Tour: Sunset Heights to Kern Place, Tight and Bright

In the US, it seems we once lived simply but kindly, then everything became bigger-is-better no matter the offense. Now, we have both and sometimes side-by-side – excess and simplifying. True simplifying – not the superficial kind that publishes in the glossies, but costs more.

Small lots don’t allow room for thirsty, larger trees and lawns, but that only opens up things for better – perfect when you’re on an arid diet.

the Sphaeralcea lining the wall looks great with both home styles

Of course, I chose an angle to hide the lawn relic out front! Just down the street a few blocks, a small project I designed the landscape for last spring…

my communal area works, but…

The only oaks should be the one in this sunken space. The seat walls became garden walls thanks to the contractor; too high for this 6′ guy to sit and his feet touch the crunchy, chat floor…maybe it works if you’re 6-6? The owner’s dog stays here, so watch your step! Not one person seems to use it, yet.

I should sketch how this would look…it would be lechuguillas instead of pale yuccas up on the side, a mix of rock sizes, and as on the trail, ocotillos, yuccas or acacias. A compromise, yet it’s not as big of a loss as I’ve been dealt.

Years ago, I started tracking my projects, listing what worked or didn’t, why, and how to avoid the latter in the future, at least from my end. I hope I can put that into high gear, for my own survival or even betterment.

the outside is starting to grow in…onward
repitition works…rock with Opuntia ellisiana
great house and especially that wall and mini-terrace

The curcular drive and mesic plants against walls and concrete: not so good.

Those of any means can make smaller spaces great, as the cost of large scales is simply not there. At least I position clients well, though it’s all up to the owner afterwards.


Writing this post, I’m on my patio…the cool air feels great. (needed some heat in my car earlier, sunroof and window open) Yesterday, many places in my region below 4500′ hit their first 90F high, and we weren’t far behind, with the low only in the mid-60’s where I live. And dry. Same today and maybe tomorrow, before cooling back to averages.

Good coffee, breakfast tacos, and the sound of mourning and white-wing doves, thrashers, and other birds in the air. Can’t wait to plant my containers :-)


3 Replies to “Tour: Sunset Heights to Kern Place, Tight and Bright”

  1. Wait – people love hackberries? I had no idea – I have always been surrounded by strongly opinionated native Texans who declared them trash trees with the caveat they are wildlife friendly. In Central Texas they have a reputation for spreading shoots everywhere and breaking off in storms to crash down on homes/fences/parked cars.

    The rocks and opuntia are absolutely delightful. David, is it the difference in rain that has the ones shown staying low and so compact? Or perhaps it is a different variety than the leggy ones all seen all around the Austin area? I thought ours were ellisiana…is there some way you’d suggest I can get ours to tighten up in form?

    I’ve seen that issue once you get into moister climes! Some do, though our arroyo native C. reticulata is sturdy, but needs mindful pruning when young.

    You may be right on the lower rainfall keeping our O. ellisiana compact…this planting might also be young. I;ve seent them top out at 5-6′, though tight mounds. I’m sure your’s and our’s are the same species, unless there’s been some selections or hybridizing. To tighten your’s up – torture with higher elevation sun?


    1. If only I did have that sort of sway over the elements! Though I have doubts whether I’d stay to the light side of the force with such powers at my disposal.

      I might try an experiment with significant pruning on an established O. ellisiana clump and see what happens. Opuntia are so easy to propagate I feel freed up to be a little reckless.

      True, such power could be tempting! I think I could stay on the good side of things, justifying some wanderings of course…

      I would do what you describe, as they grow exponentially in time, just slow at first. I convinced my former neighbor to take out one of the Opuntia orbiculata (or some other big-ol’ Opuntia), then prune back hard. Showed him how to do it, and he did a perfect job. It grew in well that next year, and was no longer taking over the world. His other plants, not so easily taught…


  2. That’s a sweet little New Mexican area that you designed in the second photo. Too bad it wasn’t installed correctly. This first one looks nice as well. Is that a hackberry? I love those.

    Thanks, I guess it has that NM effect…ah, only 3/4 mile from ther NM border! Yeah, I think it was to spite the architect. The tree did look like a Celtis or Ulmus…not sure…


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