A Place to Sit

I’m in Marfa again, this time for a design symposium. I splurged for little more than this town’s boutique “hotel”, but I have lodging with immense privacy and space, which I really miss.

Curiously, the front garden area is completely walled in with my favorite landscaping must-have, built-in: the seat wall.

CasaBilly01-SML
restful and simple, but my design brain is revving up
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finally, a durable hipster-panel fence / gate…steel

There isn’t one plant growing around these walls; I think it needs something discrete and to shade the hot NW evening sun. (29N latitude, 5000′ elevation sun) But planted so a group can still be comfortably accommodated inside.

Possibly add a few low-key containers?

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morning has broken

Note there’s only one way into the graveled front area, via the steel gate. At 6′ tall and being a guy who wears jeans to dress up, no problem for me to hop over the seat walls.

While Marfa is informal, I would rather provide a space for the maximum types of guests. Had this been a Quercus project, I would have included 3 gaps to better access that space, each 3-4 feet wide – a pair at opposite ends of the portal (covered porch), where the lower walls meet it; the other gap stepping down, aligned with the front door.

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a new day

After seeing Brad Lancaster speak at the end of the first day, before any planting occurs, we need to first build in passive water harvesting. I haven’t seen him in years, maybe since he was hanging out with a bunch of plant nerds at my old house. Loads of free resources on that – here. (both his books are a must, though)

With an adequate depth of mulch and planted, the soil acts more like a sponge, optimizing plant root system health – just like what happens in our arroyos. Low water-use, indiginous plants coordinated with water harvesting thrive and reproduce, because that now-moister soil in the plant root zone extends cooling and moisture into dry periods, that simply doesn’t happen without it.

Caveat – the uber-minimalist direction of gardens in Marfa, or other modern gardens, need to bend some, on being kept too neat. That perfectly clean ground plane is best left for the floors inside the house; some organic matter is necessary where plants grow. I hope my former home landscape of 15 years was proof of having such a balance.

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great coffee…is there a better time of day?

With all the above in place, then we can sit back and enjoy the view and serenity just a little bit more.

This place is great to stay at, by the way. And the owner / host happens to host the Thursday night show on KRTS called Rockabilly. A fitting musical pairing from my high school days, which he and his sister play – here.

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7 Replies to “A Place to Sit”

  1. I love that fence. I can understand why your design brain started ticking with a blank canvas (plant-wise) like that.

    And I forgot to take close-up photos before I drove home… Yes, yes, and I hope my sketch helps.

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  2. in our Porterville garden the gravel paths were a perfect nursery of volunteer seeds to harvest.
    The minimal architecture is striking, but good grief for a garden, or at least outdoor living space, it’s BLEAK! (and on second thought is that leafless bleak from herbicide?) Maybe a few lizards would be at home there, but no plants, no bugs.
    And it could be an amazing space if the good bones were well dressed.

    There must be some spraying going on, as it would quickly become desert grasses and wildflowers in that climate. Some basic plantings, plus a small self-sustaining ecology there, would make so much difference. Lizards would even find that rough going, without anything to eat. No birds, except in the distance. And that space radiates heat in the evenings. I hope Billy likes my sketch…

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  3. Interesting asceticism plant-wise. Looks like a nice place. Without any plants in the immediate property, do you find it relaxing? Plants relax me. My impression of the location is that of a bunker. For me, it might also depend on the view out that cool patio. West Texas expansive vista? Endless sky and huge late summer clouds rolling?

    True, rather stark…yet only needs a little more to do the trick. Though these gravel minimalist spaces seem best in cool coastlands like San Francisco. There is some of what you mention from the other end of the patio, but some overpriced hovels out there, too!

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  4. Ye gods, I’m with Loree — that fence…! Love the sturdy, understated house, big windows, metal roof, covered porch, the idea of a container or two (with seat walls as well). I have low retaining walls at my place, but I’ve covered them with potted plants. You’re giving me food for thought, here…

    Early morning and coffee outside — I am so with you there.

    Nothing like steel used well – in the desert, “steel and concrete last but wood doesn’t.” Billy nailed it, and all that lacks is some life as Loree said. (I left Billy a rough hand sketch on the way out) Coffee outside, or most anything!

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  5. This is the last thing I will read, before going to sleep. I will dream of that fence. Beautiful, simple, perfection. The space behind it however needs some life.

    I’ll get some detail pics of that fence / gate – yes, perfect. And a juniper pole “coyote fence” on one side, and an ocotillo fence the other, too. I might even sketch a couple things for the owner on living it up…

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  6. A balance has to be struck, true enough. There are areas I don’t mulch because I want reseeding annuals to have room to do their thing. That said, I make sure perennial companion plantings grow up to shade/cool the soil and allow low growing native ground covers to provide living mulch in between the annual’s big show each Spring.

    Though I often see the best germination of annual and other seeds (weeds or desired) in 1″ of DG or crusher fines; NMDOT used to seed, then put down 1″ granite rock, and voila – desert wildflowers and grasses…in arid Abq, even on sand! Living mulch is something minimal gardens overlook…

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