Seasons at High Lonesome

Time flies! The first streetscapes for the new Metro Verde development on Las Cruces’ NE side were by two landscape contractors, the same LA (me), over a few seasons. As always, click images to enlarge –

Spring 2014

time to spare, nearby Red Hawk GC Road…young, in spring glory

With expansive views of their stunning Organ Mountains, it directly borders the smaller Doña Ana Mountains, the lengthy spine of the San Andres Mountains, and the broad and equally long Jornada.

The latter place’s actual name is Jornada del Muerto (Journey of Death), named by raiding Spaniards because it was a long distance with little to no water. It bypassed El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro and the Rio Grande valley’s more reliable water, including occasional Apache raids visits. Probably a higher reward – risk ratio than being closer to the water, but still the risk of no water.

Years ago on a roadtrip, at one point on US-380 the driver and I spotted the distant ends of both the Organ Mountains and the Sandia Mountains, at opposite directions. They are 200+ miles apart.

Ironically, the Jornada was named long before the first atomic bomb was exploded at its more remote north end on the Trinity Site, over 1/2 way to Albuquerque. Spanish-speaking people might rightfully question using the area’s name as the town grows that direction.

Nolina texana…looking to the Organ Mountains and our desert skies
Quercus polymorpha and Yucca rostrata taller…Aristida purpurea lines are opposite golden Chrysactinia mexicana lines in each median…clumps of azure Salvia chamaedryoides at the crosswalk

Small, young, and with a limited budget that still exceeds City minimum plant requirements: masses make it, while flowers flowering don’t hurt. Just wait until this spring.

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rotary heads not putting out enough water to establish the reseeded basin areas

The irrigation mainline extended from the west was too small, given diminished water pressure. Piping and valves were enlarged following our meeting; my design would have been better to just do a new irrigation connection.

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battery-powered irrigation controller in the main valve box
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wrong yuccas…these are Yucca baccata, my plans say Yucca rostrata

The yuccas were also the wrong size – the plans state 6-7′ height, not 5 gallon. A huge difference in price and impact; impact is important in a new development, at least in key areas.

The shrubs are wrong, too. I specified green ‘Green Cloud’ or “Rio Bravo’ leucophyllums. But since they didn’t forget the water harvesting basins in this streetscape, we let these stay. They are so healthy, just grayer than the developer or I desired.

Summer 2014

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John speaking to Jesus (+ City of LC landscape architect Cathy Mathew[s])…yep
I’m unsure where Luke or Mark were, but David captured it all; we’re all out doing our final punchlist a day before my birthday. Thick clouds with virga kept it in the low 80’s, a great present for our hour onsite to wrap up a new installation.

Virga = rain falling into dry air, evaporating before reaching the ground. I hear not all of you get this like we do out west! #DryHeat

Some of those green Ericameria laricifolia were planted too close to the path, so those need to be moved as per plans…..

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the wrong yuccas were replaced with another wrong plant, this time Nolina texana…not a yucca, but the same family (I think)
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previous portion of the same streetscape from 2 years ago…filling in

Seeding to create meadows, AKA “crazy color quilts” or “tapestries of (gray and brown) …”, don’t translate to tight spaces. This is why I designed in 1 gallon grasses and 5 gallon yuccas. All tripled in size in 2 years; the grasses are mature, but the yuccas need more time, and often mature to 15′ or more.

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the Texas state grass, Bouteloua curtipendula…Yucca elata soaring with the granite spires

Just imagine what the yuccas and grasses will do for this scene, given a decade or two of chile roasting seasons, roadrunners with lizards in their beeks, and occasional virga-filled skies.

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Cercis texensis, masses of moundy Baccharis x ‘Starns’ punctuated with a few pincushions of Dasylirion wheeleri

The 4,200′ elevation sun is burning lingering clouds into submission. Maybe it did reach the forecast 100F+ high after all, as I drove back in air conditioning?

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narrow street plantings of Ulmus crassifolia and Hesperaloe parviflora

This xeric planting already has some promise to be a green canopy and oasis, as much as possible without more than drip irigation.

similar on the other side of the housing area entry

Winter 2014-2015

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mix of gravel sizes…winter plant bones

After I finished some errands up in Las Cruces last Saturday, I had to catch a quick glance at how things look. Even while patchy snow and cold are ruling their few times every winter. An interesting contrast to the growing season to be sure, right to the look of the skies.

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winter’s rest looking west
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and looking east…dormant Dalea capitata, plus the other same plants noted

On the right, Lantana spp. once thrived at both entries into the housing area. They were stolen, of course, but the rabbits at least are igoring these tender morsels plantings.

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a brisk afternoon walk near New Mexico’s state grass, Bouteloua gracilis

If this couple stays there a bit longer, this will really fill in, and not just houses and commercial buildings. The winter-dormant, broad view on half-built Engler Road. 9-month-old plantings taking shape as the timeless San Andres and Organ Mountains loom under the chilled sky.

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bare Quercus polymorpha, evergreens Yucca rostrata and Ericameria laricifolia, and the dormant balance of plantings
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part of why I use negative space, grass masses, and some evergreen
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3rd time’s a charm…the right yuccas were finally installed

Only chest high, they aren’t the height specified. But from decades of past projects, I’m sure plan sizes we’re missed while bidding, or the supplier didn’t have larger sizes. Anyway, how could John not work out such a matter with Jesus?

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most definitely Yucca rostrata

Time to get back to the office for some more work, then a relaxing evening grilling up some goodies and enjoying the warmth inside my tiny place.

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headed down to-o-o Old El Paso
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detour over Anthony Gap, to slow it down and take it in
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4 Replies to “Seasons at High Lonesome”

  1. The landscape is staggering–distracts from the frustrations of your work. Keep fighting the good fight. It matters.

    What you’re saying does come to my mind…scenery with some fitting landscape. Thanks!

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  2. Interesting to see the project over time. I don’t know if I could garden in this region–takes so long to grow out of barren.

    Some of my peers just overplant, then visibility and maintenance issues hit. Patience pays off!

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  3. When I went to visit this past fall and drove through Anthony Gap, I was surprised I hadn’t known about it before. A short, but spectacular desert drive. Do you know it’s land status? With all the development in the El Paso-Las Cruces corridor, I worry about it being turned into housing or worse.

    Some is BLM, most owned by a rancher who allows mtn bike / hike access in areas (leases some to Bowen Ranch). You’re right, that scenery is ripe for affluent who hate the desert and work in EP, for hyper-homes w/ gravel, palms, Hummers behind gates.

    I hiked it a year ago; need to post more pics of scenes and plants –
    https://dryheatblog.wordpress.com/2014/01/05/saturday-sunday-sky-152014/

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  4. I mean no disrespect to the body of your post, I paid careful attention to every comment and photo that came before it, but that last shot of Anthony Gap is all I can think about. It is breathtaking. The motion shown in the scrub, rock and finally above in the streaming clouds, is visual magic. Well done, sir.

    I thought I would mega-post to put a dent in this one, plus not posting much. The last scene was the best I’ve seen in many times driving over Anthony Gap…jaw on ground. Thanks!

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