A New DIY Adobe Landscape

The third home in several years for Bill is his historic, 1926 adobe, by late Ohio architect Anna Gotshall, as part of her development in an old apple orchard near downtown Albuquerque.

The other houses are also adobe construction. Let’s look at what we did, me as the design consultant!


Enroute, I braved a bitter north wind to capture an amazing vista of fall color. The distant Rio Grande bosque is a golden line, central NM near Socorro:

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An hour later, I made it!

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Plenty of gold in the grasses’ seed heads, plus Forestiera neomexicana / Desert Olive.

It’s been almost 2 years after my consultation and sketches over wine and cheeses / bread. Guess what I caught seeing my images back home? The passive water harvesting basin in front is missing and a few nursery overrides happened…oh well.

Also missed was the very fertile soil on Bill’s property. No mining plants into the ground like much of the region’s uplands, or saying “all beach, no ocean.”

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The goal was naturalistic – eclectic. Durable and xeric are always givens with me, and have been since 1995, a main reason I started my design practice, so I don’t mention that except as a “by the way”.


In the back garden areas, more features were employed or added to existing features such as the L-shaped pergola. Bill is repainting the various wood trim and sections, and the colors look great, relating the new and the existing.

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I helped him place certain items like tables at visual focal points, which also facilitates circulation in his tight spaces. And Bill makes the best use of what’s existing and can be lived with, as opposed to changing everything.

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Per my sketch, he had hog panel fencing / trellis and a steel mesh gate fabricated and welded. This is much more durable for a desert dweller than the usual wood. And though Crossvine / Bignonia capreolata is not a brute like default vines wisteria or lady banks rose, there’s strength here.

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The usual plant friends are here. Nolina greenei / Beargrass and Opuntia ellisiana / Spineless Prickly Pear are in containers…

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Above, he’s not into the ornamental grass choice in the containers behind the last Nolina, far left. Nor am I, at least there – it’s too loose and airy for a space that needs more definition and evergreen structure.

My sketch noted something tight and evergreen but potted, such as Rhaphiolepis or Buxus. His friend at the nursery cautioned against that, but I think Bill is willing to try it.

Also, Ilex vomitoria ‘Nana’ / Dwarf Yaupon Holly would work well there. Shirley in the Alamo City suggests Ilex vomitoria ‘Micron’ / Micron Holly, which could also work. That is, if Bill’s town’s nurseries offer it.


The unusual are also in his new landscape. Bill finds so many unusual plants, then grows them. Most of the time it works out, too, which is how I learn.

For instance, Stachys coccinea / Texas Betony, in the fertile soil and with drip irrigation, is taking over one small area. One. Plant. Several. Feet.

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The Texas Betony so far is out-competing the Teucrium chamaedrys / Trailing Germander, which reinforces the bed’s semicircle with tight evergreen foliage.


More Cistus spp. / Rockrose and Mescal Agave / Agave neomexicana

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This Crossvine decided to flower for me one last time before a deep freeze that night. Next spring, it will get a special trip just to see it covering the foliage and trellis in blooms. It isn’t that common there.

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At a recent stop in Tucson, he couldn’t resist Salvia brandegeei / Santa Rosa Island Sage from offshore in southern California.

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So far, it’s fine through only last winter. Many are surprised at the plants that grow well in USDA zone 7 in the southwest, including from coastal Mediterranean climates, thanks to intense sunshine during the winter months, if winter irrigation is provided.

Nice foliage that smells divinely fresh and minty

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I think Bill is deciding where to paint the fence or not.  Under the vigorous Vauquelinia californica / Arizona Rosewood, which becomes a dwarf tree in ABQ, he’s thinning out the rampant Mirabilis multiflora / Desert Four O’Clock and adding a 2 or 3 Yucca pallida / Pale Leaf Yucca, to create a leafy groundcover.

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But soon it grew darker, and after eating tapas and talking about his neighbors’ plans to renovate the planting in their neighborhood medians, it was time for bed.

Comfy and warm for the night!

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The next morning, refreshed from his casita’s bed and duvet, it was time to get a better look at the front landscape with a more favorable sun angle for photos.

More Forestiera neomexicana and Buxus microphylla var. japonica ‘Winter Gem’  were added, to compliment the same that were existing. Several Nolina greenei were added for evergreen spikes, to contrast the shrubby forms.

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Competition from the old Siberian Elm was too much for the Mirabilis there, so those were removed. I actually like the cleaner look.


It’s also time for a quick geography lesson, and those won’t stop until people better get New Mexico and the desert southwest region.

Starting with the weather that last morning:

Geog Clim1 Geog Clim2

Exaggerating one place much cooler and the other much warmer isn’t going to help one  plant selections.

Like the one how ABQ is more like Santa Fe or even Denver than it is like Las Cruces. As well as the counterpoint how LC is more like lower elevation, Sonoran Desert in Tucson or Phoenix than ABQ, 3 hours and 1000 feet in elevation up the same valley.

That day and for a day either side of that in Phoenix, you ask? 20 degrees warmer than Las Cruces; Albuquerque stayed within a few degrees of Las Cruces.

Those morning lows are during a near-record cold period following an unusually early arctic cold front, where the effects modified first in ABQ. In fall or spring, Las Cruces is usually about 5F warmer than ABQ, based on 120 years of statistics.

Statistics aren’t deceiving; perceptions are.