Still Here, on Pause

A quick update, as some have asked, “what happened to you?” – my last blog post shows as “09.28.15”!

I’m taking an indefinite break from my blog and other non-paying pursuits for good reasons. One – I’m in the midst of completing all the design work which I’m behind on – it’s all behind. 2014-15 brought a few horrid project / people experiences, robbing months from better work and pursuits.

I’m running on fewer cylinders than my engine requires!

Until it’s time to add back other things, here’s one last bit since 09.28 –


The Guadalupe Mountains, namely McKittrick Canyon. I finally made it, each year unable to go, not that I was really able this year –


Resuming plenty of design work, awaiting my mind and soul. At least 15 projects in design or construction, including an unusual-for-my-last-decade number of residences, and even an unusual project for most anyone (new buildings within an oil refinery) –

You see, I don’t look for work, as it comes to me, given my desert-centric convictions and experience.

Much of what I do is screen out the >90% who don’t really want what they claim to, so I’m able to do solid design work for the <10% who value and get it. Only giving presentations has netted worse odds.

I mostly need those universals of time and cash flow (always on it), plus a like-minded assistant versed in CAD and outdoor living design – and that’s who I’ll find, or I’ll move on. We’ll help each other, while helping the few. Moving past poor timing or so many who don’t have it going on – I’ll know!


Nothing like seeing trees and other large plants with (3) arborists on a chilly fall afternoon. Or seeing a few sights out of town, while measuring another residential site / landscape renovation –

Before I finished college, I learned most people – even family and friends – get little about what I do, all that goes into it while hoping for the best, and that for 27 years. Even with clear answers when asked. Today, that’s even more obvious.

Yet, anyone honest knows I smile far more than not. Some even know why, and those are who I value the most.


Finishing a conference, the lunch speaker toured attendees around her office’s work at UTEP (I forgot to get a picture of her and the others). I’ve kept up some of my indoor and outdoor workouts, too –

Hopefully, I’ll return to posting on my blog. The sooner I complete first things first, the more likely that will be. Yes, I’m doing just fine – maybe better than most?

In the spirit of these last few days, thank you!

Marfabout: Gardens in 2015

A home tour followed the Marfa design symposium, so of course, I turned that and my trip into a garden tour. No photos were allowed inside, though there were many great ideas – I compensated outside.

Musical pairing from the Eagles – James Dean, of course! (unsure that album cover was designed by local Boyd Elder, but you can find out and why I picked that song…hint: Giant)

Some galleries of many things I enjoyed; hang on, it’s a big post –

Now, off to the actual design symposium and my other wanderings, when I should have been designing… way.

I paid dearly for this later…but it might pay off even more later.

I forgot to capture the presentation of the first speaker, both architects now based in Tucson (Dust).

But the next speaker was a fellow Carlsbad native, even the same high school, is now a Brooklyn-based architect. Kelly Armendariz went into his works, many are commercial renovations in the Big Apple, but not to be left out was his own Marfa home in progress.

Serious Desert SW representation!

I’m glad the hard work of Tucson’s Brad Lancaster defining what should underpin all our work, continues to become mainstream in urban and landscape design. He’s the same smiling and fired-up / yet laid back guy who I shared ciabatta bread and vino at my old ABQ house years ago, in my other life.

And some homes on the tour…

The panel of architects, interior designers and engineer involved in a promising hotel being built by the railroad tracks in Marfa…the Hotel Saint George. A hotel actually stood on the same site decades ago.

Carlos is someone I’ll collaborate with to a degree on an upcoming residence, while it turns out that Nunzio and Mary Alice are 2 of the 1200+ firm HKS whom I’m working with on health care projects in El Paso. A small world.

I’ll close out on parts of the symposium and my own tour related to being more bike and pedestrian-friendly…and upping the economic bar for any great place that’s proud of itself and its place. (pay attention El Paso and NM: no more wannabe, learn to be)

I hope to post photos of the gardens from two years ago, at the last symposium, but the “day” job calls.

See anything you like, or that could benefit from water harvesting and other best design practices?

I hope you enjoyed this mega-post, too!

Color Spots

I like any garden style – when thought-out, appropriate to its location (with little input), and not done because it’s popular (no grounding or conviction). Many can pick out the latter…no thanks.

But there’s something about classics, which always fit and look good, transcending trends or fads. Fashion.

Great bones, simplicity, and just the right amount of color from Marfa TX –


roof, chairs…and the dreaded duo of desert phobes…

Cactus and yuccas. Oh no…and “the children”!

