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I take notice of plant groupings growing in the same spot with identical conditions. Yet when it’s time to design, I rarely apply any of that.

Architecture, busy-ness, and dealing with client realities / curveballs take over.

I wish that wasn’t so. This is from a 9/2017 trip to the Big Bend, between Lobo and Valentine in Texas.

Another rest area in the middle of nowhere with a large yucca…

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Yucca faxoniana / Palm or Faxon Yucca, at least 20′ tall.

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And what else?

And a gentle reminder, this won’t look 50% as good without the yucca.

 

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Do you ever take advantage of groupings in the wild, then create areas in your garden around those groupings? How successful are they?

I’m already thinking of a simple way to use the above plants in a purposed design for a typical space, where we can’t rely on miles of expansive scenery. I might share a sketch or two of that soon.

Far Out West TX: Havard, not Harvard

I agreed to an online friend’s invitation to meet other plant nerds, and hike Chisos Basin in Big Bend National Park.

That we did – about 14 miles and 1,800′ in elevation / up-down.

The trip there and back was almost as good. Photos 9/10/2016-ish. Many, many photos, not much text, and I added a number of plant names as you rifle through.

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moonrise, the whoosh of a speeding car

A weak cool front reinforced the moist air from the east, and cool and damp was much different than back home just 4 hours NW.

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See you on the back side, Marfa!

Light was getting low, so to meet the next day’s hiking buddies, I quickly wound through the hills to Alpine for the night – no photos there. Those hills were dripping wet, all shades of green in the mists and clouds. Agave spp., Dasylirion leiophyllum, Quercus grisea, and waist-high grama grasses…surreal.

We drove in a caravan of 4 vehicles from Alpine to Study Butte, then through the park gates up to Chisos Basin. I think that alone was another 2 hours or more.

Since the lower desert areas around Terlingua and Study Butte are often hotter than Phoenix, this was relief. Like many an early August morning back home, heavy and humid air, but with plenty of coolness to feel fresh.

Everyone but me, since I held my camera.

This group of images looks like Christy Ten Eyck has hiked here for inspiration, or just got inspiration when all she wanted was a hike. Many plants growing in cracks of boulders.

Remember “Havard, not Harvard”? With few exceptions, about the only agave I saw on the trail was Agave havardiana. They were everywhere!

Plenty of other plants, even oaks putting out a 2nd and 3rd flush of growth with the abundant moisture. Flowers, colors, even the bark…find the Arbutus xalapensis.

Bugs everywhere, though I was uneaten. Thanks in part to persistent cloud cover instead of sun.

Did I say green and moist? While the oaks had no acorns on them, the Pinus cembroides were loaded with seed, and here we stood in awe of the top of the food chain having lunch…

Water, green, more water

I wasn’t the only one taking too many photos, so we had to hustle back. That was the longest downhill I remember, since years ago on a fall day, from firs into cacti and oaks about 4000′ below, each step down in elevation warming into heat by the bottom, knees feeling the pain.

This was just greener and cooler, plus my suspicion was confirmed about my hiking boots being too used over the years.

I got shin splints, so it took me a while to join my compadres at the dinner table, but I made it. Then we said our byes, and I drove on while they stayed in Study Butte.

A 90 minute power nap off the long highway to Alpine, and my long streak of luck at Border Patrol stations ran out. I was detained for an hour, but then let go.

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it took some vacuuming to get the fur out

At least their German Shepard didn’t scratch my paint clawing on all of my car…

A new day…back in Marfa, where I got a room nearing 1 am, then a night sleeping soundly and far from La Migra.

Exploring town, enjoying being away from some bad things at work, knowing I had to leave. I milked out being in Marfa all day!

Then the last 4 hours of driving, and a desert sunset.

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the shafts of rain at dusk are called “purple rain” by some

After a few days in reality, back to the illusion that pays the bills and keeps a roof over my head. I was now ready for the coming weeks, and richer in Agave havardiana sightings.

Low Light, High Impact

Checking the flowering status of Sophora on some streetscape work, I really had some excellent lighting. I remembered that S. x ‘Silver Peso’ wasn’t specified, but rather it was S. x ‘Sierra Silver’.

Photos from Picacho Mountain, celebrating daylight savings time, 3/12/2017.

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north towards the development’s namesake

That’s on Anthem Road, the first area one sees before buying a lot, or returning home.

I’ll need to dig out some earlier photos, before the demise of flowering groundcovers among the agaves and some other accents. There were some good combos that are tough and reproduce madly, but not with roundup or lacking initial rabbit control.

I’ve been blamed on not using rabbit-resistant plants, no matter how explained.

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Sophora x ‘Sierra Silver’, the main reason I visited

Yet these native volunteers of Aristida purpurea are appreciated and their forms left the best way between the boulders and under the Yucca faxoniana.

You may have spotted a few maintenance issues on your own by now. “Giving most landscape maintenance people your trust here is like giving whiskey and your Porsche’s keys to teenaged boys.” – my local adaption of Wasowski ala O’Rourke.

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same median looking south, I’m also impressed how the wild Larrea tridentata / Creosote Bush are all left on the street sides…classy

Desert plants used well offer an understated elegance.

The low lighting really added some drama on this secondary neighborhood entry. About a half-mile away over the hills, onto Calle Vigas.

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agaves and rocks just work

Agave neomexicana is also elegant – not the most interesting agave to many, since it isn’t zone-pushing, unusual, or glamorous enough. But it’s our’s, so just use it well and experiment well with it.

After a few years in my own garden I was blessed to own, I got such things right after enough cuts and flesh wounds.

