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.


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.


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.


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.


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”!


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′?


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.


Weekend Work Recovery

Can you believe I posted on my blog again, after 15 months away?

Much has happened since, which you’ll learn in time including my move and recent employment in a different field. Recovering from a tough week at the day job by checking my design practice’s projects, to help issue substantial completion…or not! 2/18/2016 photos, El Paso TX.

Stop #1: Hospitals at Providence, Sierra Campus

That’s quite the renovation by HKS, and I really enjoyed working with them. I’ll focus on the good this time, but maybe fill you in on a few items in need of correction, so our plans’ design intent is fulfilled.

My placement of the low garden walls helped provide spatial definition, and I only wish I would have designed them a little higher and to stop pedestrians in more places.

Availability caused some of my speficied plants to be changed…it was native Purple Threeawn and not Gulf Muhly. The yuccas were supposed to be larger, but Yucca elata rockets upward once it establishes, so I’ll stick with that. Overall, the Chihuahuan Desert was respected, even if interpreted a bit.

Stop #2: UTEP to Downtown, Hotel Indigo and San Jacinto Plaza area

I’m always up to seeing great designs, evesdropping on others’ designs like that last set, instead of criticizing mine. Though there was little to criticize this leg of the trip. Just inspiration galore.

On a past post, we had to enjoy drinks and excellent tacos on what turned into a sunny, spring-like afternoon. Malolam it was…some good design at the development housing them, among some major site planning screw-ups, which I posted on a while ago.

Stop #3: Hospitals at Providence, Transmountain Campus

This landscape was finished around Thanksgiving, so the various plants like Chaparral Sage, Deergrass, and Beaked Yucca are small. Much was done with a tight budget on a huge site, and I can only commend the architect HKS and the owner Tenet Health. Much came together.

Our drive home was bound to be good, even if I had to work the rest of the weekend!

Have you enjoyed a day much more because you saw something inspired?

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!

Marfa Pics, Chinati No Pics

I spent a few days in Marfa starting a small but enjoyable project. Of course, I took some time out from very pressing work (deadlines, fires) and even this project (inspiration, serenity).

By the way, their new-to-me convienence store / gas mart Stripes sells huge, good breakfast tacos. Their homemade tortillas are among the best I’ve had…


My last second-to-last day in Marfa, I took in the Chinati Foundation’sSelections Tour“, and it was just the docent leading two younger men and myself. As a designer who has to not just create spaces but words, I need to be inspired so much. But no picture-taking is allowed…maybe my words and links will help?

At 6′ tall, I was taller than the docent, but dwarfed by both younger guys touring…by at least 4”. One happens to be an accomplished sound artist from LA, and the other who is also in design and from France but living in the US; he was very reserved about what he does. So, I didn’t ask. That’s all fine, and we had the tour to ourselves, to ponder in solitude. For all of us, it was the spare context of how each piece was sited, and what each or all parts together created. For me, I was also with folks who also make a living in design, feeding off their intuitions and reactions.

We saw many of Judd’s modular aluminum works, Flavin’s use of light and empty spaces, Andre’s writings, and Chamberlain’s sculptures reusing what we in the wild west take for granted (and loathe every drive). And some more since we were such a small group :-)

As a landscape architect, I had little idea how much Chinati’s mostly contemporary art would tie into the natural Chihuahuan desert grassland beyond, or what I do. It works, whether a rhythm of windows allowed us to see all with the outdoors, or bringing in the light (and heat…it is June, and those buildings are either not cooled or minimally cooled).

Seeing tans among the greens from their unusually wet warm season, and plentiful clumps of Palmilla / Yucca elata, works. And even if the only negative of the distant edge of Chinati’s land is ruined by the struggling riparian cottonwood row, the docent reminded us each were planted by Donald Judd. Just proof that the greatest can make blunders…it’s usually the plant selection and design!

And if you enjoy wildflowers and grasses interplaying with yuccas and distant views of low mountains, the walks between buildings where more installations are housed will get you going as much as the installations themselves.

