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I take notice of plant groupings growing in the same spot with identical conditions. Yet when it’s time to design, I rarely apply any of that.

Architecture, busy-ness, and dealing with client realities / curveballs take over.

I wish that wasn’t so. This is from a 9/2017 trip to the Big Bend, between Lobo and Valentine in Texas.

Another rest area in the middle of nowhere with a large yucca…

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Yucca faxoniana / Palm or Faxon Yucca, at least 20′ tall.

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And what else?

And a gentle reminder, this won’t look 50% as good without the yucca.

 

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Do you ever take advantage of groupings in the wild, then create areas in your garden around those groupings? How successful are they?

I’m already thinking of a simple way to use the above plants in a purposed design for a typical space, where we can’t rely on miles of expansive scenery. I might share a sketch or two of that soon.

Far Out West TX: Havard, not Harvard

I agreed to an online friend’s invitation to meet other plant nerds, and hike Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park.

That we did – about 14 miles and 1,800′ in elevation / up-down.

The trip there and back was almost as good. Photos 9/10/2016-ish. Many, many photos, not much text, and I added a number of plant names as you rifle through.

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moonrise, the whoosh of a speeding car

A weak cool front reinforced the moist air from the east, and cool and damp was much different than back home just 4 hours NW.

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See you on the back side, Marfa!

Light was getting low, so to meet the next day’s hiking buddies, I quickly wound through the hills to Alpine for the night – no photos there. Those hills were dripping wet, all shades of green in the mists and clouds. Agave spp., Dasylirion leiophyllum, Quercus grisea, and waist-high grama grasses…surreal.

We drove in a caravan of 4 vehicles from Alpine to Study Butte, then through the park gates up to Chisos Basin. I think that alone was another 2 hours or more.

Since the lower desert areas around Terlingua and Study Butte are often hotter than Phoenix, this was relief. Like many an early August morning back home, heavy and humid air, but with plenty of coolness to feel fresh.

Everyone but me, since I held my camera.

This group of images looks like Christy Ten Eyck has hiked here for inspiration, or just got inspiration when all she wanted was a hike. Many plants growing in cracks of boulders.

Remember “Havard, not Harvard”? With few exceptions, about the only agave I saw on the trail was Agave havardiana. They were everywhere!

Plenty of other plants, even oaks putting out a 2nd and 3rd flush of growth with the abundant moisture. Flowers, colors, even the bark…find the Arbutus xalapensis.

Bugs everywhere, though I was uneaten. Thanks in part to persistent cloud cover instead of sun.

Did I say green and moist? While the oaks had no acorns on them, the Pinus cembroides were loaded with seed, and here we stood in awe of the top of the food chain having lunch…

Water, green, more water

I wasn’t the only one taking too many photos, so we had to hustle back. That was the longest downhill I remember, since years ago on a fall day, from firs into cacti and oaks about 4000′ below, each step down in elevation warming into heat by the bottom, knees feeling the pain.

This was just greener and cooler, plus my suspicion was confirmed about my hiking boots being too used over the years.

I got shin splints, so it took me a while to join my compadres at the dinner table, but I made it. Then we said our byes, and I drove on while they stayed in Study Butte.

A 90 minute power nap off the long highway to Alpine, and my long streak of luck at Border Patrol stations ran out. I was detained for an hour, but then let go.

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it took some vacuuming to get the fur out

At least their German Shepard didn’t scratch my paint clawing on all of my car…

A new day…back in Marfa, where I got a room nearing 1 am, then a night sleeping soundly and far from La Migra.

Exploring town, enjoying being away from some bad things at work, knowing I had to leave. I milked out being in Marfa all day!

Then the last 4 hours of driving, and a desert sunset.

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the shafts of rain at dusk are called “purple rain” by some

After a few days in reality, back to the illusion that pays the bills and keeps a roof over my head. I was now ready for the coming weeks, and richer in Agave havardiana sightings.

Streetscape Awakens

My house hunt is starting. Per regional custom with posted hours, the open house closed almost 2 hours early, which I drove miles out of my way to see. But now there was time to spare.

Time to visit a recent landscape design – Engler Road streetscapes, taken 3/5/2017:

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Soils at this site are caliche with some gravels on top, which inhibits roots from developing and limits plant choices. Hopefully the medians depressed 12″ will percolate in some extra rain water, to help.

