Thoughts in Old El Paso

Like the Steve Miller Band, I “headed down to-ooo-ooo Old El Paso.”

Before a meeting about a potential landscape renovation, I visited some other designs of mine within another 20 minutes of driving. Photos are from 10/20/18.

Memorial Hospital:


Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ was used with a fight, since this landscape contractor was difficult and even claimed they weren’t hardy in El Paso. He was already planning to make an inappropriate substitute of a gulf coast native! So, he didn’t care they weren’t placed with the semi-circle per the plan.

Since small grasses mature in a couple seasons, they should grow irregularly to soften the row faux pas. They are already working, especially in their wind.



I didn’t authorize Nasella to be substituted here, but many feel compelled to use it. Then, they complain it reseeds everywhere.

The Berlandiera lyrata should look good and smell very chocolaty, as it fills in and reseeds gently into the rock mulch. That was on the plan, as was the Nolina greenei.


I do like the Seattle diva’s artist’s colorful sculptures, at $***K on the hospital’s dime.

Though the approach to that work was anything but acceptable to myself and others. I had to adjust the landscape around them, then delete important sitting walls (paying for $***K art means sacrifices), and deleting some trees that were only a perceived problem and not a real issue for the entire design including the art pieces.

News flash: know your species, what trees become in Seattle vs. El Paso, trust an arid region designer over unfounded reactions, and mind your manners since you’re 3 years late to the party.

I was also urged to shift the grasses to be magically planted on the sculptures’ concrete footing without soil. I held my ground that “no way will that work with roots, drip irrigation, and the integrity of the artworks’ fastening method at the footing”. Moisture – steel – gravity – wind…that won’t turn out well. I later heard the artiste was disappointed the grasses were away from the sculptures.

Imagine if the artiste were a reasonable, flexible “team player”?

The overall landscape still came out, thanks to my diligence and that of the general contractor. It’s even being maintained sensibly, as opposed to “getting the treatment”  unnece$$arily; hopefully that remains the case for decades.

Patting self on back, as maintenance is also on the plans. Better yet, someone might be reading and following it!



Sierra Medical Center:


I was too early to see the Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’ get pink flowers, but on-time to see the golden massings of Chrysactinia mexicana work with other plant massings and low garden walls.

I was also on-time to catch the beginning of weeks of fall color on Pistacia chinensis.


Do you see why seat or garden walls are important, even if visual? Delete divas, not substance.


The natives against the dark glass at the facade are looking good as intended…golden Ericameria laricifolia and blue green spikes of Dasylirion wheeleri, plus Yucca elata lifting through the non-native, unapproved contractor substitution of Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’.

Again, kudos to myself again, for making lemonade out of lemons, collaboration, and flexibility using a solid design, under you-have-no-idea-of-my-painful-circumstances in 2014-15.

And let’s not forget someone might be following the maintenance sheet. Only some replacement of dead Leucophyllum and adjustments of irrigation downward are in order so far.


I’ll return to these landscapes for their winter looks, after I post on other assorted design doings further north along the Franklin Mountains.

7 Replies to “Thoughts in Old El Paso”

  1. That photo with the wall—I would definitely want to sit there for a bit! Clients—I think they are impossible to please no matter what realm you are in.

    Me too! True on clients – moreso today, but kudos to those who appreciate why they hire designers.

    Liked by 1 person

  2. I feel your pain. Love these: “Imagine if the artiste were a reasonable, flexible ‘team player’?” and “Delete divas, not substance.” !!
    Gotta remember those. :)

    I had 2 divas to deal with this year…I lost on both jobs, but I win in life and my blog! It’s all working out OK, as I move into my next career and do this only for me.


  3. It’s always fascinating to see your work when it’s been in place for a while. I sympathise with you over contractors! I used of often include a ‘sitting wall’ in small garden designs as it saved the space needed for separate garden furniture.

    Thanks, since I don’t overplant and always have to deal with crazy, low budgets unlike some LA’s, it’s quite satisfying to go back a few years later! Seat walls are excellent in many ways.

    Liked by 2 people

  4. Your posts never fail to educate and expand how I think about plant choices.
    In your last photo, is the compact silver leafed shrub a cenizo?

    Thanks, I’ve never been able to seperate fun, inspiration, education, and marketing. Maybe that’s why I’m now a county planner for the day job! Yes, it’s a group of cenizo / Leucophyllum zygophyllum ‘Cimarron’, which is a more compact 4-6′ tall / wide shrub depending on irrigation.

    Liked by 2 people

  5. I love the grasses and gravel, something I can’t have where I live, the wet means aggressive animal fodder grasses just take over, despite all the interventions and difficulties these are pleasant designs, I hope the designs for your own garden are going well, Frances

    That makes sense, though some of our native grasses seem to reseed on bedrock with little wet! But usually the grass spacing here remains, as even with drip irrigation, the extremes of heat and late summer rains maintain seperation. I’m actually taking a break from sketching plan ideas, and even 1 surprisingly nice initial design appeared in the earlier work. (forgotten but done in July)

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Also hoping to see how your own garden is developing, David.

      Just for you and my future habitat, I might post some plan-view sketches. It turns out old layout from summer actually will allow some screen walls and trelliage to the side neighbor…


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