Memorial in May

This is one of three El Paso hospitals I worked on with HKS, in that 2014 to 2016 whirlwind of renovations and new construction for Tenet Healthcare: The Hospitals of Providence Memorial Campus.

It looks great in evening light or even at night, but I also must stop by for a look in the early morning.


Years later, this project is in ongoing maintenance. It’s great to see the solo Parkinsonia x ‘Desert Museum’ full and in bloom, without any topping or chopping.

I hope to encourage some gentle pruning of low and crossing interior branches. It’s all that’s needed!

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Hopefully, I can also get the masses of Bouteloua gracilis grasses to be cut back to the ground instead of mounded, leaving stubble, and only every few years – not annually. There’s no need to do more, as has been done.

The green form of Leucophyllum spp. is being left to grow naturally. A victory!

More than one person I know was either born at this hospital or received care here, and I hope this revives any feelings of care received.

Too bad the seat walls along the sidewalk along Oregon Street were deleted from the contract. Now with the bus lines and landscaping, even without enough trees, those would provide a resting stop walking between the bus, streetcar, or just up the long incline to UTEP.

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I’m just not used to seeing this and other hospitals with hardly any people parked out front or in the parking lot like our post-March 2020 mayhem about COVID-19. Since the saying is how everyone is “sheltering in place”.

Of course, the artist’s sculpture trees look good, too, especially without a few more pesky trees from my original design, which would have somehow blocked their visibility from the street…

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5/15/20 weather:
87F / 55F / 0 or 31c / 13c / 0 

Inspiration: Las Cruces – Alpine – Marfa

What a great time! It started with a hike and ended with a drive, and there were more than a few stops. There’s usually landscape inspiration if you know what to look for.

Photos from Feb. 14-15, 2020:

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I shared one of my 3-times-weekly hikes with Gayle: a few national monument trails behind the neighborhood. Soft, gentle sand in the arroyos, firmly packed desert pavement on level areas, and slight elevation gains between the arroyos and my car.

In late winter, one can see the legibility found in good design. Green vs. dormant, negative space vs. mass, and flowers-optional.

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Always a surprise. Flowers on this old cactus clump this summer!

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A quick link from Kevin in Sweden on how creosote bush isn’t poisonous to many species including cacti or grasses, a common misconception in my state, perpetuated by range science courses and those who believe deserts are just dry holes in some vast grassland.

Countless examples occur around the Chihuahuan Desert.

It’s an easier, more fulfilling choice to learn from such examples of companion plants, than to be a contrarian.

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A few hours later, the serene hike then chaotic El Paso driving are far behind. The annual Valentine in Valentine event must require a 4 pm arrival to get the secret code, so we checked out something I drive by almost every trip to that area.

Pictures were taken but were not needed at that event.

Since this faux boutique’s commissioners are ignoring their original mission – something like ‘decay back to the earth from which adobe is made’ – I choose to return its name to the place it’s actually near, 1 mile away. Prada Valentine!

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After another 40 minutes on the road and no deer carnage, it’s Marfa! Even a coffee roaster has a mini gallery in their lobby to enjoy some artists’ works.

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That was followed by a refreshing Ranch Water drink from the Capri, a block away. The Capri stop was about the best experience in their town this trip: hospitality, atmosphere, or patronage.

But we were on the way to a serene room in another town, Alpine. It’s larger yet more like a small town.

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It was even more welcoming than that photo implies. Seriously deep sleep in southwestern comfort, only to shower, dress, and walk out into this light and scene! 

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A good coyote fence / step railing detail to employ some day

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Who tires of native plants when bold specimens are not just regional but local natives? Only those without their desert eyes on.

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I’ve learned that July 2013 in downtown Alpine was a “month of murals”, including these below showing their sense-of-place.

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Wild west serenity

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Now, we’re back in Marfa by daylight, when one can see it.

That after the usual start following my last visit a year earlier. “What happened to that restaurant?”, or “they were open as of 2 days ago on Instagram, so what’s with the ‘for sale’ sign?”, or …

Gayle and I found an OK breakfast where I’ve had great lunches other times. Then, a few blocks away to join our breakfast burritos, excellent coffees were had from a refreshingly quiet Frama.

