Desert Dweller + Shaper of the Land
First, where am I located?
In a quiet residential area west of Las Cruces, best described as a warm temperate, arid climate. My area’s part of that broad zone is some smaller subdivision of the still-huge Chihuahuan Desert ecoregion.
My home is about 4,100 feet elevation and 32 N latitude. That causes intense sunlight much of the time, and with sharply draining, deep sandy and gravelly loam soils and a decent diversity of native and adapted plants one can’t easily find, adds to the
fun challenge and rewards of appropriate horticulture and great outdoor living.
I’m a former landscape architect, but unlike many I’ve met. It’s important to embrace and know the intimate connection between climate, place, process, and patterns.
My road to landscape architecture started because my family moved where our father was stationed in the military, and I became interested in what made each place different. That grew into how the weather worked and astronomy, eventually starting college to become a meteorologist, but graduating to become a landscape architect.
Finding repressed built environments where I was able to gain employment, I still made the most of the good training I received to begin my own practice in 1995.
18 years of that work was in Albuquerque plus outside town to engage with more like-minded clientele than ABQ could offer. Upon changes in my personal life and selling my house of 15 years, it was a downsize move south on the freeway to El Paso for a few years, to continue my practice. After the convergence of different challenges, I accepted a position as a planner, making my design practice a sideline. Now, that chapter is over too, mostly thankfully. A new start to the rest of my life?
Spending time undoing mistakes of the past in my region, I take time out in a number of great settings to mountain bike, hike, eat well, go on some day trips, and re-charge. Doing that alone or sharing it with others, helps me put in the long hours.
Philosophy on Plants, Including Native Plants
+ low water-use native plants first
+ adapted, non-native plants if natives unavailable or won’t function well
That should make it clear that I’m not natives-only in landscapes and gardens. But I would be more of a plant purist if I could. I’m limited by design options and especially one of the most outdated business mindsets on earth – the nurseries of our high desert towns. This excerpt includes the best definition of a “native plant” I’ve seen –
That’s from Rainwater Harvesting for Drylands and Beyond – Volume 1, by Tucson’s Brad Lancaster. It’s far more useful than confused ones dismissing conservation. Garden design strives to organize outdoor living spaces, so function and form dialogue nicely. Including where water needs to move from and to, and the plants that grow in either.
Since my ecoregion has less diversity than Brad’s, my definition is broader…more like, low water-use native plant palette of indigenous vegetation found within about:
+ 1,000 feet in elevation
+ a 200 mile radius
+ the same or adjacent ecoregions
Plants are materials but not just any material; plants convey a connection to place more than probably any landscape element or material, so find the best ones for the site and use well.