My land is one of brown to olive shades and accented by blue-greens, under big blue skies and sun. It can be stark. Yet gardens can tap into the beautiful power of place by emphasizing that.
I learned to run when a prospective client gets that in nature, then switches into a belief that gardens need many flowers.
Even a few attractive flowers, but it took some “wetter” weather periods to grow those. Don’t fixate on the flowers.
Green, earth-toned stucco, and indirect light = a desert trio.
Mid-winter frames the building entry to our local state park. In a bosque ecology being restored along the Rio Grande, there were and are no bold plants native.
To bring interest, gray and brown forbs or dormant grasses won’t work. Nor would beds of winter pansies or summer lantanas be authentic to compliment the pueblo revival architecture.
The designer borrowed from where similar grassy forms, but evergreen, tend to dominate – mountain edges, also fairly hot and dry. Containers elevate more to eye-level, and provide drainage that can lack along the river’s floodplain soils.
I smile when others “discover” garden lighting, especially subtle methods that don’t detract from night skies.
My first job out of college was being a design grunt at a firm in San Diego’s Mission Valley, in pre-AutoCAD 1989. They often used lighting, aware of its high-impact dimension in outdoor living.
What a difference, even in a new landscape.
In San Diego nearing the beaches, shade trees aren’t as necessary, and people there live outdoors all year like few others. Yet they appreciate night lighting, to extend garden time. In the high desert, even with low humidity and shading from trees and architecture, summer days outside are not so pleasant.
Then night comes, blissful except the hotter periods: that’s when garden lighting allows the landscape to be savored. Forestiera neomexicana in containers will be pruned and lifted once established, for more wow factor.
Winter isn’t bad to enjoy lighting, either, sans the breeze.
I must drop by as hospital staffing grows, to see how many break out on the patio. Not to mention what these Prosopis glandulosa trees will develop into, lit up at night.
That mesquite grouping will be joined by the Yucca rostrata as they also mature.
You may remember my former house from 1998 to 2013.
I rolled over in bed awakening to this many spring mornings, sleeping all night with the sliding doors open.
After specifying landscape lighting for a few clients who valued it, I figured I deserved it, too. Mine was low-voltage, but a quality brand – FX Luminaire.
Of course, luminarias add to the scene, but that’s only in chilly December.
Someone once asked (challenged) me, “why light up a cactus?”
The purple wall probably bothered her, too.
When trying out garden lighting, first experiment with a big box store brand to find where it will work and the effects you want, before spending more money on a higher-grade system to truly reveal your spaces.
Free advice: really, really rethink copying the “airport runway” look of path lights, which many default to.
Indirect lighting does something, not drawing attention to itself. The former provides a professional touch others will want to copy but you get to live with.
I remember seeing this low shrub one April about a decade ago, while taking a workout hike during a business trip here.
Krameria parviflora / Range Ratany (it needs a new common name!)
Sorry about the blur, as it was windy and my iPhone isn’t the best camera.
Of course, it has a flower color rather uncommon in my area, it grows on gravelly soil and desert pavement with the usual suspects like Larrea tridentata and Prosopis torreyana. I also like how the grasses blend or even grow up through it.
A duo of Opuntia orbiculata add sculpture in back.
My guess is partly how the Chihuahuan Desert is so poorly botanized, with many in my field unknowing about it! We also have so few nurseries into our natives or that are proactive – the spirit in Portland, Tucson, or Austin is not here. Perhaps nobody has bothered to try this plant, either?
Yet it’s common on gravelly and rocky uplands like this, including other desert southwest ecoregions. Though I’ve only seen it here and far west Texas.
Krameria parviflora stands about 18 inches tall and a bit over 2 feet wide. Any common name ideas?