Desert Landscaping: Maintenance Fails and Fixes

If only I could be in charge of each of my projects’ maintenance, but then, who would design them? Just a few adjustments are needed in the below areas, looking at the big picture and then close-up.

Musical pairing, little to do with Las Vegas except it has a great beat and is about nightlife; I hear that city to the west has some of that – here

Photos from 6/24/2015 –

Do you see what the Honey Mesquite in front needs?

1 thing: prune off the 1″ branch growing low and into the building wall. If only I still had loppers, and I had driven there instead of flown.

From my last posts on how I wish I had designed something differently, you can tell how important I view even our smallish desert trees – which old guard definitions from cooler or wetter places refer to as “shrubs”.

Rabbits. Yet, there reaches a point when the wire cages can be removed, after the plants established and are no longer salad.

While the creosote bushes are growing, some are growing less so than the others. Such a difference, a simple light prune of taller stems back to the main stems is all that’s required to create a more appealing look, while maintaining some individuality in size. Even some of the lower, more dense creosotes could be thinned 10% to blend in some.

Balance, instead of unkempt or given the treatment.

Creosote Bush / Larrea tridentata
Creosote Bush / Larrea tridentata

Just imagine a little attention to some of the creosotes. While you imagine the few plants that die to be replaced by the same or similar plants.

see anything missing between both panels of windows?

A Joshua Tree once stood there.

position the Joshua Tree replacing the one that died, just like this one

I really enjoy the solar parking lights the architect specified. They fit the modern, space-age look there, with the sere Mars-like scenes beyond. But something else lurks…

Overall, I’m happy with much of what I see. Anyone who works outside in their heat should be thanked, even if one has to be insane to be in that line of work there… Though I forgot to mention in the last post, plant changes are often made without me – we cannot rule that and the other pitfalls.

But don’t you wish someone would step back, and pay a bit more attention to important areas of a planting, as I do this one?

3 Replies to “Desert Landscaping: Maintenance Fails and Fixes”

  1. Maintenance is as important a skill as anything else. It is a shame it doesn’t get the respect it deserves.

    I’ve been thinking about designs and how they are maintained–when specimen “X” dies, and is replaced by something else instead of another “X”. Someone decides “X” never belonged there in the first place and so plant something that hopefully won’t die–but often the replacement is the wrong thing.

    If I were to change businesses, or start another, it would be tempting to do maintenance…a real need everywhere. But some tell me nobody will pay for it. Many mixed messages.

    Replacement – you are right, and in some ways, if 1 of 3 trees of the same species dies, as long as something similar replaces it and lives, that’s fine. I think it’s a balance between being realistic but being true to the design, and if the owner or contractor would rather try again when there’s proper installation, irrigation, etc, cutting one’s losses makes sense to me.


  2. Perhaps all contracts need to be written with the stipulation of periodic follow-up visits by the LA to check up on plant choices, irrigation issues, etc. There are obviously many tweaks made to your original plans and other tweaks that yet need to happen. Do you ever share these followup observations with site managers? Are they receptive, or….

    As to the rabbit fencing – how in the world do you get those cages off without destroying the plants growing all through? Looks like those ships all sailed off already.

    Rabbit fencing – well-said! My favorite is nursery staking left on trees after planting – 3+ years.

    The architect or owner tend to X out maintenance consulting from a proposal (all they want me for is design), so no more. I also have tried the “let’s meet and discuss how to maximize your investment” approach many times since 2000-ish; poo-pooed or ignored, and not willing to pay. I’ll have to zero-in on an exception or two.

    The best solution is to start my own maintenance business, separate from my design business, and keep the bozos away from my projects – would take a quick but incredible presentation to the owner, which will not be quick to craft.

    There are many other facets to this, all that holds me back (+ beware of “colleagues” AKA users), and the need to control the supply and implementation ends, but that’s for another bunch of posts! (I lost 20+ hours this week, not on PC issues / update this time, but to a state board audit) Glad you brought it up, a great topic you and Lauren in HOU hit upon.

    Time to crank up the music, work out, design some more, and decompress on the drive to a design symposium!


  3. Hairdressers must think the same about their clients styling their own hair….

    In my beloved little work van I have long handled loppers, hand pruners, and a shovel. Never leave home without that basic trinity.

    A friend did ambush gardening at neighbor’s homes. He was the new young white man, with elderly African-American neighbors, dear sweet lady came out one night, she waited up. How many nights ? Anyway, she asked him what she could do in return. He said, Cook me dinner every now/then. She does. Perhaps one of my favorite gardening stories.


    I bet hairdressers do, almost as much as we wish our’s were with us each morning!

    I used to take part of that trinity with me (esp. cactus cuttings), but I left that all with the old house. Some of the cacti I liberated are still growing in the arroyo, or are hybridizing around! But I am moving, so may buy my own trinity again:-)

    What a great story on the guerilla gardening newcomer, then in exchange for dinner. I bet the conversations are amazing between the both of them; maybe with some of the other long-time residents? Maybe that’s a way to help change our society…gardens and food shared??

    You helped me remember some random guerilla plantings I did around ABQ back in 1998, when I finished the medians. Where I found a blank emitter or bubbler, a 5# mesquite would appear or some other native, tough as nails. Not all were found / removed by those on the dark side :-)


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