Grasses: Masses and Rows

I enjoy how much Marfa embraces the simplicity of its setting into its landscape spaces, almost as much as most with a design sense would challenge other places’ shunning of their settings.

Chihuahuan desert grassland NW of Marfa…note the bunch spacing

These are not meadows, these are desert grasslands…arid-region bunchgrasses. It’s a dominant species or two (Black Grama / Bouteloua eriopoda), with many less of a few other species of grasses and wildflowers…plus some mesquites.

Still diverse and resilient, but oh-so-stunning

When the skilled designer with their desert eyes on sees this, they abstract it down further into a space. Marfa seems to get that more than many.

in town, Nasella tenuissima

Oddly, Marfa’s grasses used are often the same species, not found in the open space outside town for many miles. Where I once lived and now live, the desert grassland has most of the same species as Marfa, but those grasses grew more sparingly – it’s more arid.

the double row hides a few agaves, framing where to move

In Marfa, they grow as lush bunches, taller and denser, yet they’re used more in drier areas in medians and parking islands, or along golf course roughs.

What gives?

softening adjacent radio station walls, not blocking…Muhlenbergia lindheimeri
another grass, SW foothills native Bull Muhly / Muhlenbergia emersleyi
the masses are an effective understory to the mesquites

Rows and masses that work with the form of the space – the space’s architecture.

a soft screen from the sidewalk, too
more of the overused, but an effective frame without the shrub foundation look

10 Replies to “Grasses: Masses and Rows”

  1. Everything looks so lush (for the desert) and beautiful.

    They really got the rain, but compared to El Paso, it looks fairly grassy even in drought.


  2. Love the opening photo of the native grassland, the subtle tones. Beautiful country, and you’re right, the gardens don’t try to upstage it.

    Great point, and they do seem to let their place shine through.


  3. Fun to see your take on Marfa. It’s on my “need to go” list.

    I love grasses–the flow and movement–nice to get your trained eye-view.

    I can’t wait to read a professional’s travel view on this place! I think a book could be written, with video, of how some grasses, sotols, and yuccas move with the wind…


  4. Is it Nasella again? Nasella/Stipa/Nasella… can’t keep up. Lovely by any name. Terrific pics!

    Yes…like “Marcia Marcia Marcia!”, it’s “Nasella Nasella Nasella” in “Marfa Marfa Marfa”! Thanks, inspiring there.


  5. Ohhhh, that patio area with the roof. Such stunning plant combos and a great sense of place. Is that a Christy Ten Eyck design?

    Yes, it’s the Capri and it’s a Ten Eyck design…it gets better each time, except she told me recently how their dead desert willows are from overwatering. I hope not… Thanks for visiting! (more posts from the Capri coming)


  6. Wonderful! I suppose I should try and make it there someday…(so many places, so little time!)

    You would really like it out there…so much to see design / high desert plant-wise. It’s a solid day drive from Phoenix… Andrew might even find some of the Big Bend Brewery beers passable…ditto the Marfa Book Company.


  7. Marfa looks very pretty. Love that house with the grey concrete. I’m afraid to plant too many grasses because I’m afraid of snakes!

    It is…would be a good trip to such a different place, can even do a daytrip and back to EP!

    Snakes…I did have some masses of Nasella and they rarely harbored any snakes, except harmless kingsnakes and garter snakes. The bullsnakes outside the wall were only harmful to the diamondbacks – large (had a 6’+) and small (mostly 3-4′) – and that’s a good thing. Too bad roadrunners liked them all!


  8. Love this entry. I’ve always liked the way Marfa-ites use grass in their landscaping. If you’re ever out this way again, you must let me take you for a ride up Pinto Canyon. Coming out the top into the Marfa Grasslands in the evening is an experience not to be missed!

    Thanks! Just when I think the light wall colors get old, they don’t. But it’s a deal – I’ll treat you to dinner for that drive up Pinto Canyon Road next time I’m out! I hear about driving down that road, but never up…

    Are you now stationed between Terlingua and Lajitas?


  9. I love these waving in any sort of breeze, but if they are everywhere… Sort of an arid version of the “line every bed with liriope” impulse that dominated central Texas for so long?

    To be honest, I grew up seeing liriope used to line every sidewalk and/or path or bed edge and I still don’t get tired of it. I love how carefree it is and how well it softens edges, and I appreciate Nasella for the same reasons. I’m a sucker for low growing clumps with narrow leaves, apparently.

    I would like to see all their local grasses used well…that would be something. You are very much right in that comparison to Liriope, good or bad. As well as low masses of narrow leaves! (I do the same with Zephyranthes)


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