The Neighborhood Last Week

I finally took out my DSLR to comb my neighborhood route I drive, to do things a landscape architecture snob enjoys.

Things don’t look shabby for June.


Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (selection unknown). No wonder it gets used here. This species is native to Brewster County TX, making it native to the Chihuahuan Desert, even if it’s natural range is centered in the dry parts of Coahuila to Nuevo Leon.

It has less of an unkempt habit than that of the also native, sometimes-praised A. thurberi.

Some forget that just like some ugly plants can become stars only where there’s good design and context, pretty plants with good habits are already stars.


Of course there are some Ocotillo, Fishhook Barrel Cactus, Cane Cholla, and grasses (probably ‘Regal Mist’ Gulf Muhly). Overall this roundabout island is attractive – and drip irrigated, with care paid for by property owners.


The entry to one of the gated, smaller residential areas within the neighborhood works with Soaptree or Palmilla and the Sweet Acacia, even though the Texas Sage are a bit under “the treatment.”


I showed the evil overused Russian Sage to screen the ugh rock slope. This simple use of gnarled Honey Mesquite with some barrels, yuccas, and beargrasses works. Flowers are fleeting anyway, especially when maintenance crews have Roundup.


Though Russian Sage actually looks happy. Its flowers and lifespan are anything but fleeting.



Down the street, here are just a couple front yard designs. Though I’m a sucker for many of the different interpretations of our state bird.


The gate and the common Blue Sotol counter the Heavenly Bamboo. Though the latter is doing better than I might expect in an obscenely hot, west exposure.

We can all rest easy that roadrunners aren’t that large.

Desert Museum Palo Verde and a duo of Purple Smoke Tree anchor the landscape mostly of lantanas, Damianita, and (I think) Mexican Feathergrass.



And even something I designed, just not front yards. Still the stuff of curb appeal, which most everyone values.

Like our distant views and clarity of light that go on and on.


More Faxon Yucca, Beargrass, Sotol, and Mescal Agave. And more Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii ‘Mexican Fire’!


I wish more of our front yards and developments made greater use of garden walls. And designs other than southwestern with massive profiles and tan stucco.

That one’s my fault, though if you look at their CC&Rs…

No wonder I once had half of my courtyard ripped out and replaced with an angular CMU wall and purple paint…and no stucco.


I’m thankful to now live in a neighborhood where more than a few properties for blocks have even a few appropriate plants besides yuccas, let alone where a number of thoughtfully-designed landscapes are visible from the street.


From the previous image, it partly goes downhill in the maintenance department. Most every Sophora x ‘Sierra Silver’ and some Nolina greenei got “the treatment.”


Fortunately it’s not all bad news, but that’s a future post!


6/24/18 weather:
100F / 73F / .00″ or 37c / 18c / 0 mm


Epilogue (for weather nerds, only):

The day I took the photos in this post the high was only 80F or 27c, rather unusual and abnormally cool for our hottest month of the year. That period typically runs from about mid-June to mid-July.

Which is why though today’s average is 96/62F or 36/17c, I decided to not show today in red as “notably above normal” though it’s 7.5F or 1c warmer than average.

In fact, I’m going to change “average” to “normal”, which can be 2 different things. Average = mean, normal = median.

In my time living from Albuquerque to El Paso, this time of year tends to be warmer than averages indicate, though a minority of Junes are cooler, generating the average often referred to but rarely seen.

It’s a statistical thing and nothing to be alarmed over.

Precipitation averages vs. normals tend to work the same way, especially March to June. As you can tell, one .50″ rain in that period makes desert deniers and newcomers alike believe with religious fervor that it should rain every spring, especially June.

As if In Las Cruces, we should use the astronomical calendar to tell us our climate seasons for gardens, instead of the meteorological calendar. Summer starts here most years about mid-May, not June 21, if one uses consistent 90F or 32C + highs as the marker, which many do.

So, there’s some climate nerdiness for you.


5 Replies to “The Neighborhood Last Week”

  1. What flowers would I see, if not for the Roundup scorched earth policy?

    I ask that myself. In others’ designs it’s limited this time of year, but there would be a few – Baileya, Mentzelia…all yellow.

    In my streetscape, I used Berlandiera and one other (I forget) in abundance among those small agaves…all pulled or sprayed years ago. And even more prevalent than roundup, it’s the hedge trimmers…the anisacanthus would be more full with many more flowers.

    I started a post on maintenance there weeks ago, but it’s more interesting sketching my new home landscape!

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  2. “As if In Las Cruces, we should use the astronomical calendar to tell us our climate seasons for gardens, instead of the meteorological calendar. Summer starts here most years about mid-May, not June 21, if one uses consistent 90F or 32C + highs as the marker, which many do.”


    I love Russian sage and would like to see it mixed in a little more here in ATX, as planting here is not so sparse and I enjoy the texture variance when placed appropriately.

    I also would like to see a garden wall with color in your future. After so many years in PHX (and their CC&Rs…ugh) I thought variations of brown were the only walls to be seen in the desert. Mr. Martino cured me of this thinking.

    I am guessing Russian Sage flower color declines with a certain amount of heat, based on all my experience from Santa Fe to El Paso. But it may be something else? Some cultivars have deeper color, too. I agree and am already sketching ideas, with the Renee option planned in the back.

    Before Martino’s colored walls, apparently Tucson landscape design was already doing that. (many houses in their barrios have bold colors) I should blog post a Margaret West design or two; we just emailed last week. She and others in Tucson (mostly women LAs, I think) have been at it since the 70’s. Look up Design Collaborations on IG; Margaret Joplin is different than West but equally into all kinds of materials, reuse, and color.

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  3. “We can all rest easy that roadrunners aren’t that large”…omg, yes!

    Oh that purple wall, I miss it popping up in your photos.

    Ha! With my yellow-ish stucco, our fellow spiky plant aficionado Renee suggests a blue wall. Sketches start tonight…

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  4. Oh, I like that Anisacanthus quadrifidus – I don’t think I’ve seen that used here. And that russian sage is pretty, even if over used. At least they haven’t pruned it into a cube!

    Anisacanthus is worth finding…that deep orange. True true, though your own Russian Sage has better color than ones here!

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