In many commercial and home landscapes the rest of us design – without a lofty budget, horticulturists to maintain, not enough or too much irrigation, and other limitations – some design elements remain in spite.

Why not learn what those are? Then, before finishing the design, go back and edit it down to what’s necessary.

I hear this technique called reductionism, and anyone can do it.

the Dion’s architect provided me colors and finishes for building and roofing…

As this project was installed just over 6 months ago, and it’s been summer since the end of May, there are more plantings than obvious in the foreground on the slope and basin…just wait until next May.

Yucca pallida, in drivers’ eye-level raised planters, colored walls…

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. Yes, that Antoine de Saint-Exupery, of The Little Prince.

Steve Martino’s term, “walls and weeds”…

An ordinary waste space of a drive-through lane; just add some thought.

After all, people sit in their air conditioned cars and trucks, idling in these lanes for several minutes, so why not a garden for them?

more room, more morning sun, same Y. pallida…and an overstory of a single Yucca faxoniana…brown wall for a backdrop…
flowering OK too, in the right place

We’ll see how long that mass of Orange Globemallow / Sphaeralcea munroiana lasts, or is tolerated, since it doesn’t yet have pop-culture appeal.

I figured since various, local globemallows grow in waste spaces against curbs or paving in sand and clay, no matter how hot, this South Valley spot might feel like home. Just in a prettied-up design version!

But that’s reduced, too. What can you reduce, to make even better?

5 Replies to “Reductionism”

  1. It’s simply beautiful! Thank you for designing for the drive through folks. Every now and then I notice a particularly nice garden in this kind of space and bless the designer for allowing is a bit of garden instead of more asphalt. My garden would look great if I pulled everything out, actually thought of a design or desired effect and then planted accordingly instead of impulse buying whatever catches my fancy and shoe horning it into any available space.

    Thanks, originally 1 planter was at grade, so I thought, “let’s raise it to be eye-level for cars like the other planter”, and the architect agreed. The plants then a cinch, other than their clay soil not drying out in the “rainy season” or being colder in winter. Your garden – over time, I’m sure you’ll pare down while still adding new plants – both can be fun!


  2. I aspire to a garden nearby that is a few Alluadia procera and many Agave titanota, all mulched with a beautiful gravel. But oh, it is hard when you want to grow a lot of different things. Maybe someday.

    Ha ha, though how about 1 small outdoor room with that combo in it, and indulge yourself elsewhere? I hear you on restraint…


  3. Hey! I think I am totally gonna reduce my gulf muhly. Not because I don’t love gulf muhly…it may be my favorite grass…but because I DON’T WANT TO MEET THE NEEDS OF GULF MUHLY. Everything in my garden I don’t have to water after establishment…that is the kind of gardener I am…so…I am going to reduce those things away and find something suited to my practices…

    Really, it needs that much – I mean, everyone out here uses it, though it’s on drip. At this project, I did drifts of Gulf Muhly at the bottoms of all the drainage basins, but that’s deep sandy loam. Look at other Muhly grasses, I bet you can by them there. Good way to be, though.


    1. I have to make a decision, for sure. Add drip, or choose something that can look good on what it gets from Mother Earth. Because on no drip…they look shabby. This summer anyway…last summer they got a little more water and looked great.

      I like the latter choice most, but without passive water harvesting and the toughest plants, it’s not easy. Do you have any local plant lists for alternates that grow on your range of rainfall?


  4. The aesthetic appeal of the photos in this post is powerful to me. I love a pared down view and the use of strong colors to provide a backdrop for a row of structural plants. I’ve chosen a different priority to drive design in my own spaces however and this is perhaps not the post to support my choice as I brought home and planted several dozen 4 inch pots from the nursery yesterday. : ) Additionism anybody?

    Thanks, I was happy for the architect to be open, and we collaborated some. It should fill in well! I think I know where you got those…Barton Springs…and put them! I had additionism issues myself, and on others’ designs I sometimes do, too!!


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