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?

7 Replies to “3 Years Later”

  1. Hi David,

    I enjoyed this post immensely – especially your apt descriptions as to why much of the landscape has stood the test of time because of a functional design using plants such as honey mesquite, Yucca pallida and Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii.

    By the way, I also liked your post on the sad Texas sage shrubs who were doing their best to bloom despite being badly pruned. Thanks for the link back :-)

    You bet, and that topic of “in-spite of” helps keep me balanced. I started another post on that topic, about “what to expect when you use – – -.” That landscape is really good because of using the ordinary and some uncommon effectively. If only I could hire away their maintenance people…


  2. I love seeing what happens to a project over time. The results almost never look like the original design pictures because plants do like to surprise us. I find it pretty informative too to find out what which plants really do fit in here.

    Even though plans are mostly followed, some plants show they’re individuals – kind of nice, though some clients do not get it. Looks like UT does.


  3. Oh yes, I love looking and seeing what happens to a project, what plants die, what plants thrive, what plants take over, if the maintenance crew knows what it is doing, (or if there even is a maintenance crew). The UT project looks pretty good–smart plant choices make a big difference.

    Speaking of which, I can’t wait to see that Newport Beach (?) civic center landscape you and the Mid Century blog showed… Yes, this one was well-thought-out. Wishing I had the right employee to help me / free me up in that…….


  4. or Salvia greggei in bud?

    At first, I thought Salvia…but remembered one of the plants used well in TX and poorly in NM…I think texasdeb is right.


  5. Most of the landscapes I see so often they almost disappear until something happens to draw my attention back to that focus. In urban settings I’m typically drawn into people watching and their backdrop isn’t what I’m looking at closely.

    At the particular campus you feature here however, I’ve been watching certain areas more closely as we had a student there for several years recently.

    While there are crews in carts everywhere, benign neglect seems to be the rule. I’m pleased with the widespread use of native plants and equally pleased to see most are left to pursue their natural form, with very little artificiality superimposed. There is a generalized lack of mulch in the areas I frequented, but I’m not sure if that is replenished on a rotational basis. It is a very VERY large campus.

    That underplanting looks a bit like Scutelleria suffrutescens, which while called Pink Texas Skullcap and/or Texas Rose Scullcap, is probably not a Texas native, though it might be from N. Mexico, so perhaps a near neighbor.

    Thanks for the plant ID! Yes, benign neglect and a large campus can join forces. It will be interesting to see the results of her office demonstrating plant maintenance for the UTEP staff or their contractors at the new design they did near me. I need to re-look it to see if certain plants that get the “treatment” were left out. If so, that was more observant than I’ve been.


  6. Interesting pictures and design. I really like the trees and planning for those. I wonder how economic cycles impact these gardens. Meaning, when municipalities have surplus they spend to beautify, but the first thing to get cut when any downturn happens, I would bet, is landscape. Do landscape architects plan for the whims of politics and money?

    I think it’s part economic cycles; with more money, the power brokers just buy more equipment…they often *require* improper maintenance. Then a cut, and nothing. We do plan that way, but politics and money often lack planning skills – just for show, or misguided at best.


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