The Drive: Exit into Tucson

I’ve admired many landscape designs along the freeways and arterial streets in Arizona’s two largest cities for decades.

A critical mass in their horticultural community gets sense, place, and designing for traffic speeds. Photos from 12/22/19:

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This is the first time I exited onto West St. Mary’s Road. Always informative and fun, colleague and friend Scott Calhoun suggested meeting at a parked food truck for lunch.

Since I arrived early and Scott was riding from afar, I had extra time. Burger King was good for a free parking space, so I walked the rest of the way.

ADOT designed some attractive concrete accents at the bridges.

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There’s no shortage of cyclists in Tucson. One cyclist on a mountain bike…

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Desert Willow / Chilopsis linearis above a mass of Beargrass / Nolina microcarpa makes a pleasing vignette while waiting for the light to change. Both are seriously bulletproof species in a wide part of the southwest.

And the other cyclist on a road bike…

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I’ll work back to how I exited I-10. Room for plants to mature.

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Regarding a request to see more Las Cruces pics on my blog, which I’ve shown many, I replied, “I have more to post on Arizona because there is more good arid-region design and plantsmanship in a few blocks of Tucson or Phoenix than in a mile of Las Cruces and El Paso or 2-3 miles of Albuquerque.”

These huge, almost trailing gray shrubs are…Texas Ranger / Leucophyllum spp. During the monsoon season, I’m sure many locals or visitors are very impressed.

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They are spaced well for rhythm, as are their masses for structure. No need to design 3 times as many plants for immediate effect, only to later remove half or more. Or shear into muffins, cylinders, boxes, …

Occasional accents were tucked in, but one must be stopped to appreciate them. Or rolling the dice by walking along the right shoulder, protected only by a curb.

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A minor detail, but some different massing of plants away from the yuccas, then placement of the occasional yucca further from those masses, especially from the drivers’ direction, would have shown off the planting better.

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A few Texas Olive / Cordia boissierii were used, but those were off to the right side and not too visible.

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It’s time to walk back, to join my cyclist / plant nerd friend for some lonche.

This ocotillo had a hard night, yet it’s still trying to hang on by blooming.

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Now, I’m stumped…

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The color combos work, but I’m stumped at the tallish Dasylirion mass in front of the interesting design motif at the corner.

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The plants appear to protect the artistry from taggers, yet they block a large portion of it from view.

I’m standing taking this, so that’s not far off the height of a typical pickup truck or SUV driver. Though perhaps the art is more visible from a Bubba Truck height?

No matter it’s still very appealing.

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An inlet shows where passive water harvesting was employed, to allow storm water from the street to soak into the median plantings.

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Both of us showed up for lunch for one of the best tortas I’ve had. And we’re wearing short sleeves in late December!

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Early Spring: Desert Botanical Garden

With a wet, cool spring in much of the desert southwest, plants were thriving though a little late for spring blooms. Even in the low desert of Phoenix.

Monday afternoon was free, so I took one of my brothers, his lady friend, and her son to the Desert Botanical Garden for a few hours.

They really enjoyed it. Pics from 3/16/20:

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Chainfruit Cholla / Cylindropuntia fulgida joins other Sonoran Desert indicator plants such as Saguaro / Carnegia gigantea 

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The spare feel of this, where plants aren’t crowded together, seems to reflect the essence of the desert southwest. The splash of color from Chuparosa / Justicia californica against Organ Pipe / Stenocereus thurberi also softens the foreground without crowding.

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Always birds like white wing doves nesting in a saguaro

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Though the closures and fear of Covid-19 was about to hit, people were already canceling reservations in the Valley’s high season. This garden was not as busy as typical in early spring. Now it’s been closed for over 2 weeks.

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I’m enjoying seeing the yellow wall and other plants mellowing with age.

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Superstition Mallow / Abutilon palmeri is a large, open shrub with large, papery blooms.

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After spending so much time in the Valley over the last year and before that, I can spy Piestewa Peak far left where I’ve hiked. Plus portions of Camelback Mountain where I’d like to hike soon.

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And back to the beginning, as we head out. Blueish agaves, yellow Desert Marigold / Baileya multiradiata left, and Desert Bluebells / Phacelia campanularia on the far left.

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After the Love is Gone: A Decade After Installation (part 2)

…Continued from the previous post, photos from 11/2/2019

Medical Office Building (by QUERCUS)

This office building and landscape were completed in 2009.

I remember the August day the design team completed our final inspection / punch list, as we stood under the portico. It had rained the day before, and the other team members (from San Antonio) remarked at how pleasant El Paso’s weather was in August compared to there.

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A lone Salvia greggii remains, in once-thriving groupings of that same plant among the boulders and other flowering plants.

Thank goodness for ProsopisHesperaloe, and Muhlenbergia!

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Spread out, Texas Honey Mesquite / Prosopis glandulosa! Too bad the small grass clumps were more in quantity and should be matured at 6 feet tall and wide by now…arroyo native, Sporobulus wrightii.

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The flow of Deergrass is something I was inspired by, seeing it done with another plant (Red Hesperaloe), in another climate (sub-humid prairie at Dallas Love Field), and on a business / design trip for the first phase of the main hospital.

It’s a disservice to use grasses or accent plants as a mere clump of 3 around a boulder! They need massing, with only a few plant or tree accents in small clumps.

This works for parking lot speeds and even walking to the front door.

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In back of the MOB, things fell apart more than in front.

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Unequal plant substitutions, new sidewalks, or just blight

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Poor Manfreda spp.: first rabbits, later no care and few remain

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The modest income from design fees is long gone after a shorter period on life’s necessities.

Yet, the care for my work, the long nights, or the appreciative client, colleague, or project user continue to pay off. In spite of the others who don’t involve me, let alone compensate me for that time.

I return to visit old designs when I can, to document. Even others’ work…

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UTEP Centennial Plaza (by the office of Ten Eyck Landscape Architects)

I watched this project get built when I moved to El Paso in 2013, living a 10 minute walk away, and it was completed shortly after I moved to Las Cruces in 2016.

First, parking by this old and rugged native, Desert Willow / Chilopsis linearis.

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This holds together thanks to the generous use of mostly Chihuahuan Desert-region / environs plant species, with some adaptive mesic species. Not to mention, a strong maintenance commitment from the designer and owner. As part of their contracted services, the landscape architect’s office provided the owner’s crew hands-on maintenance instruction.

I.E. demonstrated how to do various tasks for various plant types, and not just once.

From what I see, this has worked and will continue to work, benefiting the owner and the array of those who enjoy the garden spaces at UTEP.

Never has there been the budget in my scope of work or support of the prime consultant to do that. Except out of the kindness of my heart or at most, I’m paid to add a maintenance sheet on the plan set for a few projects.

I can count my times when a wedding or quinceañera shoot isn’t happening at UTEP.

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Just seek out the good, and enjoy it like this guy!

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I can’t wait to ride one of these scooters or rent a bike, on some future trip to the “big city” of El Chuco!