Hot Date in Vegas – Pt. 1

Date Street, silly! It’s a project I served as the LA on, as part of a contractor-led design-build team for the federal government’s Bureau of Reclamation. And it’s just outside Las Vegas, during a heat wave in already-hot June.

Get it? Get it?? From 6/23/2015 –

only Mojave Desert natives near the entry gate

Parking lots are a necessary evil, especially without enough budget and space for many more shade trees. I would have preferred a medium-sized tree for every 4-5 spaces, set into parking space-sized depressed basins, for all 5″ of yearly precipitation to flow into. But that would take out many needed spaces.

At least nursery-grown-from-seed Joshua Tree / Yucca brevifolia are establishing nicely; so is the dotting of White Bursage / Ambrosia dumosa, with some Creosote Bush / Larrea tridentata, to buffer the lot’s east side.

lower Mojave arroyo plants on the west side of #200

More on the execution, substitute plants and maintenance another time; this area’s function is similar to an arroyo, handling and absorbing runoff, hence Desert Willow / Chilopsis linearis, grasses, and shrubs.

Do you see a pattern here, or with my work? Desert willow, mesquite, desert shrubs, and so on.

It’s partly nursery supplier limits and partly what works. Each project is a similar application of similar plants, but because of each unique site’s character, they don’t come out the same. Here, it’s industrial – modern, and in the Mojave Desert – even drier than where I live in the Chihuahuan Desert.

Someday, you’ll be able to sit on that board-formed wall in morning shade.

the accessibllity ramp to #200 required that tree shade become shrubs

So, the mesquites and desert willows became more creosotes with grasses at the bottom. There’s barely 10′ of width at the bottom, plus underground infrastructure like drainage pipes and utilities, so trees would be futile.

‘Blue Glow’ Agave and large, reddish granite rock a good pairing

Not to worry, the spiky plants are in a raised area, safe from “conflicts”.

Did I say it was down to 105F when I stopped by?

the Bermuda lawn at #100 still lacks both “big ash” trees to be complete

Those would be once-valley-native Arizona Ash / Fraxinus velutina. I’m told both trees are being grown from cuttings taken off the remaining Date Street #100 tree, once a duo of ash trees in the original 1930’s planting.

Arborist Dennis Swartzell consulted for the general contractor, and that tree was determined to be in decline, unlikely to survive after required security bollards were built in the root zone. It was removed.

That slope should stay more moist and the lawn edge more lush, once it gets afternoon shade.

Some personnel wanted a thirsty fescue lawn, instead – this is the most common turf used in Las Vegas. Is it any wonder Lake Mead is near a historic low level, plus drought?

Westerners can do much more, to be at a greater balance with the desert – still grow and advance, still have loads of wildlife and human habitat. More pleasant places to live, that give more than take.

Hence I’m a conservationist, not an environmentalist or exploiter. Balance.

soon, a tree-shaded breezeway between #100 and #200

Simple, modern, and pleasant. Function to let the occasional motorized cart drive through, with form and greenery to let people and songbirds enjoy a break. Like elsewhere on this project, the architect and I placed the seat walls so people could interact, or be alone.

In your area, how do you see the need for development balanced with pleasant spaces – even if small? Solutions?


3 Replies to “Hot Date in Vegas – Pt. 1”

  1. Few think the way we do. Amazing, the simple choice to create pleasant/functional/aesthetic spaces is life changing. More, it improves property value, decreases HVAC expense. Few get it.

    Back living room/2nd kitchen of our new home, ca. 1900, is unusable in summer. Too hot. Baking sun. No one planted a pair of shade trees. Worse, this house always had owners on a budget. And they did not plant shade trees, why?

    Pair of large shade trees going in this fall. At our age, hopefully we get 6″ caliper.


    Exactly on the few who get it – a high-end bistro I designed a basic landscape for (was nicer than most any restaurant there in the 90’s) had a walled patio…we traded lunchesfor some sketches…the owner-chef’s partners who beat us up on design and build never did it, wanted to glass in patio then build stairs and a roof deck. Their’s infinitely more $…..

    Your place, at least you and I don’t drink the koolaid that some oaks are slow…we know better how they grow!


  2. I got stuck on your question, trying to decide IF I’d seen any concessions made in recent developments to accommodating the need for pleasant spaces. I’m not sure if I’m not seeing what gestures they’ve made because I’m staying away for the most part, or if I am still staying away precisely because there are so few reasonable places set up to encourage lingering outside (and I’m not counting simply throwing tables/chairs out on a sidewalk where the smokers hang out).

    Texas still seems stuck in the mindset from ancient times when a prominent sign would advertise “Air Conditioned – It’s COOL inside!” on the doors of proud establishments courting your business. The idea was that everybody was determinedly escaping the environment, not enjoying it!

    If you think parts of ATX are bad, in Abq a huge eatery / beer place near UNM got kudos for their people-watching patio. Kelly’s seeded sunflowers into some paving gaps around their 1950’s Rt 66 garage-to-patio. The many tables are packed March to Nov, sometimes Feb in afternoon; sunflowers only a presence May-Oct.

    Our advantage in the desert is low humidity – only El Paso doesn’t have misters set up on patios – makes 90-110F feel like 85, which is autumnal for either of us.


  3. A succinct summary of everything you’ve written about over the years. Do we have the official Cristiani manifesto?

    Ha! I could put Manifesto Cristiani in one place, then rest of posts just pics w/ a link to MC? (stay cool up there)


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