Sierra: Walls and Weeds, Spikes and Grasses

A quick fall visit to one of the hospital renovation projects I provided landscape architect services on, from a few years ago.

And what did I see?

I’m unsure why the grasses (gulf grasses – Muhlenbergia capillaris / ‘Regal Mist’ Grass) didn’t put on their pink flower show. They are staying smaller than I feared they might grow, though they somehow weren’t sheared either and they have drip irrigation, so they should be pink.

The hotter summer wouldn’t faze the Regal Mist Grass, given this muhley also thrives in low desert landscapes such as Tucson and Phoenix, plus this drip irrigation system looked to be functioning.

Got me…

The spiky forms of natives Dasylirion wheeleri and Yucca elata just truck along, elegant and shimmering in their eternally breezy or windy town. Their short-lived flowers earlier in the summer attract bees and small moths.

Can you see why I designed in the low garden walls here?

They stagger out from the boxy, actual structure, still parallel. I originally envisioned them a foot taller, but was glad they were adjusted down in height during field layout. The creamy color really helps the greens of the different plantings.

The native shrub behind the low wall closest to the building is Ericameria laricifolia / Turpentine Bush. Each was needlessly sheared, though it probably flowered the next month, in October. There’s a gold tinge to them when looking closely, and the waxy, needle-like foliage does smell like a clean take on turpentine.

When in bloom, it attracts various butterflies, and some bees, of course.

Hopefully this fall, I can visit when the different plants are in bloom, as well as in the morning, to better capture the different lighting at that time and the elevated, exposed terrain at the southern edge of the Franklin Mountains.

And hopefully, late summer 2021 brings us a solid monsoon season!

Hospital Drive-by: June

After dropping off my friend at the train station, I was curious about my design in front of a new El Paso hospital. Photos from 6/21/20:

Their new rules dictate one must get written permission from their administration, in order to photograph and only on a specific day. Since I was nearby, I did what one would expect of me. I took quick photos from my car, stopping at key spots!

Misguided people have latched onto such proprietary rules since 9/11. Yet there’s no harm in photos of design or plants, only good.

My DSLR camera and iPhone…ready!

Sorry for the angle that clipped your flag, Texans…

Cultural companions, also native: Yucca rostrata with Muhlenbergia emersleyi

Agave parryi ssp. truncata tucks nicely between boulders, though I would have used something other than adapted Salvia clevelandii had I known about that attractive sign.

This hospital landscape has a more appropriate, inviting design than the hospital I periodically visit in Scottsdale, by the way. Even though the helipad area limits tree use for some distance, more yuccas soften that use with voluminous Baccharis x Thompson.

Even with the usual faux pas of maintenance (you know…) and facilities (so many non-smoking signs), it’s satisfyingly simple in areas.

Just more Yucca rostrata and Agave parryi ssp. truncata, this time with billowy and unshaped Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo.’ (victory…bravo!)

It all grows under all that big sky of far west Texas.

Understated elegance rules, flowers are optional!

Streetscape in Spring

Between my hikes and home, I was finally able to spend some time admiring spring growth of one old streetscape design.

It lies within the Doña Ana County street right-of-way, leading to a private development.


Evening, 5/6/20:

Some views of where ornamental planting meet revegetation seeding and planting on the parkway.

All of this scene except some of the medians include 100 percent native species*, which combine better than I ever imagined. That’s partly due to some very-appreciated maintenance thinking and deeds.

Plants except the seeding and median yuccas were installed from seed-grown plants as specified, which have matured mightily.

Those desert sunsets, a clean and dry finish to the day


Morning, 5/7/20:

The first view, evergreen and bold, with an openness to distant landmarks

There’s something about cool, dry mornings and low, softer light.

I think it relates to a colleague’s telling me how our thoughts and planning peak in the morning hours. Here it’s a fresh view of the expansive terrain and landmarks.

Even a few remaining Penstemon superbus are left, being colonized by Aristida purpurea. I wonder what grew in the now-open area

The Dasylirion wheeleri march on, and then the Ericameria laricifolia march along.

The blank ground under the Dermatophyllum secundiflorum ‘Silver Sierra’ mirrors the payment for my design and drafting of the pilaster-gate combo.

Rhus lanceolata adds a needed tree element.

Its mature height doesn’t violate those ever-crucial viewshed requirements throughout the greater community, including this development or my own block one half-mile away.

Hope is always important, and not only hoping what’s good about the maintenance keeps going.

Rather, I hope that the next wet period occurs during warm not cold temperatures, and the contractor doesn’t shape the Leucophyllum for at least a few weeks after. May it all coincide, so those poor shrubs enduring months of heat will blossom forth.

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