A Home in El Paso

“It happens” – Forrest Gump

Or was it, “projects and why I became an employee, again?” (and again I’m no longer an employee)

It’s always been my focus to design gardens and landscapes that mature gracefully and tell a coherent story of their owners and ecoregion. So, I often revisit to see how that worked and to inform future work. This is the Broadmoor Residence in El Paso, about 4,400 feet elevation.

Photos from 3/9/2022:

“Design for summer, and your garden will look great all summer. Design for February, and your garden will look great all year.” – Tara Dillard paraphrase

Year-round interest was accomplished, including softening the substantial grade change between home and street, as well as left to right. Part of my strategy was to use mostly plant species once found on this bajada of the Franklin Mountains, as well as other parts of the Chihuahuan Desert.

Dramatic views, contrast, limestone outcrops, and boldly beautiful plants spaced in response to dryness was the story of the landscape, and how I saw the architecture.

Here’s a quick tour!

Grasses and other plants were grouped among the original planting design by the architect, later, as well as additional trees. The bones of native Dasylirion wheeleri in offset rows and masses of Bouteloua curtipendula remain, as well as accents of Yucca rostrata and Agave neomexicana.

The 3 to 5-foot grade changes aren’t as obvious as in person, but the limestone slabs help relate the house walls, slope, and plantings.

Dermatophyllum secundiflorum clumps enclose the lower front stairs, leading to the huge view of the desert sky beyond and through the dining room glass.

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Looking up the street, the Dasylirion rows and grade change with steps and rock slabs are more obvious. All relates, in spite of dormancy and grasses cut back for the future growing season.

Originally, I included a low garden wall to further strengthen the entry experience and ground the front to the prominent house. That was deleted by the architect, as were other enhancements in back I haven’t yet seen.

Imagine this when the plants are more mature in a few years.

At the downhill, western side of the property, a motor court and a canopy of more trees invites the owners and guests in.

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Owner requirements were realistic and non-prescriptive:
1) Use some plants that aren’t common, yet are mostly native and hardy to El Paso
2) Use a few marginally-hardy plants where they make a statement; those can be covered on colder nights
3) Mass plants well; don’t scatter them randomly and without unity

Those requirements were in focus throughout the landscape design process and during many collaborations with the architect.

The outcome of this project is fine, including how the front spaces are beginning to mature. Unfortunately multiple challenges during design revisions and construction phases were another reality; knowing that may help the reader understand how whim or panic-driven changes, additions, and species can compromise outcomes. It happens.

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On another note, I just took photos showing this year’s growth and some simple details. Watch for those to be posted soon.

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One Reply to “A Home in El Paso”

  1. Gorgeous project. I didn’t realize that Palo Verde grew in El Paso, but I’m not familiar with El Paso at all.

    Thanks, time is helping this front garden to season well.

    The main tree is a ‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verde – a hybrid of two different palo verdes, then grafted onto Parkinsonia aculeata root stock. That root stock tree, called a Retama, is hardy as a shrubby tree in the hot summer central valley of NM, but it becomes a sizeable tree down here, only freezing to the ground in the usual, 20-year extreme cold events. Nursery availability for trees of meaningful initial sizes limited me to this hybrid, not ideal due to fast growth that easily breaks in high winds or can fall over when the top outgrows the root mass. Yet another compromise, but no choice…

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