Spring Light

Following a recent pre-construction meeting one morning away from the day job, using more vacation time to do so, I was glad to visit El Paso’s new Transmountain Hospital. You might remember I was the LA on its HKS-led project team.

The light was perfect, and the spaces I designed are settling in.


Masses of similar plants contrasting other masses would never satisfy some, but it satisfies the need for ease of maintenance, and rhythm driving or walking.


Available plants in quantities meant natives like Prosopis glandulosa, Muhlenbergia emersleyi, Chrysactinia mexicana, and Agave parryi. And adapted plants like Salvia clevelandii and Zephyranthes candida.


The bright green of newly-leafed out Prosopis really is stunning against shadowy buildings and mountains, or bright blue skies.


On to the break area, designed especially for nighttime sitting.


Soon, the Salvia and Zephyranthes candida will be in bloom for the front doors area.


The physicians parking area is stunning, and sweetly scented with near-native Acacia farnesiana. (take that old genus name, taxonomists!)


Ahhh, the bold mountain islands on the east side of the Rio Grande Rift…



If you’re entering from the west, off Resler, this is part of the greeting.


Masses of the common Dasylirion wheeleri…just know when this planting is a few more years old, it will look almost too dense in spots but be spare and interesting in most of it.

The unknowing person would never imagine any of that.


Time to head back home and to the now-day job.

Do you ever look at large-scale landscapes the public uses? Do you know the severe time and budget constraints on those? Or the array of other challenges on each one?

Time for bed, computer software diagnostics for hours over months are enough challenge.


Mid-Century Roadtrip

Modern Phoenix announced their Mid-Century Modern (MCM) home tour tickets were going on sale, so I was ready.

I’ve wanted to attend for years. The day they went on sale at 8 am, I waited until 9. I got onto the 2nd tour, departing an hour later than the already-sold out 1st tour. All tickets sold out before 11 am.

You might see why I recommend going in 2019; outsides to insides were thought-out.

All houses on tour were built or designed in 1959, except where noted.


#1 The Buena Terror


Arizona designs often feature garden walls or low walls, combined with sculptural accent plants. This house’s 1/3 pivot front door and salvaged sofa make a hit.


Windows and long wall frames help add light to an interior room, plus texture on the wall. I can’t help but think of Donald Judd’s wall-mounted art in Marfa.



#2 The Beck Residence


This method to lay concrete block looks great, but I only see it used in Arizona.


Even a hip infant nursery with its own patio. Their outdoor furnishings are key to adding interest and life.


Vintage stereo equipment…


She was in the right place for this shot.



I’ve interspersed some houses with some of Phoenix’ signs that state weather warnings, if you dare visit in the summer! This type of thing is all over their open spaces.

A Phoenix summer is as intense as a Minnesota winter.



#3 Bellamak Residence


My photos don’t do justice to this very edgy, yet serene and comfortable house.  Plus interior shots were not allowed; just know those were stunning yet welcoming, using very polished surfaces and forms. And zero clutter.

As if in Phoenix, one would even care about being indoors from November to April…

Colorful cruiser-style bikes galore


Sunny Camelback from a shady entry


I could hang out for hours at their fireplace or by their pool.



#4 Mucha Casa


I’ve always admired the use of low walls in Arizona landscapes, as opposed to courtyards that open to gravelscapes or wide-open spaces with no bones. They provide scale but don’t block beauty.



#5 Gordon Rogers Home and Studio


More bikes and more great garden spaces. This is a home tour?


I enjoyed his studio being open, to see all the sketches and plans in progress.


I finally had to let go of a client whose front space was so stunning over this. Let strong plantings be the border; using an edge is usually more clutter than good.



This must be the winter sign. 85-95F in their summer is about 2-8 am.




I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Rolls Royce convertible at the trailheads I frequent, but I’ve never mountain biked or hiked near Paradise Valley. That day was paradise.




#6 The Evertson House


This vignette again shows how inexpensive simplicity rules: the wall with corner insets, aggregate paving bands in the concrete, and the sloping roof line. The blue car and view doesn’t hurt!


Positive affirmations for wall art is a matter of expression, but everything else most would agree on. #justsayin In and out.



#7 Kucharo’s Xanadu


Yet another classic car, strategically placed. But this inexpensive common CMU block wall, designed uncommonly…

This was the only house not built in 1959 on this tour…it was built in 1962.


And another excellent CMU wall, and another, and …


Buying a new house has me admiring bathrooms that work, by simply adding the right touch.


It turns out, this modern home tour, where we could photograph almost everything, had so much quality garden design. That’s compared to a number of gardens I saw on an actual garden tour a couple weeks later, where we could not take photographs anywhere.

I have no plans to return to that garden tour, though I will probably post one of their past garden tours from 6 years ago, with excellent design and where photos were allowed.

I will plan to return to a future MCM home tour, however!

