What It Becomes

Some people say that landscape architects must get paid by the number of plants used in designs!

That’s unlikely, and I’ve never seen such a thing, assuring you as one LA among countless LA’s I’ve known. The exception might be one who’s an employee of a maintenance company or nursery, working on commission. Or more likely, some LA’s, designers or clients don’t care and want immediate effect, or they never learned plant growth or plantsmanship.

Here’s how this LA proactively approaches one aspect of planting design – nor am I alone in it – plant spacing for how each garden is seen. Mature height x spread / width for each plant is listed, as presently known in the desert.

Metro Verde in Las Cruces NM, Red Hawk Golf Road…taken 10/22/2013 –

streetscape just planted, tight spaces…far parkway (“hellstrip” to bloggers) with ‘Tuscan Blue’ Rosemary, Purple Threeawn grasses…median with Monterrey Oak, Beargrass (by oaks), Damianita (front), Purple Threeawn (behind)…

This is a streetscape, a garden meant for 30+ mph vehicles and pedestrians. Plus, the developer has financials and investors to satisfy, and the city who will be maintaining it doesn’t want more to do. We all have bosses!

This isn’t to please the few – “poet, priest, politician” – where weedy = status.

Plus, many outside those groups might even think it’s weedy, until they see it more and appreciate why it will benefit them, water supplies, etc. A balance.

I want do all that, and document my strengths in my portfolio, so all win.

a 10 year old Monterrey Oak / Quercus polymorpha, loving El Paso…30′ x 25′?
the narrow ‘Tuscan Blue’ Rosemary / R. officianalis ‘Tuscan Blue’ in the stunning rear garden of Rebecca Sweet4-5′ x 3′
trusty Beargrass / Nolina texana…at least the larger, coarser form of it from the desert foothills of NM…they get big…4-5′ x 5′
Purple Threeawn / Aristida purpurea on tight quarters at my Paseo Nuevo project with Puzak Landscape…2′ x 2′

Did you know that grass once dominated the Chihuahuan desert grasslands of the mountain bajadas, including there in Albuquerque’s heights, long before Walt broke bad? You got it!

And now it’s back, so take that, Karl Foerester and your fans in the desert, who know you far more than their own lovely natives.

that oddly uncommon grass, stunning in mid-October on minimal drip irrigation on caliche soils…
…not that I would have anything but opinions on the mature size of Damianita / Chrysactinia mexicana…12″ x 18″

Humbling was people driving by approach me with compliments more than once. Though it did scare off that California magazine’s editors, and a few others. Would it have done any of that if not used and spaced well, or just left off in favor of habitual plants that hate May-September? I think not!

back to my project in Las Cruces, but from the other way…a couple more plants, Beaked Yucca and Mexican Blue Sage…

Some – but David, those plants are tiny, it looks [cheap spindly __]
Me – refer to mature photos, growth rates of plants – especially grasses – and the budget [are you going to pay more for more plants and then to remove them in a year or two, too?]
Some – silence, with roll of eyes

…at the home of my old boss in the Sandia foothills in ABQ, Beaked Yucca / Y. rostrata…they can get bigger than this, though this is average…12′ x 5-6′

But the largest Yucca rostrata is in Texas! Or was, since it was removed to somewhere else, I hope… Scroll down to see the US champion Yucca rostrata in Fort Stockton, Texas – here !

…Mexican Blue Sage / Salvia chamaedryoides at the old place…18″ x 18-24″

With that Las Cruces’ project site tending to get as cold as Albuquerque, I was advised to not use Chaparral Sage there, though fine in town.

yes, those previous yuccas are used as accents, but were once this size…faster than you might guess, too…

Truly, plantsmanship in the garden or landscape must do justice to a place when it’s called “The Land of Enchantment”.

…more reason for giving enough room to grow Purple Threeawn, but a parkway strip is room enough…
butterflies (and hummingbirds) like these plants too, so give each plant the place and room they want

4 Replies to “What It Becomes”

  1. I love that you leave space so the natural form of the plant can be enjoyed. There are so many crammed plants in commercial areas here, it is no wonder some are turned off by xeriscaping. Not to mention, improper pruning sure makes a lot of great plants UGLY too.
    That Purple Threeawn is STUNNING!!!!!!!!!!!!!!!! I have not seen it here…

    Thanks, HG! While I prefer crammed-in over the over-sparse NM look, it is really just a lesser of 2 evils. Purple Threeawn…a favorite I finally started using 5+ years ago. And it’s native in your area, too…Bexar County, even Travis County! – http://orchid.biosci.utexas.edu/Texas.html


  2. We are living in a world of yard makeover shows and instant gratification mcgardens to be thrown up around the newly build mcmansions. So many miss the fact that plants are living, growing things, not just accessories to be thrown in to look great right now! Your design, with the future in mind, is awsome!

    Well-said, society has really missed the mark on watching things transform and mature. It’s the “now generation”…a shame, esp. when glorified. Not us – watch it transform, transforming us!


  3. I live in a fairly new housing development in CA and it never fails….. I see it all the time……. they conscientiously plant drought tolerant plants then put in sprinklers and drip irrigation and proceed to water them to death….. go figure…… I think your design is great!

    Thanks! I hear your development scenario more than not. Irrigation for establishment / drought, or as life-support / panacea…need better follow-up to avoid the disconnect. (speaking to myself!)


  4. I love that you plant with the future in mind, giving the plantings space to grow, and putting in plants that can take the conditions they are in. That is not usually what I see around here. It takes imagination to “see” what the space will become. Love that you don’t squeeze in plants to look good now, but to look great as they grow.

    I try! Maybe it was doing some summer maintenance work to earn spending money, that fortified my mindset? What I need to do, with any necessary fee increases, is to show that maturing process to clients in sketch and plan form.


Comments are closed.