2/3 Evergreen, or ?

When asked by my classes about how many evergreen plants to use in Albuquerque, I said, “start with 2/3 evergreen”.

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I expand on the importance of greenery in our climate and getting through our 2 dormant seasons with visual impact, which flower dependence can’t do without intensive irrigation: winter (or winter-light” or “drive-by-winter” in Las Cruces) and summer.

A few years later, I was designing this streetscape project in Las Cruces, where most areas are milder in winter and with more evergreens to choose from. Yet there was a direction from the developer to have evergreen for winter visitors plus native grasses, which go dormant and turn tan for 5 months.

In a small ponding area, I used native grass seed, plus some nearby Baccharis and Snakeweed blew in. Brown and tan.

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But the median and parkway plantings used the following evergreens: Quercus fusiformis, Yucca rostrata, Rosmarinus officianalis ‘Tuscan Blue’, Nolina microcarpa, Chrysactinia mexicana, and Agave neomexicana.

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The first winter of this planting, the low hit a record -15F here and as low as -22F in the basin to the north. Even this mild winter, the site seen 10 to 12F lows a few times.

That’s why.

The evergreen continues to come in handy, though only a bit over 50 percent.

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2/7/18 weather: 6441 / .00″

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The Blue Rocks of Picacho

On workout hikes near the house, I go up or around isolated, 4,959 foot Picacho. Since my first time 2 years ago, I’ve noticed the bluish rocks near the bottom and along the arroyo.

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Some dormant Aloysia wrightii makes quite the austere contrast to the blue areas.

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My first visit, I thought someone dumped blue paint into the arroyo from nearby home construction.

Picacho is volcanic in origin based on rocks apparent in many areas, with the bluish rocks appear to be volcanic tufa. The tufa I’ve seen tends to be more tan. I haven’t located any information sources on bluish rock, the geology of Picacho, or even regional information on geology covering Picacho and bluish rocks.

Decide for yourself, as I’ll keep researching.

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1/19/18 weather: 64 / 22 / .00″

Early Winter at the Roundabout

After a few years in the high desert, the savvy designer learns to design based on winter, so the landscape looks good all year.

They aren’t fooled by glossy catalogs based on cool, temperate garden models somehow juxtaposed with regional architecture. Those depend on warm season vibrancy and total cool season dormancy, interest often lying in seed heads that withstand snow. Those aren’t our reality or potential.

Our autumns and springs are long, but they seem fleeting.

The road to the Red Hawk Golf Course near my future neighborhood reflects early winter’s low lighting and gentle rest.

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Agave neomexicana, Yucca rostrata, Chrysactinia mexicana, and some volunteer Larrea tridentata are often in my bullet-proof mix.

Though the developer or maintenance crew may have thought less of the native Aristida purpurea than I. Others replaced mine with the mesic, habitual Muhlenbergia capillaris ‘Regal Mist’. Remember, we average 8-9 inches of rain per year. Aristida happily grows and reproduces here with that, while that Muhlenbergia grows natively where 40 inches or more rain falls per year in southern coastal areas; that’s regular drip irrigation, unless you prefer stunted.

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There were once native wildflowers at the median ends from my original design. This time of year, though, they would not be evident.

Looking south, the Quercus polymorpha are trying to be semi-evergreen but losing all green, while the reliable Nolina microcarpa are vibrantly evergreen.

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Before our couple days colder than average, these Chrysactinia mexicana look like they got in some late flowering. Lows in the high teens and highs in the high 40’s quickly returned to average, which is lows in the 20’s and highs in the upper 50’s.

With those Chrysactinia a less vibrant green after a number of hard freezes, it’s next spring for new growth and flowering.

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Sculpture and textural contrast, seasonal dormancy versus evergreen, low maintenance, and low water-use are all ideas here.

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12/10/17 weather: 59 / 25 / 0.00