Seriously, this place uses the southern coastal Spanish Bayonet / Yucca aloifolia and native Spineless or Cacanapa Prickly Pear / Opuntia ellisiana. The former is named appropriately and has the sharpest leaf tip of anything I know of, but it’s smaller size provides a more tropical effect…the latter is almost cliche here, but I still like it.


chairs, roof, and a gray Leucophyllum spp. vs. green Rosmarinus officianalis


Mescal Agave / A. neomexicana nested in (cliche) feathergrasses

Marfa is clearly of the surrounding Chihuahuan desert grassland. Understated, yet grand.

Color too, and not just whites (the sum of all colors), used discretely as opposed to a floral print.


green is a color too, more Opuntia ellisiana as a hedge


hidden tile bench, Blue Nolina / Nolina nelsonii


bluish form of Beaked Yucca / Yucca rostrata…flaming red of Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii, Vauquelinia corymbosa var. angustifolia behind

Want to come here, and just walk around with your camera? I can relate…

Edit Sans Sod

This is the mid-century modern renovation and plant edit I hinted at. A day later, my grill is ready for making my Labor Day dinner; the charcoal scent is divine.

Las Cruces, 9/6/2015 –

NM plant icons preserved, pinons and yuccas

I’m glad the sizeable Piñon / Pinus edulis were protected and retained; they’re the state tree. Hopefully, some other plantings are added at the root zones without damaging any shallow roots, that can help shelter those upland pines’ roots and add some moisture via their drip irrigation.

Piñons typically occur only above 5500′ elevation this far south – this house is 4100′, over 5F warmer.

jewels were kept in the tangle of overplanting, cactus hording, etc.

I think this property was one I saw on drive-bys with fellow spiky plant fan E. Hodoba, from Valencia County. We were both in Las Cruces for a Native Plant Society annual meeting, and I recall a number of homes in this part of town loaded with great cacti and other plants – some not hardy the next zone colder in central New Mexico. Including a number of saguaro cacti, some with arms…those may have been there since the last big freezes in late 1976, I’ve been told.

I’m unsure how saguaros made it without help most winters, given the usual couple lows most winters in the low teens.

The neighbors I was visiting assured me a number of cacti and agaves on their block, and in this landscape, froze in the 2/2011 uber-freeze, never to grow back, even given months. They got to -5F or so, with nearby areas -11F.

Cow’s Tongue / Opuntia linguiformis

Some plants like that are almost perfect in appearance, including a few creosote bushes. Other plants like some sotols and Spanish brooms look stressed.

I wonder what the exterior shell of the house will turn out like. I also wonder if a more intensive planting, in diversity and density, might be added once the house exterior is finished, along the walkway and especially near the front door. Possibly a subtle water feature, and some flowering, though that’s not essential. That’s the direction I might go, given my decades in the high desert.

Then again, I also like privacy from solicitors, and I would have a low garden wall up front with a locked gate…

Not sure about a few simple, bold containers by the front breezeway…

making the house numbers a design feature

Sorry for accidentally cropping out the Fishhook Barrel Cactus / Ferocactus wislizenii in the last photo; I also meant to take some close-ups of it, as it had a bloom.

I hope you were able to relax this weekend, even if you had to work some like me.

Back to my cold SanTan Hop Shock IPA:-)

Lawnless Las Cruces 

A fast diversion, enroute to an après design charette social.

well done!

Yucca torreyi, Y. faxoniana, Opuntia subarmata, Senna wislizenii, Leucophyllum spp. star there. Effectively out-shining the gravel and river rock, as they should.

With Piece of Eden showing an array of SoCal lawnlessness (her great term), I had to join in!

My ecoregion’s climate is more harsh, so many soft succulents that thrive on the coastal slopes in California may not have a prayer here, at least year-round…we compensate with grand natives Opuntia and Yucca, plus woody desert shrubs and trees. Lawnless in the desert is often older, with less hardscape and site features than theirs. For now…


A preview up the street. Like this Dasylirion wheeleri and Yucca elata combo, holdovers from the previous front yard –

primo specimens a great idea to protect, retain

How large is that sotol? About the maximum size I see in my region, which are the largest I’ve seen anywhere.

I’m 6′ tall…Señor Sotol is 8-9′

Too bad I’m not better at selfies!

a mid-century modern redux & landscape edit

Do you go by other gardens for inspiration, to just enjoy, or both?

Las Vegas Oasis

Would you guess this post is from a city’s metro area of 2.1 million people, with 44+ million visitors each year?

I would. And given which city, I also guessed right how it would be vacant at dawn, even with the coolest morning lows in the valley.

Clark County Wetlands Park, on the Las Vegas Wash, from 6/25/2015. Musical pairing from the Chairman of the Board – here


entry ramada reflects Frenchman Mountain

Saline irrigation water and low areas with saline soils can be tough on plants, so desert riparian species are all that’s used here – including halophytes.


