I’m a Landscape Architect, Not a Doctor, Jim!

And I’m not a psychiatrist. But I do like Star Trek.

A few in our landscape field have said certain things are just  “our cross to bear”. After 25 years in our field, I do not think much of that is our cross to bear. A legitimate concern, but for now, what to do?

Report to the ER, at least figuratively. Photos from Sierra Providence Eastside Hospital, South Tower Expansion, spring 2014 –

from inside the spacious lobby, a soon-to-be, shady canyon oasis…

Quercus buckleyi (Chihuahuan Desert Region-native Q. gravesii not reliably available…sigh…), Nolina texana, Salvia greggii…

And my usual concrete seat wall, this time in an arc. Some design elements always work, bridging the rectilinear.

young chocolatey Berlandiera lyrata, among the Nolina by where people sit…imagine morning visits…
boulders not set into the grade, some Viguiera stenoloba to move as per plan………I let them slide on the yuccas (plans say Y. torreyi, these are Y. elata)…
just a shallow trench and some pins to hold down in the grade…
you should’ve seen the pick axes used for some plant holes…
drip tubing for the Acacia farnesiana…I won’t tell how they got a 24″ box sizze out of 15 gallon sizes, but I did it with a Quercus grisea clump back in Burque…
boulder placement on the non-existant berms….

Those non-existant berms are a long story. Don’t ask, or I’ll tell you about the oxygen farm, too. And the right yucca appears again – Yucca torreyi!

speaking of the old MOB landscape, circe 2009…

Forget the Hesperaloe, or Prosopis glandulosa, in the basin. That’s shaping up to be one nice Sophora secundiflora ‘Silver Peso’.

And those stubs in that shallow basin are Sporobulus wrightii.

all growing back from some fall “maintenance”!
side entry to new tower ready for mulch next week…

I designed that sidewalk further out from the building than was built. The flags signify the Muhlenbergia rigens moving in further, closer to the spiky Hesperaloe funifera.

the usual fun at the end of the day…
my 2008 design still holding together at the entry…hospital L, new tower just R of it, MOB R of that…and that hot spring sky…

My plan here was vetoed by an unknowing person, self-described as from a swampy place – i.e. bayous. The Fallugia paradoxa crammed into the tight area above the swale, instead of within it, where the water is (when it rains).

We desert rats know Apache Plume thrives where stormwater rushes by.

Fallugia seed plumes against the green mesquites…and that desert sun…

Other post on previous visits  – hereherehere


11 Replies to “I’m a Landscape Architect, Not a Doctor, Jim!”

  1. I love your curved walls. Must pass this on to my son in AZ for when he designs his front garden and removes the grass. And yes I can just imagine someone sitting on the wall and wondering where that chocolaty smell is coming from. I wonder if he will investigate. It is refreshing to see someone who plants for the future and not for the present.

    Thanks, I think it softens the space and turns people towards each other…and this one was long enough to accomodate many! I only wish we had better tree availability in large sizes, to make that more compelling


  2. Always a treat to read a new thread. Love the photos and the designs.

    Thanks, many more to come. I need to do more soon!


  3. I love star trek as well! I was wondering what this post would be about.
    Great look going there. I too love the curved wall for sitting. Nice touch to move the sidewalk out to leave room for future plant growth. I’m still learning to read the labels on how ‘wide’ a plant gets when spacing out a bed.
    Nice post.

    I must look at the plans vs. paving there some more. But thanks, as that simple wall arc worked out. Had it been a longer space, it may have become serpentine. Spacing lessons – true, since in your area, mature listed sizes may be exceeded – 4′ listed could become 6’+ reality in Houston! My consultant on a Orlando FL project cautioned me not to count on anything staying the listed size, especially with their coquina sand soil…I had to use dwarf forms of compact trees, in hopes they stayed 20′!

    “Live long and prosper”, from the opposite end of the state!


  4. I do agree with the others. If these people already ‘know everything’, why hire someone else?

    Well…not ALL people. PLANT people are pretty nice. :)

    I like that low wall, too. Function and beauty.

    I noticed that with most plant people, in 2 of the 5 least-friendly places as per tourists last year…the SF Bay Area and Santa Fe. As if we were all into gardens, and at peace, regardless of the outside! Thanks…


  5. Follow the plan. It sounds so simple but contractors seem to delight in ignoring the plan, substituting and convincing the client they’ve done them a favor because the specifications were “wrong”.

    Are those sand ripples supposed to be berms? One windstorm or rain and no more berms. It’s easy to see where Apache Plume grows best, just look for the rows of “desert plants” along the low spot where the rain washes to the arroyo.

    I like the arc in the low wall repeating the window arch along with the curving walkways to soften the straight lines.


  6. I used to be a people person but people wrecked that for me. Oh well, such is the give and take of human interaction but don’t clients understand that they’ve hired you because YOU’RE the expert? It’s looking good!

    Thanks, and the right plants often outdo so many people, once they get their hands on things! Too bad it’s the people who pay us…


  7. …I’m both (sort of), and the issues are largely the same. People are people, aren’t they? People bring you a big neglected mess, that they want fixed for cheap. Owners not following directions whether by accident or (more frequently) by intention, and then complaining that things didn’t work out. Specialists changing things because it is easier for them, but not seeing the big picture. Do you get, say, engineers who tell a client to “ask the landscape architect” when it is an issue they should be addressing? I bet you do. The big difference is that in medicine I can’t scrap the whole thing and start over…unless you believe in reincarnation.

    Very true, on all accounts! What we get with many engineers, too late or almost too late in a project, is “I can address the grades some, but we are already finished with that…or sometimes they doubt our site planning and reasoning to harvest storm water for plantings. But had a great collaboration on a new hospital last week. It’s cost-prohibitive for the landscape to start over for many, so the bar raising up will be good.


  8. Ha! Loved the title – made me laugh aloud before I’d even opened the post. Interesting how parts of your plan were “vetoed” by an outlander. Seriously, why people pay for expertise they turn around and ignore IS probably a case for a psychiatrist.

    I’m currently digging weeds growing out of gravel paths like crazy here in Central Texas. I’m curious David, will those open areas in your plans garner weeds or does that simply not happen very often in a desert setting? What sort of mulch are you using and will that keep the areas pristine?

    The outlander had a great cajun accent, as he freaked out what rock salt-finish concrete looked like! Gravel areas, voids / negative spaces in plantings- partly less growth in desert, partly roundup where keeping it neater, until space stabilizes with maturity. Maybe a post on this…


  9. I like your positive attitude and approach , David. I`m not surprised , though. I hope things are great in El Paso.

    Thanks, getting there in EP. The rush part – imagine rushing brisket! (and I looked up a Teague BBQ trip online…)


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