An Adobe Cottage

Not ye olde cottage garden, but the Chihuahuan Desert version.

In this case, fitting for late-June heat, high-noon sun, and with Johnny Cash speaking his iconic “Mean As Hell.” Glad I spotted this gem.



Had the mesquite on the right been planted about 7 or 8 feet directly in front of the window, that awning could be removed in a few years.


While not my design style, the owner is truly a spiky plant aficionado. Or more likely, obsessed with anything having spines. I don’t think I saw one plant without spines in this front landscape. Not one!

An Ocotillo, chollas, a rainbow, etc, etc, etc.


The low light is bringing out the blue on Opuntia subarmata, a more lush contrast to all the chollas. My guess is that prickly pear is a cutting from the Old Town church’s once-fine and large specimen.



Xeric, tough native trees more in scale will hopefully line the sidewalks in the future, replacing the depressing Siberian elm canopy, which is dying through miles of their town’s streets.

Did I mention Ulmus pumila is invasive, short-lived, insect bait, and weak-wooded, but it makes decent mulch for native plants?

There, we needed that. It’s time to do history better horticultural justice!




A Yucca rigida growing out of the base of a Prosopis torreyana? Or is it the mesquite that volunteered out of the root zone of the yucca? All sharp.

The single Echinocereus dasyacanthus catches the late sun.


You might remember the number of those Texas Rainbow Cactus I had at my former Albuquerque home. That locale was probably not as cold at night as downtown is on a regular basis, but it was far more exposed to bitter east winds at times.

Come to think of it, many of the mountain slopes in El Paso and Las Cruces where rainbows grow naturally, are very exposed.


I must find out the ID on the mystery Cholla out front, with the narrow joints and profuse, golden spines. The Cylindropuntia kleiniae nearby I know and like, but the spikier relative is as good as the silver C. echinocarpa in visual impact.

Well, probably physical impact, too.



There’s also an interesting history of this cul-de-sac and it’s adobe houses, envisioned and designed by Ohio-expatriate architect Anna Gotshall in 1925: here & here & here.


12/28/17 weather: 68 / 26/ .00″


Dissecting Retail: Three Years After

At El Paso’s Kern Place Crazy Cat Cyclery store, the architect and I created some small but distinct spaces using our ubiquitous rock walls with grade changes.

It won an AIA El Paso award a couple years ago.


That enclosed, communal space with a single Quercus fusiformis and some Yucca pallida is good. It’s mostly being maintained well, too.



The far side that once contained a rather “seasoned” Yucca torreyi specimen, then it fell, and finally the yucca’s replacement, is not so good.



The small spaces on the side will fill in more, as the sotols grow and damianitas hopefully reseed around.


I still regret not insisting on what should have been done on the south street’s uphill climb.

Because mountain biking and good headlamps are important, so is good plantsmanship.


12/25/17 weather: 7331 / .00″

Home Take 3

I found a home after much looking.

The existing adobe I placed an offer on gave me a counter offer out of line for the neighborhood and future redo of owner “touches”. So, a couple weeks ago my realtor and I executed a contract for a home built to LEED Platinum standards, including total solar power.

MV Res-Front1-SML
front looking east (porta-potty not included)
MV Res-Front2-SML
front looking west (new construction all around like my ’98-’04)
MV Res-Back1-SML
back looking east

I’ll do my best to agree with any neighbors’ bad tree choices, so my small view of the Organ Mountains stays in some form! (smile)


The 4 floor plans I entertained were narrowed down to one with outdoor living space potential.

Shifting the house footprint back a few feet allows a 12 foot square courtyard with a locking gate. Privacy is king. The front kitchen window may be changed to a door, to step out onto a firm, crunchy gravel patio with a few well-placed plants.

North is on the right.

Plan-MV Res2MV Res-Elev4337

The 4,337 foot elevation is a touch closer to the sun’s surface than my rental, but the location at the south end of the Jornada basin might put me back in USDA z 7b. But still Sunset z 10. We’ll see.


My new home happens to be in a development I provided landscape architect services for. Perhaps using xeric Quercus was my unintentional signature?


Only 8 months until the house is finishing up!