Kierland Commons Walkabout

Kierland Commons is a pleasant, mixed-use development in North Scottsdale, a few blocks walk from my peaceful summer condo residence. Its pleasant feel is based in large part on great landscape and hardscape elements for such a space in the desert.

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Phoenix dactylifera at a key intersection, classic.

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Plus, we’re in the Phoenix metro.  Like coincidences and analogous climates? Then, compare the climates of Scottsdale, US and Baghdad, Iraq. The latter only lacks a late summer monsoon.

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Sensible shade, native and adapted species, and mostly southwestern or at least arid-region forms. No silly gesturing to dissimilar places.

I have no idea if the varied shade structures were part of the original design or added later, but my guess is the latter given some planters look to be suffering from shade.

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There’s less climate / desert denial and more horticultural / design savvy seen here or in the Valley of the Sun than that place 6 hours NE. (into tucking temperature-hardy but thirsty plants into the most horridly hot spots under overhangs or against walls, then blaming their failure on “cold”)

Hence my guess; designers here tend to get plantsmanship and design principles.

Many people walking in the cool of the morning like me still choose the shady side, under a combination of built and grown shade.

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Great shirts, by the way…little at Kierland for the guys.

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See how this works…built and grown shading? Always a challenge in limited rooting areas and dense development patterns, but this met the challenge.

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I remember when Kierland was first being developed on a (long) past Mountain States’ landscape architect conference. Streets disecting Sonoran Desert with spare creosote bushes and palo verdes, or bladed land. There were even a few stands of Ericameria nauseosa on a nearby (former) arroyo, unusual at this low, 1400 foot elevation.

Now, it’s all built up and a great place to walk, only 2 blocks from my condo for the summer.

 

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Their large container plantings are a mixed bag, but the thought was there. This is a good specimen of Texas Mountain Laurel / Dermatophyllum secundiflorum, which loves alkaline soils and limestone rock. It does well in the Valley.

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Yet the bougainvilleas are sheared into submission and look like they will never grow overhead. Are there concerns of possible damage from their aggressive growth and weight on the shade canopies? If not, what a waste.

If the shade structures are able to support such woody vines, their walkways would be greatly complimented by carefully-pruned bougainvillea branches covered in brilliant flowers.

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This is not a problem as much as a proactive lesson to those not used to the desert’s high alkalinity in the water…calcium deposits from irrigated containers requires maintenance to avoid staining hardscape.

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Good use of paving patterns here, again, from stencils or some sort of repeated formwork.

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I ate here finally, though the menu is a bit too SoCal for my tastes. But my carne asada tacos were well-prepared – healthy and tasty.

What drew me in? The care to provide an attractive landscape of part hardscape and part plantings, and here…SHADE from a ramada!

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Some don’t like their random planting of too many spikes; I’m on the fence, but I tend to side with them. My 2 Bay Area sisters did like it, so perhaps regional differences or just my design snobbery!

I think everyone likes this fresh manner of tilework on the garden wall.

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To me, this is refreshing with cool, coastal colors that contrast where I’m from in New Mexico (or Arizona), the dry land with most-every wall in beige or tan stucco.

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Still good if I could adjust a few plants, though the Sticks on Fire / Euphorbia tirucalli seem too close.

And we know what happens, when the usual landscape maintenance crews in the Desert Southwest see overplanted landscapes, as they start to grow in…

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7/8/19 weather:
105F / 76F / 0.00 or 41c / 24c / .00

DBG Details

My favorite part of a design, when I get the time and client support to add it, are the details that make a space special. It certainly happened and will happen at my own home!

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Containerized specimen accents take the place of people on a seat wall…

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Probably in a spot only for employees, this shade structure blends a sprawling vine and a matching shade element…

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…the element: rebar, twisted to imitate a vine’s structure. Now, almost one.

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A sturdy, desert-aged shade ramada, with everlasting rock columns…

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A traditional ramada, meant for drying and shelter outdoors

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This ramada helps shade plantings below, but it also plays off the usually-blue skies above. It adds a contemporary but playful effect, imitating wind and sails.

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Dueling succulent accent plants and one amazing concrete plant container…

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More flowers-optional container plantings…

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Do you start a garden with the details first, add them as the design progresses (such as in a plan or list of wants), or add details later?

More Garden Visits

We went to the Desert Botanical Garden 2 times in a week, and more since. Here’s what I saw, mostly unlabeled…

The 6/9/18 visit was toasty, but the paved path up to the ramada and views over the valley were impressive, though any breeze was a no-show.

But near the start of walking, this jewel:

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Curry Plant / Helichrysum angustifolium, an early xeriscape mainstay in ABQ, which I had no idea would grow in the low desert…

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This is about my favorite spot and combo at the garden…

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Yerba mansa / Anemopsis californica below an agave; minty, medicinal, waxy, fresh

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One can’t get enough shots of Camelback Mountain.

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That green swath of Gulf Muhly / Muhlenbergia capillaris makes this area.

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The 6/15/18 visit was cooler, though still 7F warmer than Scottsdale, but the breeze was delicious. Phoenicians showed up more than previous visits so far this summer, with many parking spaces filled. Previous visits this summer resembled a ghost town.

Nothing like spring visits, where it’s a major Canada and Midwest fest!

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Natives Western Cottonwood / Populus fremontii, sitting boulders, and some scattered Deergrass / Muhlenbergia rigens…simple, gracious, relaxed. I’ve seen some nice regional plantings probably inspired by this spot.

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O’Odham shelter and garden shelter…

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Desert Grassland, the blending of Sonoran and Chihuahuan deserts at their extremes…

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Foothills chaparral, again where Sonoran and chaparral meet

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Jojoba / Simmondsia chinensis

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Tall guy…

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Two / too serious women…

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Who wouldn’t enjoy walking to parking spaces under a gentle shade canopy of Parkinsonia?

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Even Saturday evening, on the 6/22/19 flashlight tour. At 8 pm it was 98F with no comfort, while at 8 am it was 84F.

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A Parry Penstemon / Penstemon parryi that had to flower 3 months late…

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Cardon / Pachycereus pringlei

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Last Sunday’s visit on 6/29/18 though hot early (91F at 7 am), had some amazing light and a few moments of breeze. We just wandered the central loop walkway, without going off to the side much.

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Bunny Ears Prickly Pear / Opuntia microdasys used as a groundcover, and massing instead of random chaos…all uniquely bueno!

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Did I say light? Let there be a flood of warm light, before it becomes a Sonoran laser beam sun.

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Barrels imitating pots, and vice-versa

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I have no clue how many firms have designed sections of the Desert Botanical Garden, but it seems more than other gardens I’ve visited. Even the Denver Botanic Gardens, which has hired some different designers and horticulturists for specific areas.

It was time for a light breakfast and a cup of good joe, to reward myself from trying but failing to capture a covey of Gambel’s Quail earlier. And AC!

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6/30/19 weather:
109F / 83F / 0.00 or 43c / 28c / .00