Maintenance Mystery

Here’s the same development’s landscape, but different treatments to the same plants and for no apparent reason. Is someone listening and starting to think while experimenting?

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Yucca faxoniana / Faxon or Palm Yucca

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These different treatments are under 8 feet apart. The missing understory plants is another topic, for now.

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Above: that yucca has been allowed to grow naturally, with a spiky sphere of live, green foliage to photosynthesize (manufacture food) for its roots. I learned about photosynthesis by the 7th grade!

Food is crucial to long-lived plants.

Below: this yucca has had over 1/2 of it’s live, green foliage removed. Often someone believes it needs trimming to look better. The live crown, important to plant health, was exposed from over-pruning; only the bottom 3 inches is brown and appropriate for removal, if at all.

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One can research the need for plant photosynthesis and ways to neaten the skirt of dead leaves on yuccas (or palms) without doing long-term damage to the crown.

“Look better?” At least this couple gets to change out of their party costume; the plant can’t and is affected for years:

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https://www.shindigz.com/hula-skirt/p/LUARHS

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Dasylirion wheeleri / Blue Sotol

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Above: adequate room, but left to grow naturally. Below: adequate room, but the aesthetic of the original plants is gone for a long time. The sotols won’t soften the view of utility boxes, either.

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https://fruitpunchmag.wordpress.com/2016/11/10/7-things-you-didnt-know-about-pineapples/

I’m sure any relationship between Hawai’i and Las Cruces is a coincidence.

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Nolina greenei / Beargrass

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Above: adequate room, but the beargrasses are left to grow naturally and sway in the wind.  Below: adequate room, but the beargrasses met the power hedge trimmers and became chopped cylinders.

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All the above plant species require no pruning or shaping, and they look better that way than what many do.

Money saved by not doing counterproductive tasks can be applied to necessary landscape tasks. Imagine how much money adds up long-term, when monthly or even quarterly tasks are pared down to only what’s beneficial.

It costs less to do nothing or use restraint, and have elegance.

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In another post, I’ll show you what can happen to ocotillos around these parts. Many aren’t so lucky, but these are sliding by so far!

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The Neighborhood Last Week

I finally took out my DSLR to comb my neighborhood route I drive, to do things a landscape architecture snob enjoys.

Things don’t look shabby for June.

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Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (selection unknown). No wonder it gets used here. This species is native to Brewster County TX, making it native to the Chihuahuan Desert, even if it’s natural range is centered in the dry parts of Coahuila to Nuevo Leon.

It has less of an unkempt habit than that of the also native, sometimes-praised A. thurberi.

Some forget that just like some ugly plants can become stars only where there’s good design and context, pretty plants with good habits are already stars.

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Of course there are some Ocotillo, Fishhook Barrel Cactus, Cane Cholla, and grasses (probably ‘Regal Mist’ Gulf Muhly). Overall this roundabout island is attractive – and drip irrigated, with care paid for by property owners.

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The entry to one of the gated, smaller residential areas within the neighborhood works with Soaptree or Palmilla and the Sweet Acacia, even though the Texas Sage are a bit under “the treatment.”

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I showed the evil overused Russian Sage to screen the ugh rock slope. This simple use of gnarled Honey Mesquite with some barrels, yuccas, and beargrasses works. Flowers are fleeting anyway, especially when maintenance crews have Roundup.

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Though Russian Sage actually looks happy. Its flowers and lifespan are anything but fleeting.

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Down the street, here are just a couple front yard designs. Though I’m a sucker for many of the different interpretations of our state bird.

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The gate and the common Blue Sotol counter the Heavenly Bamboo. Though the latter is doing better than I might expect in an obscenely hot, west exposure.

We can all rest easy that roadrunners aren’t that large.

Desert Museum Palo Verde and a duo of Purple Smoke Tree anchor the landscape mostly of lantanas, Damianita, and (I think) Mexican Feathergrass.

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And even something I designed, just not front yards. Still the stuff of curb appeal, which most everyone values.

Like our distant views and clarity of light that go on and on.

