Now to My Landscape

I’m starting the design of the garden spaces at my new home. Study sketches are loose and rough, since they get marked up! That’s already revealing some things that won’t work.

My design statement:
serene, inviting, and sometimes dramatic outdoor spaces, with the soul of the desert

Don’t laugh; that’s to help me carry through with the idea!

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Here’s Option ‘A’ (front / northwest at the top):

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Once I’ve explored a few options, I might import the best design direction into SketchUp, to “walk around” the property and further refine a final design in CAD.

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The front, in and out:

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A tiny courtyard off my home office:

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In back:

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But here’s one catch.

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When I’m out on the covered patio, I see that. So…

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…I’ll work hard on the spot between my patio and their property. My first hunch is to build a wire mesh or hog panel trellis immediately between the cover’s columns, then plant a dense, evergreen vine.

The male half of the neighboring household and I get along well, and my not-so-subtle screening solution has already been discussed. We both know the issue.

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The other catch: views to the unbuildable hill lot with desert growth should be preserved, since once the area is built out, I won’t have mountains or other vistas. That hill out back is the power to embrace here, and the dining room view is desert serenity.

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Plant selection is to come, once functions and forms are explored and established.

 

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Growing Pains

Until the weather cools and moistens back to normal for our monsoon season, this will probably be my last post on the hospital projects in El Paso. So much is summer-dormant, plus young plantings via a tight budget need more time to reveal their true look.

Besides, I have items for my own property to start posting on, even if they are only conceptual and not in the ground!

Sierra Campus:

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The view from higher on the site reveals the spatial and plant relationships. Closer-in shows gaps in the plants, below the missing Agave neomexicana. Or whatever I specified!

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Providence Memorial Campus:

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Here, it’s waiting for Koryn’s art installation to go in.

In this case, since the landscape contractor ignored the plan’s curved arrangements of Bouteloua gracilis ‘Blonde Ambition’ and even some of the massings of other plants (namely the Maleophora crocea iceplant), her art will help soften the planting faux pas!

Usually it’s the other way around.

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Transmountain Campus:

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Aside from some missing Chrysactinia mexicana and the young age of the plants, the overall effect works, with the walls, while entering the site. That is, with the legibility of the Prosopis glandulosa trees up top and the Baccharis x Starns below.

The continued intrusion of all the behavioral signage detracts from the wayfinding consultant’s excellent signage, and it detracts from the view or plantings.

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Really? Very disturbing and the wrong way to go about things. “We’ve got a problem, Houston El Paso.”

This should look good in the fall or especially next spring, when everything recovers from our summer of June heat with July humidity.

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I’ll move onto the first problem I saw. In some other areas it was made so bad, I didn’t have the heart to post it.

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We chose to use the available reclaimed water to irrigate the landscape, instead of potable water. Partly from cost and partly from ecological reasoning. That greatly limited the plant palette, due to the elevated salts in reclaimed water.

Notice anything with the grasses, above and below?

Muhlenbergia emersleyi grasses were not tested in the extensive research materials I had from the El Paso Water Utility. That genera and many others now common weren’t even available in the trade or sold when those studies were made! My guess is with most other plants OK and the grasses not, that’s the issue.

Time will tell if that’s the reason. I hope I’m wrong, because this won’t work.

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Related Muhlenbergia rigens below is not much better, while other plants look OK.

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I’ll close with the parting shot, exiting the property. The simple lines of Agave parryi var. truncata playing off the Leucophyllum langmaniae and Yucca rostrata gives me hope.

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About that hope?

That the reclaimed irrigation water isn’t a problem and the grasses will decide to thrive, that the maintenance people and owner will do less counterproductive and unnecessary (and do right), and that these projects will enhance the entire community they touch.

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8/7/18 weather:
99F / 70F / .00″ or 37c / 21c / 0 mm

The Neighborhood Last Week

I finally took out my DSLR to comb my neighborhood route I drive, to do things a landscape architecture snob enjoys.

