra Gold’ –
    One nickname the “discoverers” and growers have for it is “Policeman’s Dalea”, seeing it only because they were being careful looking at plants in Chihuahua (?), since Federales drove by…


  13. Guilty as charged for closeup shots without context. I like the wide view but should take a design note from my dissatisfaction with most wide shots of my garden. Those cram-scaped plantings seem amazingly lush for desert. Your recent installations are set up for success: But what about the lack of water harvest basins – will the plants pay the price?

    Ha! I still get hit on my wide views for missed design opportunities… They are lush, and he often sinks grades to hold instead of drain off water. I think my median will do OK (drip irrig), since the city’s public works dept. would not allow water to drain into planting areas…


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