The 20 or so Cercis canadensis var. texensis specified are now taking to dusty New Mexico.

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The gloomy day didn’t help the tan tones including the shrubs in back, allowed to stay – I specified green-leafed Leucophyllum langmaniae instead of the gray L. zygophyllum that we ended up with.

Also doing well are the yuccas and grasses, somehow magically left un-shaped into balls last November when they went dormant. My maintenance plan was followed here but not everywhere in this development.

Got me!

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A few Yucca rostrata punctuate the repetitive mass of Bouteloua gracilis, like the effect one gets driving those restorative stretches of open road around Marfa or Carrizozo.

It just takes a few of these accents, which will soon accent the skyline.

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The yellow leaf margins on the yucca are a detail I often forget about. And the state grass of New Mexico, Blue Grama, is coming alive.

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Many green shoots are responding to the ground and air temperatures warming, even if a few weeks early. With all our mountains  protecting us, my guess is even if we get one of those freak March or April snowstorms and some more freezes (our last frost date averages April 1), few or none will be hard freezes below 28F, when the serious damage occurs.

Maybe.

What Makes It Work?

Note the whitish layer in the soil (called caliche), overlain with gravels (called desert pavement), and the widely-spaced olive-green creosote bushes on top. As the wind blows the clouds about, which of course don’t rain.

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this, catching my breath on a Sunday mountain bike ride

No coincidence or randomness in that.

Geology, biology, and meteorology conspire to grow things where there is no drip irrigation, nobody wearing black and glasses, or a municipal client with an open pocketbook – for those who stay in line.

During a conversation about our pasts, a landscape architect years ago asked me how my original college major of meteorology even related to my final degree in landscape architecture and becoming an LA.

Yes – I’m also confused!

Potential replies to that and a few times since have gone off in my head, “how does graphic design relate to the 4-D canvas of land and horticulture?”, “how does overplanting by 3 times help your client?”, or “how does it work using plants observably hardy only in the life zone warmer than you up in the mountains, only to copy Des Moines down in the desert?” All common themes in that group.

She asked in all sincerity, not out of shooting me down. Instead of getting uppity with her, I mentioned some things about working with one’s native vegetation and climate goes further when one gets their interrelatedness.

Of course, it all relates. Even other design fields, graphics to fashion.

But most certainly soils, life forms, and weather – caliche, creosote, and climate.

Weekend Work Recovery

Can you believe I posted on my blog again, after 15 months away?

Much has happened since, which you’ll learn in time including my move and recent employment in a different field. Recovering from a tough week at the day job by checking my design practice’s projects, to help issue substantial completion…or not! 2/18/2016 photos, El Paso TX.

Stop #1: Hospitals at Providence, Sierra Campus

That’s quite the renovation by HKS, and I really enjoyed working with them. I’ll focus on the good this time, but maybe fill you in on a few items in need of correction, so our plans’ design intent is fulfilled.

My placement of the low garden walls helped provide spatial definition, and I only wish I would have designed them a little higher and to stop pedestrians in more places.

Availability caused some of my speficied plants to be changed…it was native Purple Threeawn and not Gulf Muhly. The yuccas were supposed to be larger, but Yucca elata rockets upward once it establishes, so I’ll stick with that. Overall, the Chihuahuan Desert was respected, even if interpreted a bit.

Stop #2: UTEP to Downtown, Hotel Indigo and San Jacinto Plaza area

I’m always up to seeing great designs, evesdropping on others’ designs like that last set, instead of criticizing mine. Though there was little to criticize this leg of the trip. Just inspiration galore.

On a past post, we had to enjoy drinks and excellent tacos on what turned into a sunny, spring-like afternoon. Malolam it was…some good design at the development housing them, among some major site planning screw-ups, which I posted on a while ago.

Stop #3: Hospitals at Providence, Transmountain Campus

This landscape was finished around Thanksgiving, so the various plants like Chaparral Sage, Deergrass, and Beaked Yucca are small. Much was done with a tight budget on a huge site, and I can only commend the architect HKS and the owner Tenet Health. Much came together.

