Civic Space 101: Filling In at JUTEP

That’s actually UTEP for “the University of Texas at El Paso”, but this region’s “border Spanish” makes “U” and “Y” have a noticeable “J” sound. I may have heard “jucca” said as much as “yucca” during 2+ decades at this region’s jobsites.

Our area’s largest showcase of native plants in a public garden is at year 3. That age often marks when a garden gets much better.

By Ten Eyck’s office, visited by me last weekend:

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Without several hours to spend, I try to start in a different place depending on the lighting – this was late afternoon.

The clean, walkable, and permeable groundplane of decomposed granite isn’t kitchen floor enough for some, but it has multiple benefits. Sound of footsteps included.

An excellent massing of plants and hardscape to take it all in.

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Those are Hesperaloe x ‘Pink Parade’, a hybrid of old, massive favorite H. funifera and more common H. parviflora. Agave ovatifolia is in the background, seeming to float on the aggregate.

Onto one of my favorite accent plants, with those tall, almost comical bloom stalks – Yucca pallida.

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Looking the other way, away from the dinner theatre, below R is a mass of H. parviflora ‘Brakelights’.

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Fallugia paradoxa are overgrowing the yuccas; not sure that was the intent, so I asked Ten Eyck herself a couple years ago on a conference wrap-up visit.

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A sunken placita (mini-plaza) with Nolina greenei under the young trees, as retaining seat walls take advantage of the grade change.

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Do those pricey Kornegay pots look worth it, like they do to me? Of course, it helps using hardy, effective Dasylirion quadrangulatum inside them.

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And on the other entry of the same Psychology building, these steps.

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More Dasylirion quandrangulatum in the planters along the stairs, plus other native and adapted plantings. Something like that at NMSU and especially UNM would completely overcome past ways.

A low area with water harvesting below one of many outcroppings of andesite rock, and voila – Gaura lindheimeri.

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Closing out with series of seat walls, providing a layering effect going downhill.

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More vigorous Apache Plume taking over.

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A hike a few days later showed my sentimental favorite cactus, Opuntia engelmannii, in bloom.

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A number of Echinocactus horizonthalonius were blooming, too.

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Have a good rest of the weekend!

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5/13/17 weather: 91 / 64 / .00

The Power of Green

My land is one of brown to olive shades and accented by blue-greens, under big blue skies and sun. It can be stark. Yet gardens can tap into the beautiful power of place by emphasizing that.

I learned to run when a prospective client gets that in nature, then switches into a belief that gardens need many flowers.

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Hesperaloe funifera, with Agave bracteosa and A. parryi var. truncata L…Yucca pallida and Zephyranthes candida R

Even a few attractive flowers, but it took some “wetter” weather periods to grow those. Don’t fixate on the flowers.

Green, earth-toned stucco, and indirect light = a desert trio.

Mid-winter frames the building entry to our local state park. In a bosque ecology being restored along the Rio Grande, there were and are no bold plants native.

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Nolina greenei in both containers

To bring interest, gray and brown forbs or dormant grasses won’t work. Nor would beds of winter pansies or summer lantanas be authentic to compliment the pueblo revival architecture.

The designer borrowed from where similar grassy forms, but evergreen, tend to dominate – mountain edges, also fairly hot and dry. Containers elevate more to eye-level, and provide drainage that can lack along the river’s floodplain soils.

It works and no flowers.

5/5/17 weather: 90 / 57 / .00

Night Effects

I smile when others “discover” garden lighting, especially subtle methods that don’t detract from night skies.

My first job out of college was being a design grunt at a firm in San Diego’s Mission Valley, in pre-AutoCAD 1989. They often used lighting, aware of its high-impact dimension in outdoor living.

What a difference, even in a new landscape.

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Forestiera neomexicana in containers, Salvia clevelandii in front

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In San Diego nearing the beaches, shade trees aren’t as necessary, and people there live outdoors all year like few others. Yet they appreciate night lighting, to extend garden time. In the high desert, even with low humidity and shading from trees and architecture, summer days outside are not so pleasant.

Then night comes, blissful except the hotter periods: that’s when garden lighting allows the landscape to be savored. Forestiera neomexicana in containers will be pruned and lifted once established, for more wow factor.

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Winter isn’t bad to enjoy lighting, either, sans the breeze.

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I must drop by as hospital staffing grows, to see how many break out on the patio. Not to mention what these Prosopis glandulosa trees will develop into, lit up at night.

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That mesquite grouping will be joined by the Yucca rostrata as they also mature.

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Yucca rostrata with Salvia clevelandii

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You may remember my former house from 1998 to 2013.

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Agave scabra with young Verbena wrightii and Salvia chamaedryoides
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Nolina greenei, with Parthenium incanum and Salvia henryi in front

I rolled over in bed awakening to this many spring mornings, sleeping all night with the sliding doors open.

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Yucca rostrata, Lavandula, Salvia greggii, Quercus fusiformis, with a potted Aloe vera that came out in the warm season

After specifying landscape lighting for a few clients who valued it, I figured I deserved it, too. Mine was low-voltage, but a quality brand – FX Luminaire.

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Of course, luminarias add to the scene, but that’s only in chilly December.

Someone once asked (challenged) me, “why light up a cactus?”

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Opuntia engelmannii with Chrysactinia mexicana

That’s why!

The purple wall probably bothered her, too.

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When trying out garden lighting, first experiment with a big box store brand to find where it will work and the effects you want, before spending more money on a higher-grade system to truly reveal your spaces.

Free advice: really, really rethink copying the “airport runway” look of path lights, which many default to.

Indirect lighting does something, not drawing attention to itself. The former provides a professional touch others will want to copy but you get to live with.

4/29/17 weather: 60 / 43 / .03