Foliage Follow-Up: 11/2014 in El Paso

It’s suddenly not just fall-like in El Paso, but there are even hints of early winter. 5 days straight now where there’s no way to wear shorts…tragedy!

I haven’t yet seen a hard freeze, but 29F and 32F lows mean a frost and freeze, and that timing was almost right at our average first frost date. Even one sunny day’s high of 48F made summer seem a distant memory.

Photos from 11/12 to 11/16/2014 –


Chinese Pistache / Pistacia chinensis – dry USDA z 6b
some issues on my 2008 design, these trees should be 3x larger…

But what remains at Sierra Providence East years later isn’t bad. You know how much I like the contrast of leafy and soft with sharp and spiky, like foreground Red Yucca plants and the background groupings of Torrey Yucca and Ocotillo.

Those plant forms are crucial to hold a design together during our cooler months, more crucial than fall color.

Both forms may be even better, but with those two skyline accent plants, it’s obvious we’re in the Chihuahuan Desert and not Chi-town.

stunning orange and red on this individual tree
Ocotillo plants are dull this fall (too much moisture?)…but on the right…
some pistaches, like this one, turn burgundy and then red


That tree near my tiny abode started getting fall color 5 weeks ago; it seemed to respond to changing daylight more than other pistaches nearby (those with changing temperatures).
Seasons. People who don’t like the natural aspects that make their area great, no matter their income or time there, often don’t or won’t get it.

When I was on Twitter, someone living near where I now live chimed in on a conversation some of us were having, including a photo of mine showing a garden or plant in her town in a good light.

No acknowledgement of anything, except how she was from the east coast, and how it is “always summer here” and “always too warm”. And “no fall color or seasons” like back there. She added how she lived in this region “15 years”, implying broad regional experience and climatic / horticultural facts are trumped by selective perceptions and dislikes.

With this area’s averaging of 50+ nights / year below 32F and 100+ days / year not the growing season, and much more, you’ve got me. But back to another fall, though many seem different than the last!

a new Texas Red Oak / Quercus buckleyi , USDA z 5b

These trees are at a new portion of the landscape at my ongoing hospital project, with some nice color starting up. Right on time, if the right species was planted.

but I’m unsure this leaf shape is the oak I specified…I’ll soon find out
Virginia Creeper or Woodbine / Parthenocissus quinquefolia, USDA z 4 (hardiness depends on the selection sold)
brilliant in the land of dusty yellow falls…
the 2nd / last time of any year Bradford Pear deserves mention…
especially on a chilly day, when there are some raindrops!


tougher palm trees deserve a look, since they make up winter green here…

Green is a color, too; color is not just dinner-plate sized foliage having a riot of other colors in autumn!

less fibers than many of these…
California or Desert Fan Palm / Washingtonia filifera, dry USDA z 8a
one of the “palms of the high desert” out in front…Torrey Yucca / Yucca torreyi, dry USDA z 7


decent for a removed lawn…Arizona Ash / Fraxinus velutina, USDA z 6b
clouds kept blocking the sun, when I wanted to show this yellow’s intensity!

But we wouldn’t want to leave yellows using [tr]ash as an example. :-)

underused Western Soapberry / Sapindus drummondii, USDA z 6a

Thanks for hosting Foliage Follow-Up, Pam. You can see her post and links to others’ posts – here.

And I may skip my Sunday beer at Craft and Social, to stretch out where my hands can thaw out with a cup of hot coffee!


11 Replies to “Foliage Follow-Up: 11/2014 in El Paso”

  1. It looks like autumn, all right! Around these parts pistache is a dependable gold in the fall, but the red is a rarer color. I guess that’s why people plant so much liquidambar. Very cool to see them in the same frame as ocotillo–you’re definitely not in Kansas!

    And now it’s changed to very mild, but So Cal’s recent rain swung just north of us… I do remember the Dec-Jan color on liquidambar there…and no signs of Topeka here!


  2. Wonder about the red oaks too. They seem a little uniform which is something you might not see with buckleyi but some liners are fertilized to the hilt.

