Lighting a Landscape

Not only do I notice something inspiring on most every hike or drive away from home, but I try to see what’s going on with past projects I’ve designed.

Picacho Mountain is a development between a local trailhead and my home, so I see it weekly.

One can see why I designed low voltage lighting at this key entry, along with some bold, native plant species. On a few different evenings:


Dasylirion wheeleri above or Nolina microcarpa below are effective, especially in the barren feel of winter dormancy.


In my 4 years living nearby, I’ve noted counterproductive maintenance here. Including over-shaping of plants, which prevents plants intended to bloom from doing so.

Recently such practices may be decreasing. Also, the lighting is being used again. Both are encouraging for a project over 10 years old.


Fouquieria splendens was well-named!



On another evening, slightly later:



On another evening, but even later:


To capture each photo, my DSLR was used, as the iPhone 7 camera proved inferior. Some images resulted from no flash, a flash, or even indirect lighting from my car headlights.

Each photo required manual contrast and brightness adjustments in Adobe Photoshop, to better reflect what my eyes saw.


Some other notes:

  1. Replace dead plants and wildflowers with like species; see plans.
  2. Project owners and those doing maintenance must become familiar with what’s an herbaceous wildflower versus what’s a weed, before spraying or removing. They must learn to appreciate their wildlife value and visual punch, namely in spring and fall. This includes native grasses and wildflowers not on the plans, which volunteer in…when to remove or retain, and how to do so while preserving the original design’s integrity.
  3. Adjust lighting direction to better illuminate plants, not glare.
  4. Verify and correct light bulb intensity; some are too bright. As a place with no street lights, our starry nights must be preserved.
  5. Rodent damage to lighting cable seems less than I feared here.
  6. Improve nighttime photography skills. (the only note to myself)


2/2/20 weather:
66F / 31F / 0.00 or 19c / -1c / .00

Now to My Landscape

I’m starting the design of the garden spaces at my new home. Study sketches are loose and rough, since they get marked up! That’s already revealing some things that won’t work.

My design statement:
serene, inviting, and sometimes dramatic outdoor spaces, with the soul of the desert

Don’t laugh; that’s to help me carry through with the idea!


Here’s Option ‘A’ (front / northwest at the top):


Once I’ve explored a few options, I might import the best design direction into SketchUp, to “walk around” the property and further refine a final design in CAD.


The front, in and out:




A tiny courtyard off my home office:



In back:






But here’s one catch.


When I’m out on the covered patio, I see that. So…


…I’ll work hard on the spot between my patio and their property. My first hunch is to build a wire mesh or hog panel trellis immediately between the cover’s columns, then plant a dense, evergreen vine.

The male half of the neighboring household and I get along well, and my not-so-subtle screening solution has already been discussed. We both agree on the issue.


The other catch: views to the unbuildable hill lot with desert growth should be preserved, since once the area is built out, I won’t have mountains or other vistas. That hill out back is the power here, and the dining room view is desert serenity.



Plant selection is to come, once functions and forms are explored and established.