Hiking for Cacti and More

My hiking spot for now, to get in a good workout, is Tortugas Mountain aka A Mountain. It’s not close, but nothing is to where I live. My ascent begins on one of the steep, narrow trails that wind up the west side.

While catching my breath, I get to look at an array of desert plants and views.

About half-way up to the 4,950 foot elevation summit, the classic scene of the Organ Mountains dominates the eastern horizon.

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At the top, a small makeshift shrine from a few days earlier.

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The road is the easier way for hiking, especially downhill to save one’s knees, but this guy is on his mountain bike which isn’t remotely easy, except it’s wide.

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He passed me going down, after he made it to the top. Almost 1,000 feet of climb in 1 mile on a bike is a serious effort.

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Limestone ledges and different desert plants create an inspiring scene for a desert designer to recreate – when the client allows the time, accepts expertise, and has the budget.

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Fouquieria splendens with numerous but young Echinocereus stramineus
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Agave neomexicana in the grasses

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Opuntia engelmannii, but a more compact form with smaller pads.

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opening flowers are as interesting to me as fully-opened

It is usually recognized from the O. lindheimeri some nurseries pawn off as O. engelmannii, since it usually has yellow blooms and the latter has orange to red blooms. The different cultural requirements come into play later…

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Opuntia macrocentra is starting to flower, too.

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It usually has pale yellow blooms, which contrast the deep green to purple-ish pads, though maybe they will change once more open. These look almost sugary.

What impresses me the most about Tortugas Mountain is the sheer diversity of cacti, but there is so much more if you look. Only no oaks…still 1,000′ too low.

4/22/17 weather: 78 / 53 / .0

Tierra Verde – Saturday

While on a recent HOA consultation, we diverted down a few side streets. Some front landscapes stood out, many with good designs and plant choices.

Here’s one example of several simple but effective and low-cost front yards. A multi-trunked, native tree, with adapted grasses and several different shrubs. No gestures to inapplicable places, plus potential if one wants more.

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Compare the pruning of the Prosopis glandulosa above to the one below.  One is correct and the other is incorrect / counterproductive. Learn more at ISA and SNAG.

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My area has many seniors and part-time residents escaping northern winters, so the gravelscape is common, since some aren’t here summers to broil on a bed of rock. They’re swatting armies of mosquitoes by Lake Wobegon!

Yet they did this, like what a few skilled gardeners we know might do if in NM. A great container display, even if some are seasonal.

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Ordinary all over the southwest: yawn at the lawn, with or without the palm. And there’s a struggling chitalpa, one celeb’s recommended tree, as bacterial leaf scorch attacks it and all its kinfolk around.

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But wait!

Massed Hesperaloe parviflora, clean lines of the stepped wall, red tile, and the palm fronds all add up. Hopefully it’s not a Washingtonia filifera: the trunk and roots will not have room to develop, then destroy the wall.

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Free “expert” advice: learn each plant’s mature size in your locale, then apply.

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Oh, Ocotillo! Fouquieria splendens with local compadres, Fallugia paradoxa starting to flower and Ferocactus wislizenii. Ample room, too.

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Ha!

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This looked like a good start to an “Asian theme” using native and adapted plants. They’re onto something. No, I didn’t lose my mind.

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The pruned Leucophyllum only need to be sheared with more stems and foliage left, so the bases of each are broader than the tops. /-\  not  \-/

The Vitex agnus-castus already works with its natural form and proper pruning.

Here’s to effective use of a cool color in the gate and containers, with fuzzy Oreocereus celsianus ready to snag a woman’s dress looking snazzy.

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Potted Nolina texana greenei and Rosa banksiae: as tough as any gravelscape.

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Last stop! This resembles some of the original design at my last home in Albuquerque, but a twist of Las Cruces: “diversity unified by repeating similar forms”.

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A tougher tree than Phoenix-pushing Palo Verde: Koelreuteria paniculata. Imagine this in several years, much broader and clothed in sweet yellow flowers.

What else is there?

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Opuntia santa-rita losing the cool season purple and budding out, among a pincushion Dasylirion wheeleri and a bushy Sphaeralcea.

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Sphaeralcea ambigua ‘Louis Hamilton’

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Fouquieria splendens was salvaged from development partly to save the Echinocereus triglochidiatus at it’s base. Staying together.

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The Bouteloua spp. and the small outcropping really work, rock type similar to the distant sandstone boulder and gravel mulch.

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A tough trio of Las Cruces commoners: Washingtonia filifera, Pinus edulis, and Juniperus. Except under desert conditions, the greener J. chinensis ‘Torulosa’ or Hollywood Juniper becomes more like our native J. monosperma.

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The palm seems more stately and insulated against weather extremes with the dead foliage skirt left.

4/18/17 weather: 86 / 49 / .0

My Winter Walk-Off: Las Cruces, 2017

I’m late!

This Las Cruces spring may have begun in January. We shared neighboring El Paso’s warmest December-February in over 100 years of records. 2 weeks actually felt like winter, 2 days here and there – little winter to walk off.

Here’s what I saw on my block Saturday 3/18/2017, 84F and no humidity:

But how about this backdrop of floating mountains…every day I drive to work.

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A good example of Pueblo Revival architecture, and her metal work of our town’s three cross symbol is a contemporary take on tradition.

My neighborhood is mostly retired midwesterners of a different cloth than the retirees in my former ABQ hood. The plants speak loudly.

My spread-out neighborhood was developed in the 1980’s on desert sand hills immediately above the fertile Rio Grande Valley, where chiles, pecans, onions, and cotton rule. Though Las Cruces is the 2nd largest town in New Mexico, outside downtown and the Mesilla Plaza it is of a rural to suburban scale.

Always with those jagged Organ Mountains, which often resemble a western movie backdrop.

Fouquieria splendens is about to burst forth with red blooms.

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In my travels the consistently tallest and fullest Ocotillo grow between about 2000-4500 feet in the high deserts. Like here.

Onward –

There are less palms in my neighborhood than many, though there are still plenty. The ever-tough Washingtonia filifera are the most common.

Among the vernacular rock walls in town, some are mortared a little better. Definitely not the craftsmanship here to emulate the amazing dry stack walls typical in, say, New England. But this dry-look mortared garden wall isn’t shabby.

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Less fettered by brown stucco and Pueblo Revival styles than where I lived in ABQ, there are some good Desert Contemporary designs here.

Even if a bit neglected.

FYI – this neighborhood, like many others in this price range in my region of the US, have NO walkability. Every day I see residents walking along the curbs, in competition with speeding contractor trucks, drivers texting, and so on.

Any sidewalks are usually just the frontage of 1 or 2 houses, in hopes of more.

Good thing my neighbors are alert, though most are 60+ years old. I also enjoy that the majority are friendly and sophisticated, and it’s only 10 minutes of rural driving to work.

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The last few houses…

Imagine this contemporary Pueblo style house, but with plantings used well.

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The circle of vegetation was retained for my neighbors and I, plus our cluster mailbox. The house I’m renting has the white garage door, and the small mountain behind me is 4900’+ Picacho Mountain. I smile each time I see it.

Before the summer monsoon rains made the access road off limits to my Toyota Corolla, I hiked up it many times.

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That’s as close as you get to my house, which has no garden anyway!

Here’s a link to others’ winter walk-offs and Les’ blog post, which I missed. but he might not be doing a winter walk-off post?