Ordinary and Good

As my design process matured in decades of weather extremes, a new appreciation for landscape techniques grew. Plants re-took center stage – lower water-use species, hardy in desert winters and summers with little care.

India Hawthorn / Rhaphiolepis indica, found at most strip malls and gas stations, along with junipers or trailing rosemaries.

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Since we can’t grow azaleas, Raphs have to do.

Raphs have always reminded me of those elusive foothills manzanitas, so picky that few here bother. And there are many different forms of tough Raphs out there in the high desert towns I’ve been or worked, all happy.

Red Tip Photinia / Photinia x fraseri can be scorched and anemic, wanting richer soils and more water than desert soil torture. But who doesn’t enjoy the new foliage?

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Is that another gas station plant hiding between Photinias – Silver King Euonymus?

Good design is a key, like with even exotic plants.

Boxleaf Euonymus / Euonymus japonicus ‘Microphyllus’ always looks green.

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No I haven’t lost my mind; it is green. And that genus’ powdery mildew or scale is rarely a problem in our rarified desert air.

Those can be issues if overwatering and irrigating overhead, but why would a person feel a need to do that?

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My point, as often, is fashion over fad. Classic over trendy.

Are there plants that thrive with little water and care where you are, which are not in vogue like they should be?

4/15/17 weather: 86 / 49 / .0

Soft and Sharp Again

Visiting past projects brings back memories, including why I placed certain plants or other features and sometimes before I learned another lesson.

The sky was still moody, though all chance of rain and the morning cold blew away.

After a too-long Saturday meeting with a prospective client, it was Picacho Mountain before a satisfying grilled dinner at home:

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the Agave neomexicana clump and ocotillo contrasts chartreuse Prosopis torreyana, even after the original wildflowers thinned and then vanished
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looking back towards the main road
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a solo Echinocereus horizonthalonius was added to the original Sophora x ‘Silver Peso’ and the Nolina texana greenei

The latter almost echoed in shape by the round, bluish pincushions of Dasylirion wheeleri across the street. Almost…

Seeing these photos as I write, we’ve had an unusual surge of humid winds off the Gulf, more the feel and scent of another place and time. This weather change really changes the way these ordinary plants look to me.

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the only Leucophyllum zygophyllum plants not butchered in their medians

I’m still figuring out why some areas of Purple Threeawn are left and others not.

The development here seems to not have a plan of action on what’s maintained or not, what can remain or get pulled out, and where. Some grasses were in the seed mix, some not – at least 50% should remain, not the 10-20% that are left or missed.

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an unusual form of Opuntia macrocentra
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see if you can spot another purple oddball Opuntia macrocentra from my plan

The occasional agaves on the sides, which I wish were parkways, so that’s what I wrongly call them. I wanted simple, gracious walkways down each street, too.

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Penstemon superbus

My guess is even with the optimal gritty soil habitat for penstemons, the maintenance directive and implementation here missed these volunteers. Where intentional from my design, most are long-gone.

Penstemons are no match for xeriphobia, overwatering, or Roundup!

And I would say those are no match for having one’s desert eyes on. Thanks for that term, Scott in Tucson.

4/12/17 weather: 87 / 63 / .0

Streetscape Awakens

My house hunt is starting. Per regional custom with posted hours, the open house closed almost 2 hours early, which I drove miles out of my way to see. But now there was time to spare.

Time to visit a recent landscape design – Engler Road streetscapes, taken 3/5/2017:

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Soils at this site are caliche with some gravels on top, which inhibits roots from developing and limits plant choices. Hopefully the medians depressed 12″ will percolate in some extra rain water, to help.

The 20 or so Cercis canadensis var. texensis specified are now taking to dusty New Mexico.

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The gloomy day didn’t help the tan tones including the shrubs in back, allowed to stay – I specified green-leafed Leucophyllum langmaniae instead of the gray L. zygophyllum that we ended up with.

Also doing well are the yuccas and grasses, somehow magically left un-shaped into balls last November when they went dormant. My maintenance plan was followed here but not everywhere in this development.

Got me!

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A few Yucca rostrata punctuate the repetitive mass of Bouteloua gracilis, like the effect one gets driving those restorative stretches of open road around Marfa or Carrizozo.

It just takes a few of these accents, which will soon accent the skyline.

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The yellow leaf margins on the yucca are a detail I often forget about. And the state grass of New Mexico, Blue Grama, is coming alive.

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Many green shoots are responding to the ground and air temperatures warming, even if a few weeks early. With all our mountains  protecting us, my guess is even if we get one of those freak March or April snowstorms and some more freezes (our last frost date averages April 1), few or none will be hard freezes below 28F, when the serious damage occurs.

Maybe.