Front Fun Before Driving Home

When I lived in El Paso a few years, I was surprised how many landscapes were different than in Las Cruces – 45 minutes away and only 200 feet elevation difference.

Driving down often from Albuquerque for business, and for years, all three places seemed more similar.

The differences became obvious only by living in each. Before leaving El Paso, I saw a few landscapes with no prying eyes around.

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That front yard near my “fortress” project caught my eye. I get the need for unity and raising up interest to eye level, and I think El Paso does that well. But a pair of golden barrels potted all over the front isn’t registering.

I used to like Echinocactus grusonii, until I saw that was the Phoenix-default cactus on two trips this past spring. Stop it already, El Paso.

But not to worry, Paso del Norte region climatology will stop it.

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The last photo is for someone in Orange County CA, who has expressed their “love” for Washingtonia robusta. That’s what happens to the majority at 4500 feet elevation here, about every 20 years. She could only be so lucky!

While I’ve seen worse use of W. robusta, it’s a canyon tree and fails without the right context or climate. El Paso climate 3 – Baja California flora 0.

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Now, let’s pick on or pick out good from one of my nearby designs. Done under an extreme and counterproductive, architect-driven rush. Like a .357 magnum to my head in one hand, but with some bundles of money in the other hand, for me if I can take it.

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See why I go to Dasylirion wheeleri as my default accent plant? All the softening Melampodium leucanthum and Viguiera steneloba are gone – facilities or contractor-driven Roundup or pulling.

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The chainlink fencing, decided upon before I was hired to locate it properly, kept this revegetation area from becoming a moonscape.

See, it’s all good!

Seeding plus salvaged Fouquiera splendens, Yucca torreyi, and Agave lechuguilla are doing their thing and protected from “the treatment”.

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So are Fallugia paradoxa, Dasyochloa pulchellum, and other natives.

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And of course, Chilopsis linearis volunteers along sidewalks, through evil chainlink fencing, and about anywhere stormwater soaks in. And those blooms!

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Ending my drive-by landscape critique on the way home, the usual native plant suspects do what I envisioned, though the desert willows are stunted for some reason. Of course, the flowering, herbaceous plants are long-gone…..

But the blue-green of the sotols, with that curve of red wall tiles, is just what I ordered.

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Yowza!

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Now to My Landscape

I’m starting the design of the garden spaces at my new home. Study sketches are loose and rough, since they get marked up! That’s already revealing some things that won’t work.

My design statement:
serene, inviting, and sometimes dramatic outdoor spaces, with the soul of the desert

Don’t laugh; that’s to help me carry through with the idea!

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Here’s Option ‘A’ (front / northwest at the top):

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Once I’ve explored a few options, I might import the best design direction into SketchUp, to “walk around” the property and further refine a final design in CAD.

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The front, in and out:

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A tiny courtyard off my home office:

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In back:

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But here’s one catch.

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When I’m out on the covered patio, I see that. So…

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…I’ll work hard on the spot between my patio and their property. My first hunch is to build a wire mesh or hog panel trellis immediately between the cover’s columns, then plant a dense, evergreen vine.

The male half of the neighboring household and I get along well, and my not-so-subtle screening solution has already been discussed. We both agree on the issue.

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The other catch: views to the unbuildable hill lot with desert growth should be preserved, since once the area is built out, I won’t have mountains or other vistas. That hill out back is the power here, and the dining room view is desert serenity.

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Plant selection is to come, once functions and forms are explored and established.

 

Growing Pains

Until the weather cools and moistens back to normal for our monsoon season, this will probably be my last post on the hospital projects in El Paso. So much is summer-dormant, plus young plantings via a tight budget need more time to reveal their true look.

Besides, I have items for my own property to start posting on, even if they are only conceptual and not in the ground!

Sierra Campus:

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The view from higher on the site reveals the spatial and plant relationships. Closer-in shows gaps in the plants, below the missing Agave neomexicana. Or whatever I specified!

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Providence Memorial Campus:

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Here, it’s waiting for Koryn’s art installation to go in.

In this case, since the landscape contractor ignored the plan’s curved arrangements of Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ and even some of the massings of other plants (namely the Maleophora crocea iceplant), her art will help soften the planting faux pas!

Usually it’s the other way around.

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Transmountain Campus:

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Aside from some missing Chrysactinia mexicana and the young age of the plants, the overall effect works, with the walls, while entering the site. That is, with the legibility of the Prosopis glandulosa trees up top and the Baccharis x Starns below.

The continued intrusion of all the behavioral signage detracts from the wayfinding consultant’s excellent signage, and it detracts from the view or plantings.

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Really? Very disturbing and the wrong way to go about things. “We’ve got a problem, Houston El Paso.”

This should look good in the fall or especially next spring, when everything recovers from our summer of June heat with July humidity.

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I’ll move onto the first problem I saw. In some other areas it was made so bad, I didn’t have the heart to post it.

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We chose to use the available reclaimed water to irrigate the landscape, instead of potable water. Partly from cost and partly from ecological reasoning. That greatly limited the plant palette, due to the elevated salts in reclaimed water.

Notice anything with the grasses, above and below?

Muhlenbergia emersleyi grasses were not tested in the extensive research materials I had from the El Paso Water Utility. That genera and many others now common weren’t even available in the trade or sold when those studies were made! My guess is with most other plants OK and the grasses not, that’s the issue.

Time will tell if that’s the reason. I hope I’m wrong, because this won’t work.

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Related Muhlenbergia rigens below is not much better, while other plants look OK.

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I’ll close with the parting shot, exiting the property. The simple lines of Agave parryi var. truncata playing off the Leucophyllum langmaniae and Yucca rostrata gives me hope.

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About that hope?

That the reclaimed irrigation water isn’t a problem and the grasses will decide to thrive, that the maintenance people and owner will do less counterproductive and unnecessary (and do right), and that these projects will enhance the entire community they touch.

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8/7/18 weather:
99F / 70F / .00″ or 37c / 21c / 0 mm