Winter Campus

The El Paso version of “snowy” weather over, with decent cold for over a month, I finally made it to the Chihuahuan Desert Gardens. I think of it as plant therapy, to help me through an unusual amount of work stress since about May.

Scenes from a dull, brisk day at UTEP, 1/10-12/2015:

gray and brown…did I take a wrong turn to Albuquerque?

Bugs Bunny was a little off; most turns from there are not wrong :-) This landscape looks to have been designed for the growing season, not winter. Tsk tsk… But with that a 250 day growing season, not bad.

more interest – Savia x ‘Trident’, local boulders

And what would it be without some trendy gabion structures? Biology students could have a blast on summer nights, armed with flashlights to see scorpions, vinegaroons and the like, creeping in and out of the gabions.

native Purple Threeawn / Aristida still green in protected areas
Texas Persimmon / Diospyros texanum green, about to lose some leaves
Texas Pistachio / Pistacia texana even mostly green

I agreed to do some minor volunteer work at these gardens, more garden therapy for me. Caveat – this is a plant collection, not a designed garden. We’ll see how it goes.

Texas Olive / Cordia boissieri not so happy…#NotBrownsville
Big Bend flora meets Bhutanese architecture

That Weeping Juniper / Juniperus flaccida is really a rare one to see growing in gardens, native to the tiny Chisos Mountains of the Big Bend. Birds love the berries, but no berries on this one.

patchy sun…Populus deltoides ssp. wislizenii and Washingtonia filifera both riparian, good for the lawn area
Sweet Acacia or Huisache / Acacia farnesiana still green

There must be alot of untapped genetic diversity in this acacia, given its highly variable hardiness in close distances. Worth selecting for, since the live ones are left and look great.

Boundary Epehdra / Ephedra aspera literally growing out of rock (andesite)

Wish I could buy that one.

Blackspine Prickly Pear / Opuntia macrocentra with some O. camanchica genes…also happy in a crack in the andesite bedrock (unmotivated to remove the trash)
native creosotes, yuccas, ocotillos…planted fan palm
some new work on the university’s Campus Transformation Project…by Christy Ten Eyck’s office

A healthy budget to pay for all the corten steel bridges over her “arroyas”. It really looks good and hopefully the edges aren’t a tripping hazard. The use of ‘Regal Mist’ Grass / Muhlenbergia capillaris low where water collects, and Giant Hesperaloe / H. funifera high where it’s drier, is good, but so is the mix of rock sizes from local work.

Trust me, LA’s don’t often get projects like this, where free-reign, commitment to salvage and reuse / discard of the inappropriate, and budget all meet. Bravo.

urbanite walkways connect the Geology oval to the campus walking areas
liking these new seat walls…an abstraction of the UTEP pick?

I’m curious how the natural cracking in concrete will occur, or be controlled, over time. Though these are beefy and perhaps less susceptible with TELA’s top-secret layout of rebar in the concrete?

Those of you from outside the southwest, did you know durable but blah concrete can become an appealing amenity? Yes, via some finishes and thoughtful layout. I didn’t have a clue until I moved to San Diego out of college. I’ve been happily designing it in different ways since, though we’re talking about relatively mild, dry winter climates, without the freeze-thaw of points N-E.

the sun’s back for 30 minutes

So, what was your favorite mid-winter plant or hardscape feature?


2 Replies to “Winter Campus”

  1. I just can’t see what the fuss is over exposed rust on steel is. I understand it’s low maintenance, but I personally don’t see the attraction in it. Then again I’m not into the whole rustic scene either. Give me a holler if you need some help with your volunteer efforts – I embrace learning opportunities.

    Maybe it’s aged, hipster minimalism? I just remembered that Ten Eyck’s office did something like these bridges at the Capri event center in Marfa. I will be in touch on UTEP garden volunteer stuff…next week I hope to go out there to start my 1 or 2x month visits.


  2. Those wall benches are great and will probably see a lot of use. But those bridges over the rock work were superb and won me over at first glance. And like you, the plants growing out of a mass of rock? Sigh… That sort of serendipity is the stuff of dreams. Thanks for sharing the “collection” mid-winter.

    Very unique but simple…as all her trees mature, those seat walls should be pleasant all year. Agreed on the bridges, and there are so many in both high-traffic pedestrian areas…seems she’s used that before, but I can’t remember where. Serendipidity, plants in cracks…well-put!


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