Winter Walk-Off 2018: v. Las Cruces

I’m moving, closing on my new home in April, only a few blocks from my present rental house.

This past winter of 2017-2018 ended in the last couple weeks. We had mostly sunny days, high temperatures above normal, almost no rain or snow, and it seems a typical amount of freezes.

The actual cool season might not be over, so I’ll tabulate the actual statistics later. Do check back.


My 20 minute walk-off starts on the unbuilt lot next to my future house. The front view and remnant Chihuahuan Desert vegetation will go away, but it will remain in the back.


Just some meaningful gaps in the mortared rock slope, filled with rocky-soil native plants, would be stunning.


I’m seeing some young Cylindropuntia imbricata that might need liberating once threatened by a new house. From experience, I can handle a 3-4 foot cholla…



This is an unbuildable, 75 foot wide lot between my block and the other houses’ block. It is either a slope or an arroyo, mostly left in natural desert cover with some Larrea tridentata and loads of Sporobulus flexuosus, Sporobulus cryptandrus, and Dasychloa pulchella.



Here’s a desert-contemporary house, with carefully-shaped Leucophyllum.

And that monster Yucca thompsoniana on the upper terrace. I wonder why there are so few down here, yet this thriving species is so common all over Albuquerque?


It looks as if the Sophora secundiflora is never going to stun all year with this shape, only for a couple weeks in early spring with some of its flowers.


A vigorous Cylindropuntia kleiniae. (??) A few nearby Lantana x ‘New Gold’ are starting to grow back at the base.



This front garden and the house is among the best designs in my neighborhood.


Especially if the pampas grasses were changed to native Sporobulus wrightii… #picky

This side includes a skilled use of ever-tough Euphorbia rigida, Juniperus horizontalis ‘Blue Rug’, Rosmarinus officianalis ‘Huntington Carpet’, and Agave americana.


A few Opuntia and Echinocereus species adding one of my xeriscape principles, sculpture or CAM plants. Even a healthy but doomed-forever-in-our-climate to be compact Olea europeae.


Or perhaps it’s a hardier, compact olive like O. e. ‘Sevillano’?

The ramada driving into the garage, with wisteria or grape vines up both wood posts, is a very good touch. So is the copper roof across the front. Will check daily, soon!


A few Agave salmiana are hiding behind more Euphorbia rigida, a young, vigorous Sophora secundiflora, and the ubiquitous local Yucca elata. With our (really) sandy soils, I expect that yucca to stay small.

Various agaves, including some A. lechuguilla from the limestone areas east of the Rio Grande. Even one of the tiny, northern Arizona-native agaves (I’m now forgetting) from seeing some in the old burg 3 hours N.

And a favorite re-seeder from my former, purple wall house, Penstemon parryi.



Once there’s some maintenance, most of the plants left are worth maintaining…



The front courtyard wall with the Taos-esque carved posts are excellent. And I like when Opuntia ellisiana tries to become a tree, like a miniature O. ficus-indica.



Tall, lean, but lonely natives, Yucca torreyi.


Sheared back from the walk, a Dasylirion wheeleri…everywhere a Dasylirion, wheeleri, Dasy…..


This is looking like another fine example of Opuntia orbiculata or O. subarmata.


In the southeast where Crepe Myrtle likes it, they are often butchered into forms that cannot be mentioned. Here, where only a few cultivars like our wonderful “dry heat”, those still don’t like the stingy irrigation on xeric companion plantings, let alone when placed in extensive gravel areas over deep, sandy soil.



The same Atlantean staircase I showed a year ago, is even better from this side. It’s topped with Canterra Stone, one of my favorites that we should use muchmuch more.


Now, we’re within a block of the house I’m renting, plus you saw all that last year. But things are greening up, about 1 week behind last year’s amazingly balmy-and-wet-for-here winter.



It’s time to finish my walk, since I have to light my charcoal grill. 15 minutes so far.

And the torture of Leucophyllum frutescens carries on. Glad it’s not just my work that gets the treatment!


Oleander and some other non-native plants had some dieback this winter. Considering they had generous moisture for 18 months compared to usual, until November when it dried out, it’s from normal lows. They will green up soon.



I’m glad some of the native Atriplex canescens are retained, with its light green, open form. As are the happy populations of Gambel Quail and Scaled Quail.


Saltbush seed provides food for quail, not to mention shelter from our prehistoric-looking raptor known as the Roadrunner. A few Baileya multiradiata are flowering nearby, but the wind had to start and blur the photo…


And little 4,950 foot Picacho looms in many spots, which actually makes a good stair-master.


Back to my rental, where I’m making margaritas to enjoy out on the back patio, as I grill up dinner and the sun sinks low. If you’re into it, you can comment – at least this time!

3/18/18 weather:
65F / 47F / .00″ or 18c / 8c / .00 mm


Here’s a link to others’ winter walk-offs and Les’ blog post, which I missed…like almost every one else’s posts for a while.


Roadtrip: Chinati

Taking a half-day off this past Friday, I drove out of Las Cruces after two showery days, actually, for a Chinati Foundation sunset event.

Soundtrack: loads of Pink Floyd, plus Stevie Ray Vaughan, Laura Marling, etc.


The high clouds and filtered sun in Marfa caused a more muted, less golden effect than what I was hoping for, but it still created light-shadow contrasts. That plus a very light turnout of visitors was exactly what I needed to relax and start the weekend.

So was arriving 30 minutes early for a margarita at the Hotel Paisano’s bar.


I didn’t run into one Marfa local or visitor I know. Only plenty of solo time.


First, Judd’s 100 works in mill aluminum:



Then, Judd’s works in concrete. I’ve recently read that Marfa’s “unique light” comes from miles of Blue Grama grasses, like you can see to the horizon or in swaths by the concrete works:



Of course, a little botanizing during and after their evening event. This looks like a Little Walnut / Juglans microcarpa.


One of a few paths worn into the endless Chihuahuan desert grassland, here with mesquites, soaptree yuccas, and some other native species.


Just under 4 hours there, and the same time back.

The setting sun beams through the Arena’s clerestory windows, ahead of incoming showery weather I left behind at noon.


Dinner first, of course.

Dusk Ride to Dawn Design

The usual things of many Tuesday evenings. Leave the salt mine, and drive 20 minutes to be on my mountain bike before dark.

DA Fire 1-SMLDA Fire 2-SML

Happy dogs of other cyclists. The huge malamute must wonder why we need a fire at 48F.


The next morning, I missed the super blue blood moon. But I saw this lighting I’ve missed before, on an entry almost as designed.


The spiked balls of Agave parryi and Fouquieria splendens reaching for the sky, while others plants hang back.

Imagine that also with my low entry monument and development logo, possibly curved to disappear further right. On my plan, that was located somewhere between the agaves and the sotols, the boulders mostly behind.

It still works with mostly native plants.


2/11/18 weather: 61 / 46 / .00″