Then I was free to unleash such things correctly the first time on loads of “paying projects”!

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the mountain that used to be my workout hike

Looking back on the original development on Anthem Road, sunset! The Sophora there and on nearby plantings are barely blooming, just a little higher…maybe 4200′?

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the orange is ongoing water main work

Looking more closely, I only wish I could bottle up the fragrance for you of each Sophora x ‘Sierra Silver’.  But I did sacrifice life and limb on these bloom close-ups versus a rather territorial carpenter bee.

 

Marfabout: Gardens in 2015

A home tour followed the Marfa design symposium, so of course, I turned that and my trip into a garden tour. No photos were allowed inside, though there were many great ideas – I compensated outside.

Musical pairing from the Eagles – James Dean, of course! (unsure that album cover was designed by local Boyd Elder, but you can find out and why I picked that song…hint: Giant)

Some galleries of many things I enjoyed; hang on, it’s a big post –

Now, off to the actual design symposium and my other wanderings, when I should have been designing…..no way.

I paid dearly for this later…but it might pay off even more later.

I forgot to capture the presentation of the first speaker, both architects now based in Tucson (Dust).

But the next speaker was a fellow Carlsbad native, even the same high school, is now a Brooklyn-based architect. Kelly Armendariz went into his works, many are commercial renovations in the Big Apple, but not to be left out was his own Marfa home in progress.

Serious Desert SW representation!

I’m glad the hard work of Tucson’s Brad Lancaster defining what should underpin all our work, continues to become mainstream in urban and landscape design. He’s the same smiling and fired-up / yet laid back guy who I shared ciabatta bread and vino at my old ABQ house years ago, in my other life.

And some homes on the tour…

The panel of architects, interior designers and engineer involved in a promising hotel being built by the railroad tracks in Marfa…the Hotel Saint George. A hotel actually stood on the same site decades ago.

Carlos is someone I’ll collaborate with to a degree on an upcoming residence, while it turns out that Nunzio and Mary Alice are 2 of the 1200+ firm HKS whom I’m working with on health care projects in El Paso. A small world.

I’ll close out on parts of the symposium and my own tour related to being more bike and pedestrian-friendly…and upping the economic bar for any great place that’s proud of itself and its place. (pay attention El Paso and NM: no more wannabe, learn to be)

I hope to post photos of the gardens from two years ago, at the last symposium, but the “day” job calls.

See anything you like, or that could benefit from water harvesting and other best design practices?

I hope you enjoyed this mega-post, too!

Purple Rain, Warm August Night

Proof positive not only “northern and central New Mexico” get purple rain. What an incredible decompression my latest drive to Marfa was, once off I-10. Photos from below Valentine TX, 8/10/2015 –

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distant storms, dry on US-90

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Texas…far west Texas

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the state grass, Bouteloua curtipendula

Chihuahuan desert grassland in one of its many forms. Too bad the Verbena bipinnitifida in rich, purple bloom by my eyes, was washed out in the photo, no matter what I did. Trust me.

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restful is my room at the Hotel Paisano…airbnb fail for tonight, at least

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and I got this room

A neighbor 10+ years ago was OK and had a Mustang with the front plate saying “Live Fast, James Dean” on it. I’ve never forgotten about that plate, or how few live fast and live.

His wife and cottonwood tree were not OK. The canyon winds obliterated that valley tree, and his wife must have disliked the place. Try being real, and having a real garden…that’s how one can be civil in an uncivil place :-)

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a great end to a stressful day, a drink out in the courtyard

Everything here is like where I lived, except it gets 2x the rain. Never mind, Marfa mornings are cooler yet. I’m the place with 61F :-)

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It’s so mellow here Mon – Wed., like purple is.

Roadtrip! Big Bend Towns

Having lived in the high desert for over two decades, there’s romantic appeal to be surrounded by what’s also termed “high lonesome”, then to travel out into it.

The good, the bad; the feel to the air, the blight many do to the land. Truly, the last frontier.

The few towns in the Big Bend region give context to the miles between and beyond them; I picked even fewer and another place that may as well be a town.

Van Horn TX (4,042′ elev) –

As I write this, our monsoon season is bringing El Paso some soaking rains, then the scent of creosote bush and a warm wind. Quite a contrast from dry May and June of 2014, especially to our east.

Alpine TX (4,475′ elev) –

Sorry Marathon, Marfa, Fort Davis, Sanderson, and Shafter – another time. Even Pinto Canyon Road (I have your number, Gary N.).

Chisos Basin (5,400′ elev)  –

Once again, I’m hearing many of those thrashers around where I live and on the trails. Quite a unique call!

Lobo TX (4,010′ elev) –

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quite different without the Germans and their hospitality during their periodic film festivals…today, desert grassland reclaiming territory

A soundtrack to read this post by – here.

Roadtrip! Big Bend Plants

From the last post, here are some great plant combos growing on the desert roadsides. I tried to group them by climate zone or elevation, all growing on natural rainfall in their zone.

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this Alpine mural is a microcosm of plants I saw on my 5/14 trip

A number of plants were left out, which I had photos of. There were many more common to the southwest, or to certain elevations.

Above 4000′ elev –

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One might need to adapt those plants into hotter or cooler locations than where I show them. Most or all don’t have any cute trade names or “designer” prices, but a number are worth the effort to find at those few great nurseries out there.

In fact, more than one are not that available. Even if you have to buy them in seed form, or collect from seed when ripe.

Below 4000′ elev –

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Enjoy these arid finds, but consider the groupings they make or could make – aesthetic and cultural.

See any you wish to try?