Our drive home was bound to be good, even if I had to work the rest of the weekend!

Have you enjoyed a day much more because you saw something inspired?

Still Here, on Pause

A quick update, as some have asked, “what happened to you?” – my last blog post shows as “09.28.15”!

I’m taking an indefinite break from my blog and other non-paying pursuits for good reasons. One – I’m in the midst of completing all the design work which I’m behind on – it’s all behind. 2014-15 brought a few horrid project / people experiences, robbing months from better work and pursuits.

I’m running on fewer cylinders than my engine requires!

Until it’s time to add back other things, here’s one last bit since 09.28 –

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The Guadalupe Mountains, namely McKittrick Canyon. I finally made it, each year unable to go, not that I was really able this year –

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Resuming plenty of design work, awaiting my mind and soul. At least 15 projects in design or construction, including an unusual-for-my-last-decade number of residences, and even an unusual project for most anyone (new buildings within an oil refinery) –

You see, I don’t look for work, as it comes to me, given my desert-centric convictions and experience.

Much of what I do is screen out the >90% who don’t really want what they claim to, so I’m able to do solid design work for the <10% who value and get it. Only giving presentations has netted worse odds.

I mostly need those universals of time and cash flow (always on it), plus a like-minded assistant versed in CAD and outdoor living design – and that’s who I’ll find, or I’ll move on. We’ll help each other, while helping the few. Moving past poor timing or so many who don’t have it going on – I’ll know!

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Nothing like seeing trees and other large plants with (3) arborists on a chilly fall afternoon. Or seeing a few sights out of town, while measuring another residential site / landscape renovation –

Before I finished college, I learned most people – even family and friends – get little about what I do, all that goes into it while hoping for the best, and that for 27 years. Even with clear answers when asked. Today, that’s even more obvious.

Yet, anyone honest knows I smile far more than not. Some even know why, and those are who I value the most.

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Finishing a conference, the lunch speaker toured attendees around her office’s work at UTEP (I forgot to get a picture of her and the others). I’ve kept up some of my indoor and outdoor workouts, too –

Hopefully, I’ll return to posting on my blog. The sooner I complete first things first, the more likely that will be. Yes, I’m doing just fine – maybe better than most?

In the spirit of these last few days, thank you!

Marfabout: Gardens in 2015

A home tour followed the Marfa design symposium, so of course, I turned that and my trip into a garden tour. No photos were allowed inside, though there were many great ideas – I compensated outside.

Musical pairing from the Eagles – James Dean, of course! (unsure that album cover was designed by local Boyd Elder, but you can find out and why I picked that song…hint: Giant)

Some galleries of many things I enjoyed; hang on, it’s a big post –

Now, off to the actual design symposium and my other wanderings, when I should have been designing…..no way.

I paid dearly for this later…but it might pay off even more later.

I forgot to capture the presentation of the first speaker, both architects now based in Tucson (Dust).

But the next speaker was a fellow Carlsbad native, even the same high school, is now a Brooklyn-based architect. Kelly Armendariz went into his works, many are commercial renovations in the Big Apple, but not to be left out was his own Marfa home in progress.

Serious Desert SW representation!

I’m glad the hard work of Tucson’s Brad Lancaster defining what should underpin all our work, continues to become mainstream in urban and landscape design. He’s the same smiling and fired-up / yet laid back guy who I shared ciabatta bread and vino at my old ABQ house years ago, in my other life.

And some homes on the tour…

The panel of architects, interior designers and engineer involved in a promising hotel being built by the railroad tracks in Marfa…the Hotel Saint George. A hotel actually stood on the same site decades ago.

Carlos is someone I’ll collaborate with to a degree on an upcoming residence, while it turns out that Nunzio and Mary Alice are 2 of the 1200+ firm HKS whom I’m working with on health care projects in El Paso. A small world.

I’ll close out on parts of the symposium and my own tour related to being more bike and pedestrian-friendly…and upping the economic bar for any great place that’s proud of itself and its place. (pay attention El Paso and NM: no more wannabe, learn to be)

I hope to post photos of the gardens from two years ago, at the last symposium, but the “day” job calls.

See anything you like, or that could benefit from water harvesting and other best design practices?

I hope you enjoyed this mega-post, too!