Winter Walk-Off 2018: v. Las Cruces

I’m moving, closing on my new home in April, only a few blocks from my present rental house.

This past winter of 2017-2018 ended in the last couple weeks. We had mostly sunny days, high temperatures above normal, almost no rain or snow, and it seems a typical amount of freezes.

The actual cool season might not be over, so I’ll tabulate the actual statistics later. Do check back.


My 20 minute walk-off starts on the unbuilt lot next to my future house. The front view and remnant Chihuahuan Desert vegetation will go away, but it will remain in the back.


Just some meaningful gaps in the mortared rock slope, filled with rocky-soil native plants, would be stunning.


I’m seeing some young Cylindropuntia imbricata that might need liberating once threatened by a new house. From experience, I can handle a 3-4 foot cholla…



This is an unbuildable, 75 foot wide lot between my block and the other houses’ block. It is either a slope or an arroyo, mostly left in natural desert cover with some Larrea tridentata and loads of Sporobulus flexuosus, Sporobulus cryptandrus, and Dasychloa pulchella.



Here’s a desert-contemporary house, with carefully-shaped Leucophyllum.

And that monster Yucca thompsoniana on the upper terrace. I wonder why there are so few down here, yet this thriving species is so common all over Albuquerque?


It looks as if the Sophora secundiflora is never going to stun all year with this shape, only for a couple weeks in early spring with some of its flowers.


A vigorous Cylindropuntia kleiniae. (??) A few nearby Lantana x ‘New Gold’ are starting to grow back at the base.



This front garden and the house is among the best designs in my neighborhood.


Especially if the pampas grasses were changed to native Sporobulus wrightii… #picky

This side includes a skilled use of ever-tough Euphorbia rigida, Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Rug’, Rosmarinus officianalis ‘Huntington Carpet’, and Agave americana.


A few Opuntia and Echinocereus species adding one of my xeriscape principles, sculpture or CAM plants. Even a healthy but doomed-forever-in-our-climate to be compact Olea europeae.


Or perhaps it’s a hardier, compact olive like O. e. ‘Sevillano’?

The ramada driving into the garage, with wisteria or grape vines up both wood posts, is a very good touch. So is the copper roof across the front. Will check daily, soon!


A few Agave salmiana are hiding behind more Euphorbia rigida, a young, vigorous Sophora secundiflora, and the ubiquitous local Yucca elata. With our (really) sandy soils, I expect that yucca to stay small.

Various agaves, including some A. lechuguilla from the limestone areas east of the Rio Grande. Even one of the tiny, northern Arizona-native agaves (I’m now forgetting) from seeing some in the old burg 3 hours N.

And a favorite re-seeder from my former, purple wall house, Penstemon parryi.



Once there’s some maintenance, most of the plants left are worth maintaining…



The front courtyard wall with the Taos-esque carved posts are excellent. And I like when Opuntia ellisiana tries to become a tree, like a miniature O. ficus-indica.



Tall, lean, but lonely natives, Yucca torreyi.


Sheared back from the walk, a Dasylirion wheeleri…everywhere a Dasylirion, wheeleri, Dasy…..


This is looking like another fine example of Opuntia orbiculata or O. subarmata.


In the southeast where Crepe Myrtle likes it, they are often butchered into forms that cannot be mentioned. Here, where only a few cultivars like our wonderful “dry heat”, those still don’t like the stingy irrigation on xeric companion plantings, let alone when placed in extensive gravel areas over deep, sandy soil.



The same Atlantean staircase I showed a year ago, is even better from this side. It’s topped with Canterra Stone, one of my favorites that we should use muchmuch more.


Now, we’re within a block of the house I’m renting, plus you saw all that last year. But things are greening up, about 1 week behind last year’s amazingly balmy-and-wet-for-here winter.



It’s time to finish my walk, since I have to light my charcoal grill. 15 minutes so far.

And the torture of Leucophyllum frutescens carries on. Glad it’s not just my work that gets the treatment!


Oleander and some other non-native plants had some dieback this winter. Considering they had generous moisture for 18 months compared to usual, until November when it dried out, it’s from normal lows. They will green up soon.



I’m glad some of the native Atriplex canescens are retained, with its light green, open form. As are the happy populations of Gambel Quail and Scaled Quail.


Saltbush seed provides food for quail, not to mention shelter from our prehistoric-looking raptor known as the Roadrunner. A few Baileya multiradiata are flowering nearby, but the wind had to start and blur the photo…


And little 4,950 foot Picacho looms in many spots, which actually makes a good stair-master.


Back to my rental, where I’m making margaritas to enjoy out on the back patio, as I grill up dinner and the sun sinks low. If you’re into it, you can comment – at least this time!

3/18/18 weather:
65F / 47F / .00″ or 18c / 8c / .00 mm


Here’s a link to others’ winter walk-offs and Les’ blog post, which I missed…like my missing almost everyone else’s posts for a while.