Stunning Verticals

While I rely on ample evergreen plants in my 2 dormant season climate, I also rely on contrast. Light / shadow, soft / sharp.

These recent scenes should help illustrate why.


My Saturday breakfast ritual, as near-native Nolina microcarpa tangles its coarse foliage into adapted (?) Echinopsis species from South America and Astrophytum species from deep in Mexico.


Gray concrete container, dark brown wall in the shade, bright green, and intense spination.


On a hazy day with pesky high clouds clearing later, the 8 foot Cylindropuntia imbricata looks formidable.



Road run-off and time for Yucca faxoniana near Valentine TX. A year later, needless effort by TxDOT. It’s hard to look at that.

With chlorophyll production halted on an old yucca, I hope it recovers.


That Agave salmiana or A. ferox row in Marfa compensated.  The background a clean-up chore for some new, starry-eyed property owners.


Back home, native Dasylirion wheeleri in its winter look at an old development entry project.

Are three better than one?

Do blue-green and spiky add interest on a blah day, with winter’s hills of creosotes in olive-drab?



3/3/18 weather:
75F36F / .00″ or 24c / 2c / .00 mm


Winter Interest: Arizona Rosewood

Though we skipped winter this year, like 2016-17 but with a more normal, dry moisture regime, the high desert always has some winter dormancy. Even the bluegrass fairways aren’t so green with many hard freezes at night and a handful of lows in the teens.

But do you see anything in the distance?

A green, shrubby, and dwarf tree or two?


Not the olive-green Creosote Bush or assorted cacti and yuccas.

That’s the fairly-common and almost bullet-proof, Arizona Rosewood / Vauquelinia californica. I prefer mine pruned up to perform as a small evergreen tree in tight areas, but I’m not sure of this person’s accompanying landscape.

This looks good, too, and both stand at least 15 feet tall.


When I move, I’ll likely miss my glimpse of 4,950 foot Picacho.


This rosewood thrived in many landscapes others and I designed back in that other place 3 hours north as it does here. It needs some winter moisture to supplement the summer monsoon season, and it has 2 related species that to me look more refined – Vauquelinia corymbosa var. angustifolia and almost tree-like Vauquelinia corymbosa var. heterodon.

All Vauquelinia species enjoy the moderate temperatures of USDA zones 7a to 8b, between about 3,000 and 6,500 feet elevation in the southwest. The coldest climate I’ve seen V. californica grow decently in is the east side of Santa Fe; the couple ones in Denver look horrible.

I’ll let you look up the long, serrated and evergreen foliage and other attributes.

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.


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


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.


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.


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.


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.


“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.


2/20/18 weather: 5835 / .00″