Front Fun Before Driving Home

When I lived in El Paso a few years, I was surprised how many landscapes were different than in Las Cruces – 45 minutes away and only 200 feet elevation difference.

Driving down often from Albuquerque for business, and for years, all three places seemed more similar.

The differences became obvious only by living in each. Before leaving El Paso, I saw a few landscapes with no prying eyes around.

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That front yard near my “fortress” project caught my eye. I get the need for unity and raising up interest to eye level, and I think El Paso does that well. But a pair of golden barrels potted all over the front isn’t registering.

I used to like Echinocactus grusonii, until I saw that was the Phoenix-default cactus on two trips this past spring. Stop it already, El Paso.

But not to worry, Paso del Norte region climatology will stop it.

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The last photo is for someone in Orange County CA, who has expressed their “love” for Washingtonia robusta. That’s what happens to the majority at 4500 feet elevation here, about every 20 years. She could only be so lucky!

While I’ve seen worse use of W. robusta, it’s a canyon tree and fails without the right context or climate. El Paso climate 3 – Baja California flora 0.

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Now, let’s pick on or pick out good from one of my nearby designs. Done under an extreme and counterproductive, architect-driven rush. Like a .357 magnum to my head in one hand, but with some bundles of money in the other hand, for me if I can take it.

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See why I go to Dasylirion wheeleri as my default accent plant? All the softening Melampodium leucanthum and Viguiera steneloba are gone – facilities or contractor-driven Roundup or pulling.

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The chainlink fencing, decided upon before I was hired to locate it properly, kept this revegetation area from becoming a moonscape.

See, it’s all good!

Seeding plus salvaged Fouquiera splendens, Yucca torreyi, and Agave lechuguilla are doing their thing and protected from “the treatment”.

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So are Fallugia paradoxa, Dasyochloa pulchellum, and other natives.

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And of course, Chilopsis linearis volunteers along sidewalks, through evil chainlink fencing, and about anywhere stormwater soaks in. And those blooms!

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Ending my drive-by landscape critique on the way home, the usual native plant suspects do what I envisioned, though the desert willows are stunted for some reason. Of course, the flowering, herbaceous plants are long-gone…..

But the blue-green of the sotols, with that curve of red wall tiles, is just what I ordered.

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Yowza!

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Seen On the Way to My Other Work

I first drove past this landscape in 2011. I was amazed at the sheer amount of mostly spiky plants used. Since, the owner has only added more and grouped some plants differently.

In face, this is where I sometimes park to do construction observation work at a nearby residence.

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Potted Yucca recurvifolia and Hesperaloe parviflora, in-ground a specimen Agave salmiana, a Ferocactus wislizeni, and some Yucca thompsoniana clumps.

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This looks striking as always against tiled, Mexican-Mediterranean hybrid architecture seen occasionally in a few higher end neighborhoods in El Paso.

My main question is the use of so much large rock much instead of something finer textured or smaller in size? That would allow many plants to show up more. Also, sunken grades might help hold in water to benefit the plants and still provide terrain interest.

I cropped out the hose, but hand-watering by hose might be the irrigation method over drip. I’m not sure.

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Echinocactus grusonii overload, of course. Some Yucca faxoniana appear in back, to add height and show well against the home’s shady portal.

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On the east side, there are some great examnples of Opuntia engelmannii and O. lindheimeri growing among Dasylirion wheeleri and Agave parryi.

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And more golden barrels and yuccas.

Even a Larrea tridentata is growing against the wall, it’s wispy form adding softness to the sharp Yucca thompsoniana or Y. rostrata. And more E. grusonii.

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In this spot, I can’t tell if the greener sotol is Dasylirion leiophyllum or D. acrotrichum. And what looks like a relative of Yucca faxoniana, though some will attribute the smaller head to Y. torreyi…too even of foliage growth for the latter, methinks.

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I really enjoy this landscape, ahead of many with vast lawns and mesic plants. A few houses in this neighborhood are starting to update their front yards with lower water-use and native plants.

This landscape is already there, and then some.

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8/20/18 weather:
96F / 73F / T or 36c / 23c / T

Now to My Landscape

I’m starting the design of the garden spaces at my new home. Study sketches are loose and rough, since they get marked up! That’s already revealing some things that won’t work.

My design statement:
serene, inviting, and sometimes dramatic outdoor spaces, with the soul of the desert

Don’t laugh; that’s to help me carry through with the idea!

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Here’s Option ‘A’ (front / northwest at the top):

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Once I’ve explored a few options, I might import the best design direction into SketchUp, to “walk around” the property and further refine a final design in CAD.

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The front, in and out:

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A tiny courtyard off my home office:

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In back:

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But here’s one catch.

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When I’m out on the covered patio, I see that. So…

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…I’ll work hard on the spot between my patio and their property. My first hunch is to build a wire mesh or hog panel trellis immediately between the cover’s columns, then plant a dense, evergreen vine.

The male half of the neighboring household and I get along well, and my not-so-subtle screening solution has already been discussed. We both agree on the issue.

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The other catch: views to the unbuildable hill lot with desert growth should be preserved, since once the area is built out, I won’t have mountains or other vistas. That hill out back is the power here, and the dining room view is desert serenity.

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Plant selection is to come, once functions and forms are explored and established.