Night Effects

I smile when others “discover” garden lighting, especially subtle methods that don’t detract from night skies.

My first job out of college was being a design grunt at a firm in San Diego’s Mission Valley, in pre-AutoCAD 1989. They often used lighting, aware of its high-impact dimension in outdoor living.

What a difference, even in a new landscape.

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Forestiera neomexicana in containers, Salvia clevelandii in front

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In San Diego nearing the beaches, shade trees aren’t as necessary, and people there live outdoors all year like few others. Yet they appreciate night lighting, to extend garden time. In the high desert, even with low humidity and shading from trees and architecture, summer days outside are not so pleasant.

Then night comes, blissful except the hotter periods: that’s when garden lighting allows the landscape to be savored. Forestiera neomexicana in containers will be pruned and lifted once established, for more wow factor.

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Winter isn’t bad to enjoy lighting, either, sans the breeze.

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I must drop by as hospital staffing grows, to see how many break out on the patio. Not to mention what these Prosopis glandulosa trees will develop into, lit up at night.

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That mesquite grouping will be joined by the Yucca rostrata as they also mature.

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Yucca rostrata with Salvia clevelandii

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You may remember my former house from 1998 to 2013.

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Agave scabra with young Verbena wrightii and Salvia chamaedryoides
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Nolina greenei, with Parthenium incanum and Salvia henryi in front

I rolled over in bed awakening to this many spring mornings, sleeping all night with the sliding doors open.

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Yucca rostrata, Lavandula, Salvia greggii, Quercus fusiformis, with a potted Aloe vera that came out in the warm season

After specifying landscape lighting for a few clients who valued it, I figured I deserved it, too. Mine was low-voltage, but a quality brand – FX Luminaire.

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Of course, luminarias add to the scene, but that’s only in chilly December.

Someone once asked (challenged) me, “why light up a cactus?”

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Opuntia engelmannii with Chrysactinia mexicana

That’s why!

The purple wall probably bothered her, too.

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When trying out garden lighting, first experiment with a big box store brand to find where it will work and the effects you want, before spending more money on a higher-grade system to truly reveal your spaces.

Free advice: really, really rethink copying the “airport runway” look of path lights, which many default to.

Indirect lighting does something, not drawing attention to itself. The former provides a professional touch others will want to copy but you get to live with.

4/29/17 weather: 60 / 43 / .03

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Plant With Potential: Krameria

 

I remember seeing this low shrub one April about a decade ago, while taking a workout hike during a business trip here.

Krameria parviflora / Range Ratany (it needs a new common name!)

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Sorry about the blur, as it was windy and my iPhone isn’t the best camera.

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Of course, it has a flower color rather uncommon in my area, it grows on gravelly soil and desert pavement with the usual suspects like Larrea tridentata and Prosopis torreyana. I also like how the grasses blend or even grow up through it.

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A duo of Opuntia orbiculata add sculpture in back.

My guess is partly how the Chihuahuan Desert is so poorly botanized, with many in my field unknowing about it! We also have so few nurseries into our natives or that are proactive – the spirit in Portland, Tucson, or Austin is not here. Perhaps nobody has bothered to try this plant, either?

Yet it’s common on gravelly and rocky uplands like this, including other desert southwest ecoregions. Though I’ve only seen it here and far west Texas.

Krameria parviflora stands about 18 inches tall and a bit over 2 feet wide. Any common name ideas?

4/24/17 weather: 88 / 51 / .0

Hiking for Cacti and More

My hiking spot for now, to get in a good workout, is Tortugas Mountain aka A Mountain. It’s not close, but nothing is to where I live. My ascent begins on one of the steep, narrow trails that wind up the west side.

While catching my breath, I get to look at an array of desert plants and views.

About half-way up to the 4,950 foot elevation summit, the classic scene of the Organ Mountains dominates the eastern horizon.

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At the top, a small makeshift shrine from a few days earlier.

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The road is the easier way for hiking, especially downhill to save one’s knees, but this guy is on his mountain bike which isn’t remotely easy, except it’s wide.

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He passed me going down, after he made it to the top. Almost 1,000 feet of climb in 1 mile on a bike is a serious effort.

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Limestone ledges and different desert plants create an inspiring scene for a desert designer to recreate – when the client allows the time, accepts expertise, and has the budget.

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Fouquieria splendens with numerous but young Echinocereus stramineus
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Agave neomexicana in the grasses

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Opuntia engelmannii, but a more compact form with smaller pads.

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opening flowers are as interesting to me as fully-opened

It is usually recognized from the O. lindheimeri some nurseries pawn off as O. engelmannii, since it usually has yellow blooms and the latter has orange to red blooms. The different cultural requirements come into play later…

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Opuntia macrocentra is starting to flower, too.

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It usually has pale yellow blooms, which contrast the deep green to purple-ish pads, though maybe they will change once more open. These look almost sugary.

What impresses me the most about Tortugas Mountain is the sheer diversity of cacti, but there is so much more if you look. Only no oaks…still 1,000′ too low.

4/22/17 weather: 78 / 53 / .0