3 Years Later

What better way to revisit a maturing public garden in Austin during the depths of summer, than from my El Paso apartment…it’s mid-morning here, all windows and doors are still open, with the air dry and light.

Since I first visited three years ago, what worked or didn’t?

The Bevo Belo Center, deep behind enemy lines at the University of Texas, 8/1/2015 –

this retaining structure seems to be holding up, plants OK

I’m unsure of that metal / fabric retaining method, or the reason for it. Perhaps plants that trail or spread by rhizomes are supposed to fill in and down the sides, further “knitting” the soil?

Diospyros texana and groundcovers massed, filled in
one of the shady refuges here, a bosque of Prosopis glandulosa
trees are underplanted w/ Scutellaria suffrutescens (thx texasdeb)

For those inspired by ecoregional and appealing outdoor living, many more simply enjoy it.

at least the lawn is outshined by everything else

Construction is evident from bright fencing and scaffolding behind where I took that photo.

The lawn might get used on milder days than their steamy 5+/- month summer, but even it’s set into appealing plant layering. It’s the hardscape and furnishings that probably get more use, set into plantings.

Lawns are carpet or flooring; hardscape and plantings are the architecture, furnishings and accessories. Lawns are plush, but plantings are lush.

all well, nicely growing together framing the seat wall

Some of that area looks overplanted, but given demands put on many designers, it’s fine. The plants chosen and how they were designed throughout this entire project should look great for years, without pulling out half.

Yucca pallida front, Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii back
Hesperaloe parviflora ‘Brakelights’ lines the retaining wall

As hard as it is to admit for an OU Sooner grad, this UT project alone is nicer than anything I remember in my 1980’s college days, or my last visit to Norman 14 years ago.

tucked-in spikiness of Hesperaloe funifera

That area needs regular pruning and cleaning out; it’s overgrown and looks neglected, yet at a major street intersection and visible during each red light.

yeah, I left the trash for the picture…it’s part of the urban fabric
plants thin out with no replacements, and not just on projects of the unwashed
one of a few plaza spaces, and Ten Eyck’s usual “yucca in a seat wall hole”……..
concrete pavers let the plantings shine

The design of the pavers is an attractive, unique variation of what I call a running bond pattern. Just heavy gauge steel to form the edges; clean.

Christy Ten Eyck and her office “done good”, as this landscape all worked out. Only some maintenance and construction were the issues I saw, in a small percentage of the site and little to do with this design.

In fact, I wouldn’t expect any better than this, or even as good as this, three years later – public or even private space. My guess is she goes out of her way, on maintenance monitoring and advisement with the owner – with fees to cover it. If not, some good people are taking care of this…no “treatment” to the shrubs alone tells me that.

Do you look at new landscapes, then revisit them after a couple years to see what worked or didn’t?



A quick Austin roadtrip, and what did I see? Too much for one post, or even ten. Here’s a broadbrush of my first summer drive between the desert and the green world Austin rests in.

The miles grinded, as I pondered how landscapes could reflect such changes, though abstracting that into a smaller space is much design & intellect. I grouped my stops into how arid each is (& ecoregion), then average yearly rainfall and plant forms – even samples of how one ecoregion can look different when moisture or soils vary. Climate info sources – here and here.

Photos are from 7/29/2015; musical pairing from Jon Dee Graham is here


Arid (Chihuahuan Desert)

Dropping 2000′ in elevation across 4+ hours in the above photos, the humidity started to go up. But average rainfall waited to increase at about the Pecos River, other what the mountains cause further west.

Even the landforms changed, and soils went from limestone to blow sand to granite, then back to clay and limestone.


Semi-Arid (Southwest Plateaus and Plains Steppe)

Yet, a few still recite the mantra, “plants don’t know boundaries”.

Oh yes they do, and we know by them – how plants grow, plus climate data. Gradual changes, then abrupt changes and many plants, insects, etc change over. Then more subtle changes, then something more abrupt. Repeat. Celebrate.

Out of semi-arid and short grasses, into a greener and even more humid world.


Sub-Humid (Texas Hill Country)

One might see “Half Pint” of Little House fame running through the Harper scene. How about Half Pint running around Ozona, or the sandy hills near Fabens? Not so much.

That trip’s diversions took less time than it would have taken to get pics of the throngs in skinny jeans, beards, glasses, etc. in just 5 blocks of Austin :-) But beyond the ecoregions, do not fret – there’s still more than plenty of what’s original – a live show awaited, just up South Congress.


What are the differences you see in my drive? Would you divide it differently?

Surprise, Surprise! Extreme Shrub Shaping

I’ve seen these Texas Sage / Leucophyllum spp. for several years, and since I’ve lived blocks away for over 2 years, they’ve done this all three monsoon seasons.

Intense flowering in spite of all the things that normally cause problems. A happy exception in the tightest, most undersized-for-a-large-plant space one can imagine – things other informed horticulturists and I educate against, because we see countless examples as proof.

blows my mind every summer

Exceptions aren’t rules.

Regardless of bodacious blooms, larger shrubs can only be kept smaller so long. Plus, if they’re going to prune something tight or shape it, at least it should be done right: learn first.

Hint: lifting up bottoms of shrubs usually fails.

Failure includes an entire plant’s lower parts dying, then premature death for the plant…and no more flowering! You can read more online, or just watch it happen somewhere near you.


This is a higher road for that Texas Ranger, though.

ahhh…thoughtful placement (room), letting the shrubs do their thing


By the way, a benchmark of dos and don’ts for desert southwest shrub pruning is found – here