Things don’t look shabby for June.

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Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii (selection unknown). No wonder it gets used here. This species is native to Brewster County TX, making it native to the Chihuahuan Desert, even if it’s natural range is centered in the dry parts of Coahuila to Nuevo Leon.

It has less of an unkempt habit than that of the also native, sometimes-praised A. thurberi.

Some forget that just like some ugly plants can become stars only where there’s good design and context, pretty plants with good habits are already stars.

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Of course there are some Ocotillo, Fishhook Barrel Cactus, Cane Cholla, and grasses (probably ‘Regal Mist’ Gulf Muhly). Overall this roundabout island is attractive – and drip irrigated, with care paid for by property owners.

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The entry to one of the gated, smaller residential areas within the neighborhood works with Soaptree or Palmilla and the Sweet Acacia, even though the Texas Sage are a bit under “the treatment.”

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I showed the evil overused Russian Sage to screen the ugh rock slope. This simple use of gnarled Honey Mesquite with some barrels, yuccas, and beargrasses works. Flowers are fleeting anyway, especially when maintenance crews have Roundup.

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Though Russian Sage actually looks happy. Its flowers and lifespan are anything but fleeting.

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Down the street, here are just a couple front yard designs. Though I’m a sucker for many of the different interpretations of our state bird.

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The gate and the common Blue Sotol counter the Heavenly Bamboo. Though the latter is doing better than I might expect in an obscenely hot, west exposure.

We can all rest easy that roadrunners aren’t that large.

Desert Museum Palo Verde and a duo of Purple Smoke Tree anchor the landscape mostly of lantanas, Damianita, and (I think) Mexican Feathergrass.

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And even something I designed, just not front yards. Still the stuff of curb appeal, which most everyone values.

Like our distant views and clarity of light that go on and on.

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More Faxon Yucca, Beargrass, Sotol, and Mescal Agave. And more Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii ‘Mexican Fire’!

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I wish more of our front yards and developments made greater use of garden walls. And designs other than southwestern with massive profiles and tan stucco.

That one’s my fault, though if you look at their CC&Rs…

No wonder I once had half of my courtyard ripped out and replaced with an angular CMU wall and purple paint…and no stucco.

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I’m thankful to now live in a neighborhood where more than a few properties for blocks have even a few appropriate plants besides yuccas, let alone where a number of thoughtfully-designed landscapes are visible from the street.

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From the previous image, it partly goes downhill in the maintenance department. Most every Sophora x ‘Sierra Silver’ and some Nolina greenei got “the treatment.”

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Fortunately it’s not all bad news, but that’s a future post!

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6/24/18 weather:
100F / 73F / .00″ or 37c / 18c / 0 mm

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Epilogue (for weather nerds, only):

The day I took the photos in this post the high was only 80F or 27c, rather unusual and abnormally cool for our hottest month of the year. That period typically runs from about mid-June to mid-July.

Which is why though today’s average is 96/62F or 36/17c, I decided to not show today in red as “notably above normal” though it’s 7.5F or 1c warmer than average.

In fact, I’m going to change “average” to “normal”, which can be 2 different things. Average = mean, normal = median.

In my time living from Albuquerque to El Paso, this time of year tends to be warmer than averages indicate, though a minority of Junes are cooler, generating the average often referred to but rarely seen.

It’s a statistical thing and nothing to be alarmed over.

Precipitation averages vs. normals tend to work the same way, especially March to June. As you can tell, one .50″ rain in that period makes desert deniers and newcomers alike believe with religious fervor that it should rain every spring, especially June.

As if In Las Cruces, we should use the astronomical calendar to tell us our climate seasons for gardens, instead of the meteorological calendar. Summer starts here most years about mid-May, not June 21, if one uses consistent 90F or 32C + highs as the marker, which many do.

So, there’s some climate nerdiness for you.