Hospital Drive-by: June

After dropping off my friend at the train station, I was curious about my design in front of a new El Paso hospital. Photos from 6/21/20:

Their new rules dictate one must get written permission from their administration, in order to photograph and only on a specific day. Since I was nearby, I did what one would expect of me. I took quick photos from my car, stopping at key spots!

Misguided people have latched onto such proprietary rules since 9/11. Yet there’s no harm in photos of design or plants, only good.

My DSLR camera and iPhone…ready!

Sorry for the angle that clipped your flag, Texans…

Cultural companions, also native: Yucca rostrata with Muhlenbergia emersleyi

Agave parryi ssp. truncata tucks nicely between boulders, though I would have used something other than adapted Salvia clevelandii had I known about that attractive sign.

This hospital landscape has a more appropriate, inviting design than the hospital I periodically visit in Scottsdale, by the way. Even though the helipad area limits tree use for some distance, more yuccas soften that use with voluminous Baccharis x Thompson.

Even with the usual faux pas of maintenance (you know…) and facilities (so many non-smoking signs), it’s satisfyingly simple in areas.

Just more Yucca rostrata and Agave parryi ssp. truncata, this time with billowy and unshaped Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo.’ (victory…bravo!)

It all grows under all that big sky of far west Texas.

Understated elegance rules, flowers are optional!

Infill Condos in Tamalewood

Albuquerque isn’t wrongly associated with spicy Mexican food, high crime, and too much sun and desiccation. The Duke City, with the development of the film industry in their area, has even been called “Tamalewood.”

Since I was already running late to return home, why not visit another project or two, near my freeway on-ramp and 3 more hours to Las Cruces?

Photos 5/18/20:

I was part of the architect-led design team on two infill, multi-family residential projects as their landscape architect. (same architect as on the prior office post) On the above map, they are either side of Aliso Dr SE, just south or below Silver Ave SE. Both were developed in 2006 and 2008.

A friend told me the episodes of the Breaking Bad TV series my design was seen, but I forgot which. I never could get into that show!

But talk about “location, location”: near UNM, old Albuquerque in the valley, and their decent freeway system to the nearby mountains or other directions to endless wilds beyond.


Aliso I:

Quercus muhlenbergii / Chinquapin Oak and Dasylirion leiophyllum / Desert Candle are near-natives and growing well, although the oaks are in a tight area. The low, green lumps were originally thriving Teucrium chamaedrys / Trailing Germander, at each of the four corner planting areas of phase one.

But the landscape subcontractor hired by the general contractor or owner muscled their way by adding weed fabric, which also prevents such plants from trailing and rooting to control erosion on slopes, and forming the intent: a living, evergreen groundcover.

The maintenance contractor who I recommended also forgot the design intent, by pruning into lumps not allowed to fill out again.

Fortunately, I have photos of how that Trailing Germander once thrived, between the perils of the undeserving un-horticulturists.

This oak looks like it needs the drip emitters checked and repaired or a few added. Or inspected for maintenance damage to the bark. The time for such labor could easily come from the unnecessary time lumping each germander.

The west-east plantings are growing, all native. The original, permeable crushed gravel walkway was not cared for and was replaced with impervious concrete.

I never did catch the mid-spring flowering of my Wisteria sinensis / Wisteria choice. But that’s a steel trellis fitting for the vigor of wisteria…

Aliso was my name for this and the next project, used by the owner and architect while they were figuring out a name. The name was easy: not because alders (alisos) grow in ABQ, but rather, Aliso Drive SE bisects both condo projects.

Like a good name to brand anything, Aliso is easy to pronounce.


Aliso II:

This time another landscape contractor I recommended installed the second phase, and it came out better.

Though the maintenance contractor is the same one from phase one, who knew better and could have done only beneficial maintenance.

Such as ensuring that the irrigation is functioning optimally, including timing and additional emitters for tree growth, or thoughtful pruning of some plants like the cacti and trees. And suitable replacements in the rare but expected case of plant mortality.

As always, I tried.

