Forms and Feel

Plants are crucial to gardens and landscapes distinctive of their place, not just anywhere. Tight budgets and extremes in winter and summer inform my bias towards species providing impact year-round.

That impact isn’t fleeting flowering, though I try to incorporate that too.

Photos from June 2015 in Boulder City, Nevada. You mean you don’t visit landscapes you designed when it’s 110F?

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by the main doors, where visitors park

This softens the view out into the blazing Mojave Desert light, even though each Larrea tridentata isn’t growing the same, identical way.

I can’t wait to see the Yucca brevifolia ssp. jaegeriana grow more.

Here, budget limited the plant quantities needed to create flowering masses I like, as did the jackrabbit population and the nature of federal facility maintenance.

Summer is their 2nd dormant season, so little would flower in June, anyway.

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I wasn’t given notice to place those agaves more per plans, but the clearances to the various panels and lights should still work out

Ocahui / Agave ocahui are the agaves, spaced about 25-30% too far apart, but who’s counting except me?

My plans specified native Agave utahensis, but this is close enough given availability. Plus the Mojave is parallel to Ocahui’s home in the Chihuahuan Desert, only the reversed wet seasons and some extra dryness.

And notice, no grasses. In Mojave Desert shrub communities, grasses are uncommon ephemeral plants in washes, if at all, below 4,000′.

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a good marriage of industrial metal, edgy agaves, and rock mulch color

Unlike my days of travel between here and Albuquerque, driving isn’t as much of an option from Las Cruces. That makes it hard for what I wanted to also do, even if for my own pictures…bring loppers and hand pruners for a few plants in need.

Thanks for accompanying me to one last, lingering wrap-up post from an old trip to Reclamation’s Green Building in southern Nevada.

Color Spots

I like any garden style – when thought-out, appropriate to its location (with little input), and not done because it’s popular (no grounding or conviction). Many can pick out the latter…no thanks.

But there’s something about classics, which always fit and look good, transcending trends or fads. Fashion.

Great bones, simplicity, and just the right amount of color from Marfa TX –

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roof, chairs…and the dreaded duo of desert phobes…

Cactus and yuccas. Oh no…and “the children”!

Seriously, this place uses the southern coastal Spanish Bayonet / Yucca aloifolia and native Spineless or Cacanapa Prickly Pear / Opuntia ellisiana. The former is named appropriately and has the sharpest leaf tip of anything I know of, but it’s smaller size provides a more tropical effect…the latter is almost cliche here, but I still like it.

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chairs, roof, and a gray Leucophyllum spp. vs. green Rosmarinus officianalis
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Mescal Agave / A. neomexicana nested in (cliche) feathergrasses

Marfa is clearly of the surrounding Chihuahuan desert grassland. Understated, yet grand.

Color too, and not just whites (the sum of all colors), used discretely as opposed to a floral print.

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green is a color too, more Opuntia ellisiana as a hedge
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hidden tile bench, Blue Nolina / Nolina nelsonii
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bluish form of Beaked Yucca / Yucca rostrata…flaming red of Anisacanthus quadrifidus var. wrightii, Vauquelinia corymbosa var. angustifolia behind

Want to come here, and just walk around with your camera? I can relate…

Renting Mid-Century San Diego

Just inside USDA Zone 10a [coastal Southern California] / Sunset Zone 24 [room temperature often], lies this apartment complex. I often drove by it when I lived in San Diego 25 years ago, going to my nearby aunt’s / uncle’s home, or a friend’s bachelor pad. I never paid it another look, except to get through Clairemont and their often marginal areas quickly.

How I’ve changed my thinking about Mid-Century Modern architecture, which I mostly disliked then. Or anything that fell into disrepair in need of renovation. Now I see the great bones – including plants.

Plus, I was born near the end of the Mid-Century period, and I’m heading towards a mid-century age. How time flies…

Photos from my vacation in mid-January 2014 –

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the original sign…nice detail on these walls…

This is where minor pruning of the tree, to see the sign better, would make all the difference in the world. I think it’s a Carrotwood, but I may be wrong…if so, that’s an invasive in some areas.

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Yucca elephantipes and Tecoma stans var. stans…blooming in January!

Such flowering, but they had a warm winter. It was also a dry winter, and the media has covered their uber-drought. That part of San Diego, though not as hot as further inland, only averages 9″ of rain / year and most in winter – they are up to 2.90″ for 2014. They depend on water from the few watersheds in the mountains to the east, plus the Colorado River.

All are good reasons to renovate using low water-use native and adapted plants, while protecting the existing palm root zones from drying out.

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but on the ground, we have some issues, starting with red lava rock mulch…

A neutral-toned mulch, inorganic or organic depending on additional plants desired, would really go further. Then again, so would some additional, suitable plantings.

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a general lack of upkeep, large rocks that need to be re-set…
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wood railings very nice, but replacing with steel in a similar pattern would last indefinitely…

In some markets, this type of place with such architecture, but add interesting hardscape to existing planting bones – and 10 minutes from legendary beaches and countless local amenities – would be renovated and priced into the stratosphere. Not that San Diego is cheap, but somehow this spot is escaping such gentrification.

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gentle re-grading could allow the edges along the stepped walk to go away, allowing a cleaner look…
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mini-jungles using palm groves always make a lush interior space…

It would be great to form a quality design-build team, then get paid to renovate a number of details on this property – architecture to the site, grading, water harvesting, and landscape! But in a way that present renters are not priced out of their homes. I would certainly be game.

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no clue what this is  a mature Finger Tree / Euphorbia tirucalli looks like an undersea plant…that blue sky… (thanks for the ID, Forest and Laurin!)
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one of a few Cereus peruvianus…
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quite happy…so was I, that perfect last day in San Diego…
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the grand finale…the interior space…what bones to work with

That grouping of stately, huge “cacti” looks like yet another Euphorbia for milder places than mine…but there just perfect to work around. (yes, I said work-around:-)

This space implies some low walls, part paving and part sandy beach to relax on in more style. I’m also picturing complimentary plantings, mostly a mix of xeric flowering plants – including locally native species – and varying heights of succulents.

Since it’s San Diego, with Palomar Observatory not far away, dark night sky laws will negate the idea of uplighting of the palms can occur. But more modest changes are all that may be needed here?

What do you think?