Night Effects

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.

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Forestiera neomexicana in containers, Salvia clevelandii in front

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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.

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Winter isn’t bad to enjoy lighting, either, sans the breeze.

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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.

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That mesquite grouping will be joined by the Yucca rostrata as they also mature.

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Yucca rostrata with Salvia clevelandii

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You may remember my former house from 1998 to 2013.

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Agave scabra with young Verbena wrightii and Salvia chamaedryoides
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Nolina greenei, with Parthenium incanum and Salvia henryi in front

I rolled over in bed awakening to this many spring mornings, sleeping all night with the sliding doors open.

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Yucca rostrata, Lavandula, Salvia greggii, Quercus fusiformis, with a potted Aloe vera that came out in the warm season

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.

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Of course, luminarias add to the scene, but that’s only in chilly December.

Someone once asked (challenged) me, “why light up a cactus?”

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Opuntia engelmannii with Chrysactinia mexicana

That’s why!

The purple wall probably bothered her, too.

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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.

4/29/17 weather: 60 / 43 / .03

Tierra Verde – Saturday

While on a recent HOA consultation, we diverted down a few side streets. Some front landscapes stood out, many with good designs and plant choices.

Here’s one example of several simple but effective and low-cost front yards. A multi-trunked, native tree, with adapted grasses and several different shrubs. No gestures to inapplicable places, plus potential if one wants more.

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Compare the pruning of the Prosopis glandulosa above to the one below.  One is correct and the other is incorrect / counterproductive. Learn more at ISA and SNAG.

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My area has many seniors and part-time residents escaping northern winters, so the gravelscape is common, since some aren’t here summers to broil on a bed of rock. They’re swatting armies of mosquitoes by Lake Wobegon!

Yet they did this, like what a few skilled gardeners we know might do if in NM. A great container display, even if some are seasonal.

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Ordinary all over the southwest: yawn at the lawn, with or without the palm. And there’s a struggling chitalpa, one celeb’s recommended tree, as bacterial leaf scorch attacks it and all its kinfolk around.

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But wait!

Massed Hesperaloe parviflora, clean lines of the stepped wall, red tile, and the palm fronds all add up. Hopefully it’s not a Washingtonia filifera: the trunk and roots will not have room to develop, then destroy the wall.

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Free “expert” advice: learn each plant’s mature size in your locale, then apply.

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Oh, Ocotillo! Fouquieria splendens with local compadres, Fallugia paradoxa starting to flower and Ferocactus wislizenii. Ample room, too.

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Ha!

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This looked like a good start to an “Asian theme” using native and adapted plants. They’re onto something. No, I didn’t lose my mind.

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The pruned Leucophyllum only need to be sheared with more stems and foliage left, so the bases of each are broader than the tops. /-\  not  \-/

The Vitex agnus-castus already works with its natural form and proper pruning.

Here’s to effective use of a cool color in the gate and containers, with fuzzy Oreocereus celsianus ready to snag a woman’s dress looking snazzy.

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Potted Nolina texana greenei and Rosa banksiae: as tough as any gravelscape.

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Last stop! This resembles some of the original design at my last home in Albuquerque, but a twist of Las Cruces: “diversity unified by repeating similar forms”.

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A tougher tree than Phoenix-pushing Palo Verde: Koelreuteria paniculata. Imagine this in several years, much broader and clothed in sweet yellow flowers.

What else is there?

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Opuntia santa-rita losing the cool season purple and budding out, among a pincushion Dasylirion wheeleri and a bushy Sphaeralcea.

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Sphaeralcea ambigua ‘Louis Hamilton’

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Fouquieria splendens was salvaged from development partly to save the Echinocereus triglochidiatus at it’s base. Staying together.

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The Bouteloua spp. and the small outcropping really work, rock type similar to the distant sandstone boulder and gravel mulch.

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A tough trio of Las Cruces commoners: Washingtonia filifera, Pinus edulis, and Juniperus. Except under desert conditions, the greener J. chinensis ‘Torulosa’ or Hollywood Juniper becomes more like our native J. monosperma.

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The palm seems more stately and insulated against weather extremes with the dead foliage skirt left.

4/18/17 weather: 86 / 49 / .0

Desert Doorways

The way we can travel from one area to another on many properties can be quite interesting.

Views from some trips this past year –

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12/13 – you might recognize some of my favorite colors on each door and window, on one Corrales NM adobe…

 

Yet, the gloomy, non-native landscape scene misses the bold colors, which make the house stand out and almost festive.

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1/14 – a cowboy scene in the hometown of cowboy Rex Allen, welcoming travellers like me to the high prairie Chihuahuan Desert grassland around Willcox AZ…

Here, someone put it all together.

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1/14 – a shady, low-key entry in the low desert town of Borrego Springs CA…

Their summer heat requires shading glass and doors, more crucial to welcome guests than elsewhere in the southwest. On a warm January afternoon, the Chuparosa / Justicia californica planting adds a subtle red.

And they got the whole picture, with a mid-century-modern grocery store-to-gallery renovation. Including many other locally-native plants in their front landscape.

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recalling a past quote, how “small gestures get lost here”…

That pilaster-latilla fence seems odd in this powerful setting, unlike the sunny, voluminous creosote bushes and the mass of a shady mountainside. I’m also comparing the steepness of those mountains to what I’ve hiked in the last 10-15 years!

a modern but rustic doorway in a Borrego Springs neighborhood, playing light and shadow with desert native plants and those skies…

That put all the elements of a doorway into one place – their place. No mistaking it for a misplaced adobe in Iowa or Siberia! The happy meeting of regional architecture and flora, hardscape and powerful geography.

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1/14 – returning home after my San Diego trip…I wonder where?
a rest area with shaded portales, this table serving to take some work calls, though even a warm day turned chilly fast…

Specifically near a place named Lordsburg, on more vast Chihuahuan Desert grassland!

of course…2-1/2 hours to go, a classic NMDOT rest area

How do you utilize light, shadow, and your brand of local interest to define a doorway?