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.

Yuccas and Rock

After 23 years living in the desert southwest, if a person despises rough terrain and spiky plants, they may wish to move along.

After all, that’s what endures here –

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a yucca, rock for mulch, sideoats for grass

I’ve only grown to embrace, not resist, such challenges as something to inform a simpler, more appealing aesthetic for outdoor living. Regard.

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yuccas and rocks…add sotol, damianitas and a live oak clump

If you remember some of my past projects, a trick employed is to plant (2-3) – 15 gallon or 24″ box trees like Quercus fusiformis together in a wide hole, root balls touching. Those and many desert trees grow in clumps in the wild.

So, why not the same look in our built landscapes…without waiting years for that to develop from a single, tiny tree?

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even large rocks – limestone boulders

Do you have any stories of landscapes and gardens using common plants, even called weedy, but used well?

Sage + BBQ

When it comes to shrubs, it’s often refreshing to see native or adapted plants in a landscape with little to no maintenance. Such is the case of a planting near my office.

Caution: such neglect doesn’t work with trees; thoughtful pruning and training when young, less with age, helps reveal their benefits.

Scenes from 10/2014 and 1/2015 –

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Leucophyllum frutescens in fall, ample room to grow unpruned

While some flowering shrubs can erupt after over-pruning during a milder, wet period during the monsoon season, that’s the exception – don’t count on it.

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one of many blooms

This is the most basic Texas Sage – AKA Cenizo or Texas Ranger – one of many in that genus used to cover larger areas and with little irigation, even in most desert climates. It’s native mostly to the South Texas ecoregion with an odd mix of oppressive summer humidity and borderline aridity. So, it takes insane levels of heat, but a decent amount of cold; even Albuquerque and Roswell winters are not too cool for this Leucophyllum.

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this gray-leaved species and varieties are a bit dull and thin in winter

But in this post, I’m concerned more with the advantages gained by planning and planting a shrub, to reach maturity without over-pruning, needless shaping or shearing. We have a long way to go there.

No one has covered this most-important topic of productive vs. counter-productive shrub pruning, so enjoy AZ Plant Lady’s posts – here.

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no blooms and the foliage more sparse

Being chilly after seeing some winter-dormant, silvery sages, I had to get something warm to eat before returning to work. Off to Tony’s The Pit BBQ, for one of our few different types of barbecue sold in El Paso.

And for a reader in Boise, who sounds like he’s missing out –

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I ordered the shredded brisket

Sliced is their usual way to serve up a brisket sandwich, but this is new to their menu. So, I had to try it…

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I asked for some burnt ends, for extra flavor
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after some sauce, they add a touch of medium green chile

This might not go over well with many folks, since Texas brisket is supposed to be served with sauce optional in some circles. And certainly not green chile.

But, not in El Paso, where many happily add anything spicy to food…this is where jalapenos and chiles meet. Possibly the most concentrated chile-growing region in North America begins under 10 miles from downtown El Paso. And everyone here wants you to make sure and eat their salsa.

This was more juicy, messy, and bolder in flavor than their sliced original.

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stepping back in time here
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two vaqueros, and what do you know?

They’re pictured riding through Yucca elata and Agave lechuguilla…can it get any more local?

I’ll close with an excerpt from Mean as Hell, a spoken-word by Johnny Cash –

The red pepper grows upon the banks of the brook
The Mexican use it in all that he cook
Just dine it with one of ’em and you’re bound to shout
I’ve Hell on the inside as well as the out…”

Sound like a familiar place? Make sure to read the legendary Man in Black’s entire piece, though. With brisket, or whatever good BBQ you can find.

Perfect, as you ponder not taking the wild out of the west, or it’s shrubs.