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More Faxon Yucca, Beargrass, Sotol, and Mescal Agave. And more Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii ‘Mexican Fire’!

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I wish more of our front yards and developments made greater use of garden walls. And designs other than southwestern with massive profiles and tan stucco.

That one’s my fault, though if you look at their CC&Rs…

No wonder I once had half of my courtyard ripped out and replaced with an angular CMU wall and purple paint…and no stucco.

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I’m thankful to now live in a neighborhood where more than a few properties for blocks have even a few appropriate plants besides yuccas, let alone where a number of thoughtfully-designed landscapes are visible from the street.

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From the previous image, it partly goes downhill in the maintenance department. Most every Sophora x ‘Sierra Silver’ and some Nolina greenei got “the treatment.”

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Fortunately it’s not all bad news, but that’s a future post!

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6/24/18 weather:
100F / 73F / .00″ or 37c / 18c / 0 mm

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Epilogue (for weather nerds, only):

The day I took the photos in this post the high was only 80F or 27c, rather unusual and abnormally cool for our hottest month of the year. That period typically runs from about mid-June to mid-July.

Which is why though today’s average is 96/62F or 36/17c, I decided to not show today in red as “notably above normal” though it’s 7.5F or 1c warmer than average.

In fact, I’m going to change “average” to “normal”, which can be 2 different things. Average = mean, normal = median.

In my time living from Albuquerque to El Paso, this time of year tends to be warmer than averages indicate, though a minority of Junes are cooler, generating the average often referred to but rarely seen.

It’s a statistical thing and nothing to be alarmed over.

Precipitation averages vs. normals tend to work the same way, especially March to June. As you can tell, one .50″ rain in that period makes desert deniers and newcomers alike believe with religious fervor that it should rain every spring, especially June.

As if In Las Cruces, we should use the astronomical calendar to tell us our climate seasons for gardens, instead of the meteorological calendar. Summer starts here most years about mid-May, not June 21, if one uses consistent 90F or 32C + highs as the marker, which many do.

So, there’s some climate nerdiness for you.

Common is Never Overdone if Native

Common? Boring? Effective?

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It’s just another scene here with natives Chilopsis linearis / Desert Willow and Yucca torreyi / Torrey Yucca.

Evocative of place? Namely natural place or ecoregion?

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How about something else so native, it was already here? Complete with a focal point right in front of my neighborhood volcano, Picacho.

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That landscape is typical of the hills east of the Mesilla Valley with sparse desert grasses like Bush Muhly and Fluffgrass, Creosote Bush and Mariola, all cut by arroyos lined with Whitethorn Acacia, Littleleaf Sumac, and Apache Plume.

But no matter what, the Dasylirion wheeleri / Blue Sotol with the new flower stalk stands out. Yet it’s in more front yards than I could count.

To me, it might never get old.

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I’m now on the best part of any design, which is the construction observation phase. That’s the fulfillment of intellect, addition, and then reduction. It’s for the future home for a couple who’ve been married many moons, with the request and means for plants and other features nobody else has.

This tree, Monterrey Oak / Quercus polymorpha, is not native but is adapted. It’s perfect for the limited oasis area either side of the pool.

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To the architect and myself, what “nobody else has” required more thought. Of course it meant some uncommon plant species, methods, and hardscape. It also meant using the common in an uncommonly purposed manner – even species native to the western bajada of the Franklin Mountains, used well or poorly in many landscapes.

Are you glad I didn’t do the trendy misuse of “curate” in the above?

Stay tuned for more on that project, which will now evolve quickly with the specimen trees in. Everyone’s vision is coming together.

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I’m about to re-pot two poor agaves that have traveled with me since late 2012 in the same now-undersized terracotta pots! Though it’s too warm outside for that right now.

So, I’ll begin sketching visions for my own house.

But first, some notes for a suburban home along an arroyo here in Las Cruces and another upcoming, mountainside residence in El Paso. And a proposal for the first, though I know it’s Sunday.

And a margarita before I grill up dinner.

6/10/18 weather:
98F / 70F / .00″ or 37c / 21c / .00 mm