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 almost every one else’s posts for a while.


Stunning Verticals

While I rely on ample evergreen plants in my 2 dormant season climate, I also rely on contrast. Light / shadow, soft / sharp.

These recent scenes should help illustrate why.


My Saturday breakfast ritual, as near-native Nolina microcarpa tangles its coarse foliage into adapted (?) Echinopsis species from South America and Astrophytum species from deep in Mexico.


Gray concrete container, dark brown wall in the shade, bright green, and intense spination.


On a hazy day with pesky high clouds clearing later, the 8 foot Cylindropuntia imbricata looks formidable.



Road run-off and time for Yucca faxoniana near Valentine TX. A year later, needless effort by TxDOT. It’s hard to look at that.

With chlorophyll production halted on an old yucca, I hope it recovers.


That Agave salmiana or A. ferox row in Marfa compensated.  The background a clean-up chore for some new, starry-eyed property owners.


Back home, native Dasylirion wheeleri in its winter look at an old development entry project.

Are three better than one?

Do blue-green and spiky add interest on a blah day, with winter’s hills of creosotes in olive-drab?



3/3/18 weather:
75F36F / .00″ or 24c / 2c / .00 mm

Back to an SLR Camera

I had a 35 mm SLR film camera decades ago, but I’ve used handheld film or handheld digital cameras since at least 2001.

I tried out my new digital SLR camera this past week.


Then from my front patio, without and with the zoom lens.


Yes, my neighbor developed a brand or logo for her home, a stylized version of our local three crosses icon. It even appears on her flagstone address number plaque.

That hazy day, El Paso’s Franklin Mountains loom just inside the Texas border, 35 miles away.


Part of this new camera will be my re-learning techniques such as depth of field, in order to take better photos of my work and what inspires my work. I took a quick tour of my favorite project near my home to critique aspects of.

I’ll try not to scare you with the bad maintenance. Again, no zoom and zoom.


Recently seeing Danger Garden’s images of Agave neomexicana at one of her local nurseries, those in Oregon look healthier than here, though they grow natively on most of our hills. So, our “dry heat” can be overrated!

At least we don’t have a chance at developing SAD, and the light for photos is amazing.


At the entry, the zoom lens reproduces what I see exiting the development. Though it also shortens the close-in view, causing the houses to appear closer than in reality. This is where using depth of field might help on sharpness through the view.

Many Yucca faxonianaDasylirion wheeleri, Agave parryi, and Nolina greenei forms going solo, with softening blooms and smaller plants long ago dying or removed. Their green really stands out and brings welcome life in winter dormancy.


“Design for summer, and your garden looks good in summer. Design for February, and your garden looks good all year.” – Tara Dillard

The usual brown tips on foliage are evident on many plants (i.e. winters’ freezes and summers’ legendary “dry heat”), blurring to the left and further back.

Changing my SLR camera’s depth of field would sharpen all plants as they recede in this mass. Which is what one sees without a camera.

The structure of that mass facing exiting drivers works as intended, not forming a hard wall. It affords home properties a gentle buffer west towards the development, yet preserving driver views exiting the development, east into the valley and beyond to the Organ Mountains.


2/20/18 weather: 5835 / .00″