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Chinati! Here one can see and be inspired more each visit. It’s a special place and always great to escape all the vibe-seeking from trendy visitors that much of Marfa has become.

Gladly, the opposite personalities are also found, if one knows where to look.

Pre-Covid-19 by a month, there are still so few people.

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Unfinished projects, too

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For now, interior photos from several buildings are posted…I’ll probably delete these. Deleted!

You can visit the Chinati Foundation website for Dan Flavin’s work – here

Walking towards other works… Judd’s 100 Works in Mill Aluminum are different each visit. In the light of thickening cloud cover, it’s subdued into almost black and white.

Just don’t use “sculpture”, or “minimalist” or “reductive” art to describe his works. Judd didn’t like such terms for his specific objects.

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From the enclosed to the expansive, Judd’s 15 Works in Concrete

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Waves, repetition…get it? That’s only the start. I don’t know how many times I’ve seen these works, always with a mindset that’s open to learning more.

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That distant row of trees has me pondering what species were there before being choked out by volunteers of that invasive non-native Siberian elm. They line the arroyo that soon joins in with Alamito Creek.

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It reminds me of similar areas on the great plains, especially where those lower into the prairies east of the famous 100 degree meridian. Those have elm, hackberry, walnut, cottonwood, and even some redbud.

No clue what once grew here


Before the 4 hour drive back to Las Cruces, we walked the area just beyond the Presidio County Courthouse for glimpses of the iconic water tower and some of their architectural entropy.

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Marfa has even more examples of entropy than where I live.

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Plus, well-tended properties

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Hopes for the present and future

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Earlier and then later in the day, this spot always shines. The row planting of Desert Candle / Dasylirion leiophyllum by Chinati’s Chamberlain building proves that mass and abstraction with a space is powerful.

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As opposed to, “Who needs so many plants of one species. I mean twenty?” – nameless and without her desert eyes on.

In line with the above quote, our attempt to catch a good, pre-return drive meal and drink failed miserably. Photos for that are unnecessary to post, too.


The drive back including the seemingly endless sunset were too good to photograph!

Checking out Hospital #5

Over my career, I did landscape designs on several hospitals in El Paso and Albuquerque. The last design in this post may be my favorite, and I’m enjoying it grow in.

Photos from 2/13/20. Picking up my friend at the train station, I enjoyed one of El Paso’s many architectural gems and an established Live Oak / Quercus X virginiana:

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Hurrying back to my home for the sunset, it’s The Hospitals of Providence, Transmountain Campus, starting at the entry portico.

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The late sunlight caught the grouping of natives; a foothills Bull Muhly / Muhlenbergia emersleyi with the oft-used, Big Bend accent Beaked Yucca / Yucca rostrata.

There was no ability to include passive water harvesting (aka bioswales or rain gardens back east) or many site planning innovations when the architects and us other team members began work; the civil engineering design was mostly complete by then.

But we did get to use gray water, and learn a few unexpected things with plants that take that treated water along the way. Those plants weren’t included in a decade-old study since they weren’t available and tested.

Chihuahuan Desert ecoregion native plants were heavily used.

At the ER parking area, more space with less visibility concerns exist. More Beaked Yucca were specified, to take advantage of the expansive desert skies, while a green ‘Rio Bravo’ Texas Sage / Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’ was massed as an informal hedge.

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The compact showpiece of Artichoke Agave / Agave parryi ssp. truncata was used near intersections, to allow greater visibility and interest at those key locations.

Too bad I can’t transplant some of the pups and fill in some gaps…

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Across the way, more of the same plants unify that area’s overall effect. This will also will provide some skyline accent with the sky and view of the Franklin Mountains.

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I hope to visit other portions of this landscape as it warms up to see other areas and spring growth before summer. It will need to be done in covert fashion, since there’s now a requirement with this facility and others like it to get written authorization for photos and for one time, only.

That’s the meeting of post-9/11 security meets proprietary ownership, and this is private property.

My other hope is that post-Covid-19 protocols will not further prohibit the ability to enjoy and document landscape treatments. That’s a possibility, but perhaps being reasonable will once again rule.