Quailbush / Atriplex lentiformis, California wildfire smoke above


Fourwing Saltbush / Atriplex canescens

MesoWest showed some highs the day before at 116F in nearby Henderson and along this wash. 116 high – 73 low = a 43F temperature swing in one day. Sign me up…for the low!


boulders and drops in water elevation used to create sound


Tornillo / Prosopis pubescens there, like Bernalillo to the Big Bend


visitor’s center and overlook

Funding met savvy in ecoregion and design there.


controlled burns to rid overgrowth of exotics and aggressive natives

Exotics that replace native species disturbed or removed include salt cedar / Tamarisk spp. and fountain grass / Pennisetum sactaceum. Natives that take over when the balance of natural controls are removed include Western Honey Mesquite / Prosopis torreyana and Desert Willow / Chilopsis linearis.


too many concrete walks for my taste

An alternate to concrete would be stabilized aggregate, like decomposed granite (DG): that material provides just as much accessibility for developed trails and paths…plus, its crunching sound and visuals support a more wild effect.

Much better!


DG paths further back…miles of trails here


appealing bench arrangement, shade from Western Cottonwood / Populus fremontii

Finally, a good use of cottonwoods – a riparian area with much room for rapid growth, aggressive roots, weak wood and extreme thirst, as opposed to a garden or most any urban setting.


more seating for classes…native sandstone

Clark County Wetlands Park is not a natural area, but it’s close by.

Someone figured out the connections and patterns allowing human-made riparian zones to better emulate the beauty of the wilds – the few places we can find wild riparian areas in the southwest.

(update…turns out this was designed by a collaboration between my former employer and a civil engineer I’ve worked with…and even another firm before them who did the master plan, who some I worked with worked for…ha!)

Do you have any areas in your area to visit, developed for both sedentary people and those who get out on the trail?

3 Years Later

What better way to revisit a maturing public garden in Austin during the depths of summer, than from my El Paso apartment…it’s mid-morning here, all windows and doors are still open, with the air dry and light.

Since I first visited three years ago, what worked or didn’t?

The Bevo Belo Center, deep behind enemy lines at the University of Texas, 8/1/2015 –


this retaining structure seems to be holding up, plants OK

I’m unsure of that metal / fabric retaining method, or the reason for it. Perhaps plants that trail or spread by rhizomes are supposed to fill in and down the sides, further “knitting” the soil?


Diospyros texana and groundcovers massed, filled in


one of the shady refuges here, a bosque of Prosopis glandulosa


trees are underplanted w/ Scutellaria suffrutescens (thx texasdeb)

For those inspired by ecoregional and appealing outdoor living, many more simply enjoy it.


at least the lawn is outshined by everything else

Construction is evident from bright fencing and scaffolding behind where I took that photo.

The lawn might get used on milder days than their steamy 5+/- month summer, but even it’s set into appealing plant layering. It’s the hardscape and furnishings that probably get more use, set into plantings.

Lawns are carpet or flooring; hardscape and plantings are the architecture, furnishings and accessories. Lawns are plush, but plantings are lush.


all well, nicely growing together framing the seat wall

Some of that area looks overplanted, but given demands put on many designers, it’s fine. The plants chosen and how they were designed throughout this entire project should look great for years, without pulling out half.


Yucca pallida front, Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii back


Hesperaloe parviflora ‘Brakelights’ lines the retaining wall

As hard as it is to admit for an OU Sooner grad, this UT project alone is nicer than anything I remember in my 1980’s college days, or my last visit to Norman 14 years ago.


tucked-in spikiness of Hesperaloe funifera

That area needs regular pruning and cleaning out; it’s overgrown and looks neglected, yet at a major street intersection and visible during each red light.


yeah, I left the trash for the picture…it’s part of the urban fabric


plants thin out with no replacements, and not just on projects of the unwashed


one of a few plaza spaces, and Ten Eyck’s usual “yucca in a seat wall hole”……..


concrete pavers let the plantings shine

The design of the pavers is an attractive, unique variation of what I call a running bond pattern. Just heavy gauge steel to form the edges; clean.

Christy Ten Eyck and her office “done good”, as this landscape all worked out. Only some maintenance and construction were the issues I saw, in a small percentage of the site and little to do with this design.

In fact, I wouldn’t expect any better than this, or even as good as this, three years later – public or even private space. My guess is she goes out of her way, on maintenance monitoring and advisement with the owner – with fees to cover it. If not, some good people are taking care of this…no “treatment” to the shrubs alone tells me that.

Do you look at new landscapes, then revisit them after a couple years to see what worked or didn’t?