Low Light, High Impact

Checking the flowering status of Sophora on some streetscape work, I really had some excellent lighting. I remembered that S. x ‘Silver Peso’ wasn’t specified, but rather it was S. x ‘Sierra Silver’.

Photos from Picacho Mountain, celebrating daylight savings time, 3/12/2017.

PicachoMtn_AnthemN02_2017-03-12-SML

north towards the development’s namesake

That’s on Anthem Road, the first area one sees before buying a lot, or returning home.

I’ll need to dig out some earlier photos, before the demise of flowering groundcovers among the agaves and some other accents. There were some good combos that are tough and reproduce madly, but not with roundup or lacking initial rabbit control.

I’ve been blamed on not using rabbit-resistant plants, no matter how explained.

PicachoMtn_AnthemN01_2017-03-12-SML

Sophora x ‘Sierra Silver’, the main reason I visited

Yet these native volunteers of Aristida purpurea are appreciated and their forms left the best way between the boulders and under the Yucca faxoniana.

You may have spotted a few maintenance issues on your own by now. “Giving most landscape maintenance people your trust here is like giving whiskey and your Porsche’s keys to teenaged boys.” – my local adaption of Wasowski ala O’Rourke.

PicachoMtn_AnthemS01_2017-03-12-SML

same median looking south, I’m also impressed how the wild Larrea tridentata / Creosote Bush are all left on the street sides…classy

Desert plants used well offer an understated elegance.

The low lighting really added some drama on this secondary neighborhood entry. About a half-mile away over the hills, onto Calle Vigas.

PicachoMtn_CalleVigas01_2017-03-12-SML

agaves and rocks just work

Agave neomexicana is also elegant – not the most interesting agave to many, since it isn’t zone-pushing, unusual, or glamorous enough. But it’s our’s, so just use it well and experiment well with it.

After a few years in my own garden I was blessed to own, I got such things right after enough cuts and flesh wounds.

Then I was free to unleash such things correctly the first time on loads of “paying projects”!

PicachoMtn_CalleVigas02_2017-03-12-SML

the mountain that used to be my workout hike

Looking back on the original development on Anthem Road, sunset! The Sophora there and on nearby plantings are barely blooming, just a little higher…maybe 4200′?

PicachoMtn_AnthemN03_2017-03-12-SML

the orange is ongoing water main work

Looking more closely, I only wish I could bottle up the fragrance for you of each Sophora x ‘Sierra Silver’.  But I did sacrifice life and limb on these bloom close-ups versus a rather territorial carpenter bee.

 

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:

EnglerStsc-E01_2017-03-05-SML

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.

EnglerStsc-E05_2017-03-05-SML

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!

EnglerStsc-E02_Yucros1_2017-03-05-SML

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.

EnglerStsc-E02_Yucros3_2017-03-16-SML

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.

EnglerStsc-E03_Boutgrac3_2017-03-05-SML

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.

Shrub Shaping 

A recent drive to my trailhead, and Texas Sage / Leucophyllum spp. in bloom.

ShrubShape-EP01

roundabout #1 – balls, mushrooms but still flowering

Of course, the public street’s roundabout planting areas are too small for a 6’+ shrub, or such a plant given the need for safety and visibility. (3′-8′ high is the zone many towns require to be clear at intersections)

And the shrubs are under 3′ – by force.

But the usual suspects do it anyway, over and over. Even the city, violating their own rules. Crazy! (at least I try to design appropiately and explain / educate)

ShrubShape-EP02-SML

roundabout #2 – a different form, only the trees safe

Now, here’s a private planting of the same shrub on the same street, but left in its natural form, with space to mature.

ShrubShape-EP03-SML

a 10′ wide parkway strip

Which form of shrub pruning benefits drivers and pedestrians more? Or the plants?

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 –

ChairPlants_Color-Marfa01a-SML

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.

ChairPlants_Color-Marfa01b-SML

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

ChairPlants_Color-Marfa02-SML

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.

ChairPlants_Color-Marfa03-SML

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

ChairPlants_Color-Marfa04-SML

hidden tile bench, Blue Nolina / Nolina nelsonii

ChairPlants_Color-Marfa05-SML

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…

A Place to Sit

I’m in Marfa again, this time for a design symposium. I splurged for little more than this town’s boutique “hotel”, but I have lodging with immense privacy and space, which I really miss.

Curiously, the front garden area is completely walled in with my favorite landscaping must-have, built-in: the seat wall.

CasaBilly01-SML

restful and simple, but my design brain is revving up

CasaBilly02-SML

finally, a durable hipster-panel fence / gate…steel

There isn’t one plant growing around these walls; I think it needs something discrete and to shade the hot NW evening sun. (29N latitude, 5000′ elevation sun) But planted so a group can still be comfortably accommodated inside.

