I originally designed the front of a hospital renovation for my usual hardscape interest, then dense, lower groundcover planting throughout. Those were to fill in between the other plants.

Of course, the native Aristida grasses specified were changed by the contractor to something not native.


The tan to pale green Muhlenbergia capillaris became the grasses, still massed in different locations to unify the scene driving up to park. They flower in the fall season, unlike the threeawns.

This location in central El Paso is bordering on USDA zone 8b-9a, so I felt confident that Parkinsonia x ‘Desert Museum’ will grow well.



Zephyranthes or another substitute near the building were replaced with a pink Ruellia britoniana, which are growing well.



Early in the design, I simplified some preliminary architect ideas in front into parallel walls made of similar materials used on the building. During final drawings, the architect decreased those from 3 feet to about 18 inches in height.


I think it works well, though another 8-12 inches of height might be more effective.

In between outer plantings and the building, staggered either side of the walls I included tree-form Yucca rostrata (changed to Y. elata) and Dasylirion wheeleri. The former yucca change will actually be locally native, which will work out…watch for those to trunk up in height over the grasses in a few years.



Another low wall was added in the island for visual definition and to force pedestrians to walk on sidewalks instead of through the island. Not that people do that, or anything…..



The design was altered from mostly plants native to the Paso del Norte region and Chihuahuan Desert ecoregion.

But it’s still mostly a southwestern and Texan palette maintaining the original massing, which is fine!

1410L201_2014-10-25 Q-SML

I can’t wait to see this in the autumn, when the pink mist of the Muhlenbergia capillaris sweeps through the walls and spaces.


7/28/18 weather:
92F / 68F / .00″ or 33c / 20c / 0 mm

Maintenance Mystery

Here’s the same development’s landscape, but different treatments to the same plants and for no apparent reason. Is someone listening and starting to think while experimenting?


Yucca faxoniana / Faxon or Palm Yucca


These different treatments are under 8 feet apart. The missing understory plants is another topic, for now.


Above: that yucca has been allowed to grow naturally, with a spiky sphere of live, green foliage to photosynthesize (manufacture food) for its roots. I learned about photosynthesis by the 7th grade!

Food is crucial to long-lived plants.

Below: this yucca has had over 1/2 of it’s live, green foliage removed. Often someone believes it needs trimming to look better. The live crown, important to plant health, was exposed from over-pruning; only the bottom 3 inches is brown and appropriate for removal, if at all.


One can research the need for plant photosynthesis and ways to neaten the skirt of dead leaves on yuccas (or palms) without doing long-term damage to the crown.

“Look better?” At least this couple gets to change out of their party costume; the plant can’t and is affected for years:



Dasylirion wheeleri / Blue Sotol


Above: adequate room, but left to grow naturally. Below: adequate room, but the aesthetic of the original plants is gone for a long time. The sotols won’t soften the view of utility boxes, either.



I’m sure any relationship between Hawai’i and Las Cruces is a coincidence.


Nolina greenei / Beargrass


Above: adequate room, but the beargrasses are left to grow naturally and sway in the wind.  Below: adequate room, but the beargrasses met the power hedge trimmers and became chopped cylinders.


All the above plant species require no pruning or shaping, and they look better that way than what many do.

Money saved by not doing counterproductive tasks can be applied to necessary landscape tasks. Imagine how much money adds up long-term, when monthly or even quarterly tasks are pared down to only what’s beneficial.

It costs less to do nothing or use restraint, and have elegance.


In another post, I’ll show you what can happen to ocotillos around these parts. Many aren’t so lucky, but these are sliding by so far!