Kierland Commons Walkabout

Kierland Commons is a pleasant, mixed-use development in North Scottsdale, a few blocks walk from my peaceful summer condo residence. Its pleasant feel is based in large part on great landscape and hardscape elements for such a space in the desert.

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Phoenix dactylifera at a key intersection, classic.

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Plus, we’re in the Phoenix metro.  Like coincidences and analogous climates? Then, compare the climates of Scottsdale, US and Baghdad, Iraq. The latter only lacks a late summer monsoon.

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Sensible shade, native and adapted species, and mostly southwestern or at least arid-region forms. No silly gesturing to dissimilar places.

I have no idea if the varied shade structures were part of the original design or added later, but my guess is the latter given some planters look to be suffering from shade.

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There’s less climate / desert denial and more horticultural / design savvy seen here or in the Valley of the Sun than that place 6 hours NE. (into tucking temperature-hardy but thirsty plants into the most horridly hot spots under overhangs or against walls, then blaming their failure on “cold”)

Hence my guess; designers here tend to get plantsmanship and design principles.

Many people walking in the cool of the morning like me still choose the shady side, under a combination of built and grown shade.

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Great shirts, by the way…little at Kierland for the guys.

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See how this works…built and grown shading? Always a challenge in limited rooting areas and dense development patterns, but this met the challenge.

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I remember when Kierland was first being developed on a (long) past Mountain States’ landscape architect conference. Streets disecting Sonoran Desert with spare creosote bushes and palo verdes, or bladed land. There were even a few stands of Ericameria nauseosa on a nearby (former) arroyo, unusual at this low, 1400 foot elevation.

Now, it’s all built up and a great place to walk, only 2 blocks from my condo for the summer.

 

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Their large container plantings are a mixed bag, but the thought was there. This is a good specimen of Texas Mountain Laurel / Dermatophyllum secundiflorum, which loves alkaline soils and limestone rock. It does well in the Valley.

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Yet the bougainvilleas are sheared into submission and look like they will never grow overhead. Are there concerns of possible damage from their aggressive growth and weight on the shade canopies? If not, what a waste.

If the shade structures are able to support such woody vines, their walkways would be greatly complimented by carefully-pruned bougainvillea branches covered in brilliant flowers.

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This is not a problem as much as a proactive lesson to those not used to the desert’s high alkalinity in the water…calcium deposits from irrigated containers requires maintenance to avoid staining hardscape.

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Good use of paving patterns here, again, from stencils or some sort of repeated formwork.

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I ate here finally, though the menu is a bit too SoCal for my tastes. But my carne asada tacos were well-prepared – healthy and tasty.

What drew me in? The care to provide an attractive landscape of part hardscape and part plantings, and here…SHADE from a ramada!

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Some don’t like their random planting of too many spikes; I’m on the fence, but I tend to side with them. My 2 Bay Area sisters did like it, so perhaps regional differences or just my design snobbery!

I think everyone likes this fresh manner of tilework on the garden wall.

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To me, this is refreshing with cool, coastal colors that contrast where I’m from in New Mexico (or Arizona), the dry land with most-every wall in beige or tan stucco.

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Still good if I could adjust a few plants, though the Sticks on Fire / Euphorbia tirucalli seem too close.

And we know what happens, when the usual landscape maintenance crews in the Desert Southwest see overplanted landscapes, as they start to grow in…

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7/8/19 weather:
105F / 76F / 0.00 or 41c / 24c / .00

Roadtrip: Sidetracked as Always

Even on a fast trip where time is everything, I try to seek out some inspiration in nature or a garden space.

Some young Agave americana were planted in a squarish bed of Nasella tenuissima, as I awaited a homemade donut from a brand new restaurant next door to this Marfa planting.

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When visiting that town only every several months like I do, there’s often a new restaurant open but a couple more closed.

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Tucked into a corner on my Friday walk to stops on “Made in Marfa” and a couple more rare Judd installation viewings…

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The Chihuahuan Desert doesn’t lack in Opuntia species any more than it lacks in yuccas and ocotillos. This is a form of Opuntia macrocentra, with pad tops in red-purple and shorter, gray spines.

It’s clearly Opuntia macrocentra. Many people in El Paso and Las Cruces cannot tell O. macrocentra apart from many other cacti such as O. camanchica or O. phaecantha. Just like many panic, because they cannot discern bullsnakes from rattlesnakes!

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Annuals like Cosmos are seeded into some challenging planters, but really cheer up cloudy days. Other places with equally narrow planting areas use grasses like this regional native Muhlenbergia emersleyi.

Why not xeric, native grasses on the Chihuahuan desert grassland?

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That is, instead of habitual, mesic eastern or European grasses as nondescript places do, like Denver or Denver-wannabe, Albuquerque. Yep – I speak the truth, as a former Denver and Albuquerque resident.

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Spring and Fall blooming Yucca recurvifolia, planted in…a squarish area of Nasella tenuissima. Certain folks would say this is “well curated”. Not I, since I at least speak US English, not English-du jour..

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And finally one of this small group of trees, which are about the tallest Sapindus drumondii specimens I’ve ever seen.

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Back to an SLR Camera

I had a 35 mm SLR film camera decades ago, but I’ve used handheld film or handheld digital cameras since at least 2001.

I tried out my new digital SLR camera this past week.

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Then from my front patio, without and with the zoom lens.

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Yes, my neighbor developed a brand or logo for her home, a stylized version of our local three crosses icon. It even appears on her flagstone address number plaque.

That hazy day, El Paso’s Franklin Mountains loom just inside the Texas border, 35 miles away.

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Part of this new camera will be my re-learning techniques such as depth of field, in order to take better photos of my work and what inspires my work. I took a quick tour of my favorite project near my home to critique aspects of.

I’ll try not to scare you with the bad maintenance. Again, no zoom and zoom.

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Recently seeing Danger Garden’s images of Agave neomexicana at one of her local nurseries, those in Oregon look healthier than here, though they grow natively on most of our hills. So, our “dry heat” can be overrated!

At least we don’t have a chance at developing SAD, and the light for photos is amazing.

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At the entry, the zoom lens reproduces what I see exiting the development. Though it also shortens the close-in view, causing the houses to appear closer than in reality. This is where using depth of field might help on sharpness through the view.

Many Yucca faxonianaDasylirion wheeleri, Agave parryi, and Nolina greenei forms going solo, with softening blooms and smaller plants long ago dying or removed. Their green really stands out and brings welcome life in winter dormancy.

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“Design for summer, and your garden looks good in summer. Design for February, and your garden looks good all year.” – Tara Dillard

The usual brown tips on foliage are evident on many plants (i.e. winters’ freezes and summers’ legendary “dry heat”), blurring to the left and further back.

Changing my SLR camera’s depth of field would sharpen all plants as they recede in this mass. Which is what one sees without a camera.

The structure of that mass facing exiting drivers works as intended, not forming a hard wall. It affords home properties a gentle buffer west towards the development, yet preserving driver views exiting the development, east into the valley and beyond to the Organ Mountains.

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2/20/18 weather: 5835 / .00″