Chocolate Flower / Berlandiera lyrata literally edges hundreds of feet of each walkway. Two species of Globemallow / Sphaeralcea spp., various grasses including Sideoats Grama / Bouteloua curtipendula, and more wildflowers I forget. And many more more yuccas. Hence the need to take notes next visit…

This was formerly a military installation, Fort D.A. Russell, then the Marfa army Airfield in WWII, and it was closed in the 1950’s. The excellent cover of classic desert grassland there has either restored itself in 50+ years or somehow (doubtfully) remained amidst all the foot traffic and activities that take place on a military installation. There were few weeds, and the recovery time with 2x the rainfall of where I live must be faster.

I need to comb my father’s memoirs to see if he ever flew out of their airfield, but nothing so far. As he vividly remembered every water tower and scene, his never mentioning Marfa could mean he was never there.

I’m glad they don’t allow the taking of any photos. You have to go, and then you will get it…if I can get it, others can too.

Chinati does allow sketch pads and note taking, and I may do that next time. For your first time, just bring yourself and take it in without all that. Wednesdays are quieter than weekends. And when driving there or around town, listen to Marfa Mood Music such as Pink Floyd, Junip, Balmorhea or Bill Callahan, especially if you;re like me and you like seeing others’ gardens – some good ideas among all the usual lawn-foundation shrubs-shade tree rehash.


the Chamberlain building we toured, that evening…Desert Candle mania!

Stay tuned for many more photos from my trip, but less words. It gets better, so here’s a small hint…


Just imagine eating here!

Garden Designers Roundtable – Design Principles

Most designers of grand gardens and small spaces know an array of design principles: balance, axis, repetition, scale, mass, color, contrast, etc – all valid guidelines to stand by, and they work anywhere with most any hardscape or plant element!

There are also some generalities so evident, yet they are design principles that I didn’t learn in school!


Know Your Place (physical geography over cultural geography…people will be people, often following convention, whether appropriate or not). The EPA ecoregions are useful for Texas, and I’m in their “Chihuahuan Desert / Chihuahuan Basins and Playas” (but EPA’s mapping is not always as good for some other states; the AZ and CA pages are not finished yet) – Texas and the US

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Adjust Agaves

Usually, minor adjustments are required of new landscape installations, no matter how carefully measured and designed they are. I’m no exception, though hopefully larger plants like trees or hardscape elements don’t need that.

Adjustments are also needed with the accidental shifting of items, sometimes due to added elements.

Photos from the warm, enchanted evening of 9/25/2013 –

look carefully, near the low, yellow Zinnia grandiflora plants

look carefully, near the low, yellow Zinnia grandiflora plants

between the added metate stone and the cosmos, an Agave bracteosa should be moved towards the stone

between the added metate stone and the tall, annual cosmos zinnias, an Agave bracteosa should be moved towards the stone…or the metate could be moved to be a focal point between 2 different elements or plants, and the agaves shifted…small spaces require that each element be placed very carefully

a look at my plan confirmed those agaves alternate and stagger with other elements

a look at my plan confirmed those agaves alternate evenly and stagger with other elements

some nice Agave bracteosa...1-2 already have some pups

he bought some nice Agave bracteosa…1-2 already have some pups, ready to duke it out with other plants and the Rain Lily clumps

Out Back

Out back at “Rancho Robertson”. My photography doesn’t quite capture the subtle light changes at dusk, let alone the breeze.

The back patio area offers a view towards 3 mountain ranges to the east, spanning over 75 miles, notably the Duke City’s famous backdrop, the Sandia Mountains.

The small space requires that plants be used for similar purposes as were used in the front patio, but the total separation from the front allows completely different species be used, for the flora-centric owner (and landscape architect) to enjoy.

From my 9/25/2013 visit:


the concrete lintel above each patio home’s window originally dictated the step and seat wall; the owner made a good adjustment on the seat wall

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