Evening Light: A Drive-by

Someone is reading my casual or pointed rants via Instagram. Or so I think.

Back from a hike at the neighborhood volcano (extinct), it appears the landscape lighting is being moved to correspond with the plants. Possibly like the original design.

Fingers crossed that’s not just a coincidence.



Most every time I flew home from Las Vegas, I exited 215 to McCarran past a series of widely-spaced Dasylirion wheeleri. That and the sotol spacing on medians near my then-Albuquerque house may have inspired me. (the latter I pirated several years earlier – yes, it’s true)

But lit up, they add ambiance to the dry breeze wafting in at dusk.



I need to find old photos of these Fouquieria splendens soon after installation. They’ve really grown in from the smaller, seed-grown plants – not wild-collected.


What I do as a landscape architect is much about evoking moods using light and shadow.


5/31/18 weather:
99F / 64F / .00″ or 37c / 18c / .00 mm




Mid-Century Roadtrip

Modern Phoenix announced their Mid-Century Modern (MCM) home tour tickets were going on sale, so I was ready.

I’ve wanted to attend for years. The day they went on sale at 8 am, I waited until 9. I got onto the 2nd tour, departing an hour later than the already-sold out 1st tour. All tickets sold out before 11 am.

You might see why I recommend going in 2019; outsides to insides were thought-out.

All houses on tour were built or designed in 1959, except where noted.


#1 The Buena Terror


Arizona designs often feature garden walls or low walls, combined with sculptural accent plants. This house’s 1/3 pivot front door and salvaged sofa make a hit.


Windows and long wall frames help add light to an interior room, plus texture on the wall. I can’t help but think of Donald Judd’s wall-mounted art in Marfa.



#2 The Beck Residence


This method to lay concrete block looks great, but I only see it used in Arizona.


Even a hip infant nursery with its own patio. Their outdoor furnishings are key to adding interest and life.


Vintage stereo equipment…


She was in the right place for this shot.



I’ve interspersed some houses with some of Phoenix’ signs that state weather warnings, if you dare visit in the summer! This type of thing is all over their open spaces.

A Phoenix summer is as intense as a Minnesota winter.



#3 Bellamak Residence


My photos don’t do justice to this very edgy, yet serene and comfortable house.  Plus interior shots were not allowed; just know those were stunning yet welcoming, using very polished surfaces and forms. And zero clutter.

As if in Phoenix, one would even care about being indoors from November to April…

Colorful cruiser-style bikes galore


Sunny Camelback from a shady entry


I could hang out for hours at their fireplace or by their pool.



#4 Mucha Casa


I’ve always admired the use of low walls in Arizona landscapes, as opposed to courtyards that open to gravelscapes or wide-open spaces with no bones. They provide scale but don’t block beauty.



#5 Gordon Rogers Home and Studio


More bikes and more great garden spaces. This is a home tour?


I enjoyed his studio being open, to see all the sketches and plans in progress.


I finally had to let go of a client whose front space was so stunning over this. Let strong plantings be the border; using an edge is usually more clutter than good.



This must be the winter sign. 85-95F in their summer is about 2-8 am.




I don’t think I’ve ever seen a Rolls Royce convertible at the trailheads I frequent, but I’ve never mountain biked or hiked near Paradise Valley. That day was paradise.




#6 The Evertson House


This vignette again shows how inexpensive simplicity rules: the wall with corner insets, aggregate paving bands in the concrete, and the sloping roof line. The blue car and view don’t hurt!

This is a Ralph Haver design.


Positive affirmations for wall art is a matter of expression, but everything else most would agree on. #justsayin In and out.



#7 Kucharo’s Xanadu


Yet another classic car, strategically placed. But this inexpensive common CMU block wall, designed uncommonly…

This was the only house not built in 1959 on this tour…it was built in 1962.


And another excellent CMU wall, and another, and …


Buying a new house has me admiring bathrooms that work, by simply adding the right touch.


It turns out, this modern home tour, where we could photograph almost everything, had so much quality garden design. That’s compared to a number of gardens I saw on an actual garden tour a couple weeks later, where we could not take photographs anywhere.

I have no plans to return to that garden tour, though I will probably post one of their past garden tours from 6 years ago, with excellent design and where photos were allowed.

I will plan to return to a future MCM home tour, however!

Back to an SLR Camera

I had a 35 mm SLR film camera decades ago, but I’ve used handheld film or handheld digital cameras since at least 2001.

I tried out my new digital SLR camera this past week.


Then from my front patio, without and with the zoom lens.


Yes, my neighbor developed a brand or logo for her home, a stylized version of our local three crosses icon. It even appears on her flagstone address number plaque.

That hazy day, El Paso’s Franklin Mountains loom just inside the Texas border, 35 miles away.


Part of this new camera will be my re-learning techniques such as depth of field, in order to take better photos of my work and what inspires my work. I took a quick tour of my favorite project near my home to critique aspects of.

I’ll try not to scare you with the bad maintenance. Again, no zoom and zoom.


Recently seeing Danger Garden’s images of Agave neomexicana at one of her local nurseries, those in Oregon look healthier than here, though they grow natively on most of our hills. So, our “dry heat” can be overrated!

At least we don’t have a chance at developing SAD, and the light for photos is amazing.


At the entry, the zoom lens reproduces what I see exiting the development. Though it also shortens the close-in view, causing the houses to appear closer than in reality. This is where using depth of field might help on sharpness through the view.

Many Yucca faxonianaDasylirion wheeleri, Agave parryi, and Nolina greenei forms going solo, with softening blooms and smaller plants long ago dying or removed. Their green really stands out and brings welcome life in winter dormancy.


“Design for summer, and your garden looks good in summer. Design for February, and your garden looks good all year.” – Tara Dillard

The usual brown tips on foliage are evident on many plants (i.e. winters’ freezes and summers’ legendary “dry heat”), blurring to the left and further back.

Changing my SLR camera’s depth of field would sharpen all plants as they recede in this mass. Which is what one sees without a camera.

The structure of that mass facing exiting drivers works as intended, not forming a hard wall. It affords home properties a gentle buffer west towards the development, yet preserving driver views exiting the development, east into the valley and beyond to the Organ Mountains.


2/20/18 weather: 5835 / .00″