And as always, good design often shows years later if one looks at more of the project, not cherry-picking what others did wrongly and not caused by the design.

Like this tragic row of “the customer is always right” so “shear them all”, instead of a stunning row of evergreen, foothills native dwarf trees, Cercocarpus breviflorus / Hairy Mountain Mahogany.

Here’s what a Hairy Mountain Mahogany looks like with slight but informed pruning.

That’s obviously not tall enough to block Sandia Mountains or city views. The second floor decks are too high even when seated, while the bottom floor decks have no view: they look to the sidewalks and two story townhomes across the street.

Which is why I used that dwarf tree, ideal for such constraints…

But overall, I’m pleased to see it. There’s no good reason for a garden designed well to not outlive me.


A live oak:

A sighting of this tree in the later 1990’s with central New Mexico’s oak advocate, then a chance conversation years later with a woman who grew up in this house, told much.

Presenting Quercus fusiformis / Escarpment Live Oak

It’s a long story for another post, but this tree was brought as a few acorns collected from a Dallas cemetery by that woman’s mother, from one of a few survivors of their worst freezes ever, in December 1983.

Even with the former Bermudagrass lawn replaced with rock, that live oak is thriving more than ever.


Albuquerque is gaining a critical mass who care for it, outnumbering the arcticism I met in 1992: xeric-escapists and zero-scapers. It’s satisfying to have added to the few exceptions I learned from way back.

With less montane-midwest-med, there’s more of a there, there.

Just drive around some more, past the zip-zags of mesic, non-native grasses, lollipop elms and ashes with dying tops, or lavenders.


My 3 hour drive into darkness, on the decompression of I-25 to my home in Las Cruces, the rapidly cooling breeze confirmed better times to come.

As I shut my car’s sunroof and windows.

Within days, a last breath of coolness before the next 4+ months.

Office Space (former)

Another stop, where in this building from 2007 to 2010, I rented a small, minimally air-conditioned and heated office from then-EDI, an architect I did some work with.

Photos 5/18/20:

Cloud or sun, native plants here shine.

Yucca elata / Soaptree quickly grew trunks from starting as 10 gallons, Alkali Sacaton / Sporobolus airoides, Mescal / Agave neomexicana from 1 gallons, and even arcticist-vilified Honey Mesquite / Prosopis glandulosa grew from small, 24 inch boxes.

My work helped earn this a LEED-NC Gold certification.

Geography and luck play large roles in how garden spaces are valued. That from my past, bittersweet decades in landscape architecture…

It’s too bad their mesquites didn’t receive basic, arboricultural pruning after I moved on.

Their original intent to grow up and spread, to shade parking spaces better, could be mostly recovered, only requiring a larger saw. I was told, “but trees don’t get pruned in nature”. (oh yes they do) As always, I tried.

Over a decade ago, I finally appreciated Alkali Sacaton. The delicate seedheads dance in evening light in the Rio Grande bosque and on the desert grassland by Carrizozo.

On to the west side for other office entrances…

The Star Jasmine / Trachelospermum jasminoides was happier than I envisioned in the site’s hot but too-dry microclimate. Including its intoxicating fragrance

I wish I could see the Alkali Sacaton fully grown out after the spring cut-back, to their usual 2 feet .

Finally, onto the northwest side of the landscape, sun or under some clouds…

The architect’s gabion walls using urbanite (broken, reused concrete) worked great.

This microclimate also proved to extend bloom seasons for two much different wildflower species: Desert Marigold / Baileya multiradiata between the agaves (added by me later but inadvertently removed by one of the architects) and Firecracker Penstemon / Penstemon eatonii (brilliant red trumpets for the hummingbirds early spring and again in late fall).

Security fencing that’s locked outside working hours is a necessity nowadays, with their town’s climbing crime rate.

Also challenging but working over a decade later, is the use of shade to inferno-tolerant plants on the north walls in the tight parking area planting areas, including the Arizona form of evergreen Beargrass / Nolina microcarpa and summer-blooming Sunset Hyssop / Agastache rupestris.

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