My Winter Walk-Off: Las Cruces, 2017

I’m late!

This Las Cruces spring may have begun in January. We shared neighboring El Paso’s warmest December-February in over 100 years of records. 2 weeks actually felt like winter, 2 days here and there – little winter to walk off.

Here’s what I saw on my block Saturday 3/18/2017, 84F and no humidity:

But how about this backdrop of floating mountains…every day I drive to work.

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A good example of Pueblo Revival architecture, and her metal work of our town’s three cross symbol is a contemporary take on tradition.

My neighborhood is mostly retired midwesterners of a different cloth than the retirees in my former ABQ hood. The plants speak loudly.

My spread-out neighborhood was developed in the 1980’s on desert sand hills immediately above the fertile Rio Grande Valley, where chiles, pecans, onions, and cotton rule. Though Las Cruces is the 2nd largest town in New Mexico, outside downtown and the Mesilla Plaza it is of a rural to suburban scale.

Always with those jagged Organ Mountains, which often resemble a western movie backdrop.

Fouquieria splendens is about to burst forth with red blooms.

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In my travels the consistently tallest and fullest Ocotillo grow between about 2000-4500 feet in the high deserts. Like here.

Onward –

There are less palms in my neighborhood than many, though there are still plenty. The ever-tough Washingtonia filifera are the most common.

Among the vernacular rock walls in town, some are mortared a little better. Definitely not the craftsmanship here to emulate the amazing dry stack walls typical in, say, New England. But this dry-look mortared garden wall isn’t shabby.

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Less fettered by brown stucco and Pueblo Revival styles than where I lived in ABQ, there are some good Desert Contemporary designs here.

Even if a bit neglected.

FYI – this neighborhood, like many others in this price range in my region of the US, have NO walkability. Every day I see residents walking along the curbs, in competition with speeding contractor trucks, drivers texting, and so on.

Any sidewalks are usually just the frontage of 1 or 2 houses, in hopes of more.

Good thing my neighbors are alert, though most are 60+ years old. I also enjoy that the majority are friendly and sophisticated, and it’s only 10 minutes of rural driving to work.

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The last few houses…

Imagine this contemporary Pueblo style house, but with plantings used well.

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The circle of vegetation was retained for my neighbors and I, plus our cluster mailbox. The house I’m renting has the white garage door, and the small mountain behind me is 4900’+ Picacho Mountain. I smile each time I see it.

Before the summer monsoon rains made the access road off limits to my Toyota Corolla, I hiked up it many times.

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That’s as close as you get to my house, which has no garden anyway!

Here’s a link to others’ winter walk-offs and Les’ blog post, which I missed. but he might not be doing a winter walk-off post?

Ordinary and Good

As my design process matured in decades of weather extremes, a new appreciation for landscape techniques grew. Plants re-took center stage – lower water-use species, hardy in desert winters and summers with little care.

India Hawthorn / Rhaphiolepis indica, found at most strip malls and gas stations, along with junipers or trailing rosemaries.

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Since we can’t grow azaleas, Raphs have to do.

Raphs have always reminded me of those elusive foothills manzanitas, so picky that few here bother. And there are many different forms of tough Raphs out there in the high desert towns I’ve been or worked, all happy.

Red Tip Photinia / Photinia x fraseri can be scorched and anemic, wanting richer soils and more water than desert soil torture. But who doesn’t enjoy the new foliage?

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Is that another gas station plant hiding between Photinias – Silver King Euonymus?

Good design is a key, like with even exotic plants.

Boxleaf Euonymus / Euonymus japonicus ‘Microphyllus’ always looks green.

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No I haven’t lost my mind; it is green. And that genus’ powdery mildew or scale is rarely a problem in our rarified desert air.

Those can be issues if overwatering and irrigating overhead, but why would a person feel a need to do that?

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My point, as often, is fashion over fad. Classic over trendy.

Are there plants that thrive with little water and care where you are, which are not in vogue like they should be?

4/15/17 weather: 86 / 49 / .0

Soft and Sharp Again

Visiting past projects brings back memories, including why I placed certain plants or other features and sometimes before I learned another lesson.

The sky was still moody, though all chance of rain and the morning cold blew away.

After a too-long Saturday meeting with a prospective client, it was Picacho Mountain before a satisfying grilled dinner at home:

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the Agave neomexicana clump and ocotillo contrasts chartreuse Prosopis torreyana, even after the original wildflowers thinned and then vanished
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looking back towards the main road
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a solo Echinocereus horizonthalonius was added to the original Sophora x ‘Silver Peso’ and the Nolina texana greenei

The latter almost echoed in shape by the round, bluish pincushions of Dasylirion wheeleri across the street. Almost…

Seeing these photos as I write, we’ve had an unusual surge of humid winds off the Gulf, more the feel and scent of another place and time. This weather change really changes the way these ordinary plants look to me.

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the only Leucophyllum zygophyllum plants not butchered in their medians

I’m still figuring out why some areas of Purple Threeawn are left and others not.

The development here seems to not have a plan of action on what’s maintained or not, what can remain or get pulled out, and where. Some grasses were in the seed mix, some not – at least 50% should remain, not the 10-20% that are left or missed.

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an unusual form of Opuntia macrocentra
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see if you can spot another purple oddball Opuntia macrocentra from my plan

The occasional agaves on the sides, which I wish were parkways, so that’s what I wrongly call them. I wanted simple, gracious walkways down each street, too.

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Penstemon superbus

My guess is even with the optimal gritty soil habitat for penstemons, the maintenance directive and implementation here missed these volunteers. Where intentional from my design, most are long-gone.

Penstemons are no match for xeriphobia, overwatering, or Roundup!

And I would say those are no match for having one’s desert eyes on. Thanks for that term, Scott in Tucson.

4/12/17 weather: 87 / 63 / .0