    Even with over-fertilized / watered liner stock, the form looks like Q. shumardii, but the leaf looks like yet something else. Hopefully not some acid-loving oak from somewhere… (I’ll ask what our TAMU TFS forester thinks)

    Update – our forester told me mine resemble the ones on the side of his building, which he keyed as Pin Oak…and they’re healthy. That’s wild.


  3. Beautiful color on the Pistache in your area. Here most years it just gets a little gold.

    So happy I am not the only one who calls it a tr(ash).

    Interesting! I remember some fall color trees in San Diego; no pistaches but many sweet gums, and they turned in December. Ash…argh!


  4. Who knew! Fall color in the south. :)

    Yes, I think people plant less for color here than Albuquerque, and the Army Corps poisoned the cottonwoods along the river, but good color when planted!


  5. At our old place in DFW, we replaced an Arizona Ash (short lived) with Chinese Pistache. As Pam said, it was a recommended tree. Now here in the Hill Country, not so much.
    They do get some nice fall color, though. Hard to come by in Texas, sometime.

    As to people complaining about their surroundings, I agree with Deb. I am forever whining about trying to garden here. Those ‘cute little deer’, that helped sell this place to us, are pests. The weather has been especially hard to deal with here. But, I consider gardeners bemoaning their circumstances as different (more legitimate) from just regular whining.

    That’s my story, and I’m sticking to it…lol

    I like your story, and we who garden do have some real concerns…I think I’ll take armies of rabbits over deer anyday, too! I wonder what else can work for similar color, and Bigtooth Maple comes to mind…I read something about people in Boerne planting them from a local population.


  6. Thanks for sharing your fall color and info about your current fall-like weather. I’ve been known to complain about missing the gorgeous fall color of sugar maples now that I’m living in the PNW. I don’t miss anything else about the east coast though, especially the snow and the extreme cold.

    You’re welcome, and now I cannot complain since I enjoyed a hot chocolate last night. I knew people who missed Denver moving to Albuquerque, or others missing another place here. Me, it’s so full of garden opportunity in the sun, and not too extreme usually!


  7. Beautiful color! I especially like those gorgeous green palms! Keep warm!

    Heater cranked, and I will drive home and enjoy the palms and sunset…pretending it isn’t 40F now!


  8. I was about to weigh in on the idea of folks consistently complaining about the weather where they live when it struck me – most of what I write on my blog consists of some sort of whine or the other… Do I make a distinction between people who I know are trying to garden grousing about their challenges and people who I surmise are merely grousing?

    I think I do.

    The oranges, reds and yellows featured here are stunning. Spring is easy everywhere – it is how you view winter in your place that perhaps sets apart those with a true affection for their surroundings?

    I do too, but like you, I do it out of reality and challenges…I recall an ex-Illinois architect once in Abq who considered Abq having no real winter, but her point was that was an opportunity in design. (and just stick around, it gets real winter sometimes!) Thanks – though our SW desert springs usually fade to dust and warmer until evil June. Yes, how one sees the dormant season, then works with it!


  9. Yes, Chinese pistache is on the invasives list here in Austin, after years of it being recommended. Times change… Your first photo made me smile, with the three red trucks echoing the red foliage you were pointing out.

    I remember seeing that, plus on my mtn bike ride all the nandinas growing wild near the trail! Another happy accident that photo of red trucks and foliage…


  10. The color on the Western Soapberries in North Central Kansas was outstanding this fall until the wind blew it all away. Thanks for showing examples of your work, always look forward to new posts. Any updates on the Buckley Oaks?

    Thanks for visiting, and I have more project pics coming next. I know your area, but didn’t realize soapberries were found there…wind! Will find out more on the oaks.


  11. Good call on the Pistache with the roof color. When I lived in Virginia people paid to have the creeper pulled out as a weed. It’s a real standout where the color is special. Interesting Bradford Pear doesn’t appear to be as invasive in El Paso as the east.

    It has been cold in SA too. I do wonder why people move for a job or the weather and then complain about the new place. If it doesn’t work for you then move back to wherever.

    It may have been luck, but good luck! We see it / woodbine a litle higher up where it randomly grows into junipers and some oaks – like a rare splash. Those pears often decline here, let alone reseed…I hear pistaches reseed in either your area or in the SE, but I might be wrong? People like that are funny, often they make more $ than those who want to stay.


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