Possibly add a few low-key containers?

CasaBilly04-SML

morning has broken

Note there’s only one way into the graveled front area, via the steel gate. At 6′ tall and being a guy who wears jeans to dress up, no problem for me to hop over the seat walls.

While Marfa is informal, I would rather provide a space for the maximum types of guests. Had this been a Quercus project, I would have included 3 gaps to better access that space, each 3-4 feet wide – a pair at opposite ends of the portal (covered porch), where the lower walls meet it; the other gap stepping down, aligned with the front door.

CasaBilly03-SML

a new day

After seeing Brad Lancaster speak at the end of the first day, before any planting occurs, we need to first build in passive water harvesting. I haven’t seen him in years, maybe since he was hanging out with a bunch of plant nerds at my old house. Loads of free resources on that – here. (both his books are a must, though)

With an adequate depth of mulch and planted, the soil acts more like a sponge, optimizing plant root system health – just like what happens in our arroyos. Low water-use, indiginous plants coordinated with water harvesting thrive and reproduce, because that now-moister soil in the plant root zone extends cooling and moisture into dry periods, that simply doesn’t happen without it.

Caveat – the uber-minimalist direction of gardens in Marfa, or other modern gardens, need to bend some, on being kept too neat. That perfectly clean ground plane is best left for the floors inside the house; some organic matter is necessary where plants grow. I hope my former home landscape of 15 years was proof of having such a balance.

CasaBilly05-SML

great coffee…is there a better time of day?

With all the above in place, then we can sit back and enjoy the view and serenity just a little bit more.

This place is great to stay at, by the way. And the owner / host happens to host the Thursday night show on KRTS called Rockabilly. A fitting musical pairing from my high school days, which he and his sister play – here.

Desert Landscaping: Maintenance Fails and Fixes

If only I could be in charge of each of my projects’ maintenance, but then, who would design them? Just a few adjustments are needed in the below areas, looking at the big picture and then close-up.

Musical pairing, little to do with Las Vegas except it has a great beat and is about nightlife; I hear that city to the west has some of that – here

Photos from 6/24/2015 –

Maint-Date100200Brz02_2015-06-24-SML

Do you see what the Honey Mesquite in front needs?

1 thing: prune off the 1″ branch growing low and into the building wall. If only I still had loppers, and I had driven there instead of flown.

From my last posts on how I wish I had designed something differently, you can tell how important I view even our smallish desert trees – which old guard definitions from cooler or wetter places refer to as “shrubs”.

Rabbits. Yet, there reaches a point when the wire cages can be removed, after the plants established and are no longer salad.

While the creosote bushes are growing, some are growing less so than the others. Such a difference, a simple light prune of taller stems back to the main stems is all that’s required to create a more appealing look, while maintaining some individuality in size. Even some of the lower, more dense creosotes could be thinned 10% to blend in some.

Balance, instead of unkempt or given the treatment.

Creosote Bush / Larrea tridentata

Creosote Bush / Larrea tridentata

Just imagine a little attention to some of the creosotes. While you imagine the few plants that die to be replaced by the same or similar plants.

LCROGB-SideW02_2015-06-24-SML

see anything missing between both panels of windows?

A Joshua Tree once stood there.

LCROGB-FrontE05_2015-06-24-SML

position the Joshua Tree replacing the one that died, just like this one

I really enjoy the solar parking lights the architect specified. They fit the modern, space-age look there, with the sere Mars-like scenes beyond. But something else lurks…

Overall, I’m happy with much of what I see. Anyone who works outside in their heat should be thanked, even if one has to be insane to be in that line of work there… Though I forgot to mention in the last post, plant changes are often made without me – we cannot rule that and the other pitfalls.

But don’t you wish someone would step back, and pay a bit more attention to important areas of a planting, as I do this one?

When Trouble Strikes

Do you see some of the most common culprits to your garden’s success, even when it’s designed well? Crazy Cat after another recent morning grind up Palisades Canyon –

CrazyCat-Issues01-SML

Robert (L) and Watson (R)

People and their pets often are trouble. What makes it tough are those people are who pay people like me! True dat…

CrazyCat-Issues02-SML

Is the Yucca pallida dying from overwatering, or is it overwatering caused by Watson taking too aggressive a drink and biting the drip tubing? Or disease all on it’s own?? (it’s El Paso…probably not too much rain)

CrazyCat-Issues03-SML

oh yeah

I think every bike shop should offer espresso; it helps complete that entire Italian – cycling schtick.

I did find the pooper scooper for the after shots, plus there are some before shots.

This kind of time away from work I’m behind on beats one of the major causes of that…technology fails.

And dinner’s ready!