Low Light, High Impact

Checking the flowering status of Sophora on some streetscape work, I really had some excellent lighting. I remembered that S. x ‘Silver Peso’ wasn’t specified, but rather it was S. x ‘Sierra Silver’.

Photos from Picacho Mountain, celebrating daylight savings time, 3/12/2017.


north towards the development’s namesake

That’s on Anthem Road, the first area one sees before buying a lot, or returning home.

I’ll need to dig out some earlier photos, before the demise of flowering groundcovers among the agaves and some other accents. There were some good combos that are tough and reproduce madly, but not with roundup or lacking initial rabbit control.

I’ve been blamed on not using rabbit-resistant plants, no matter how explained.


Sophora x ‘Sierra Silver’, the main reason I visited

Yet these native volunteers of Aristida purpurea are appreciated and their forms left the best way between the boulders and under the Yucca faxoniana.

You may have spotted a few maintenance issues on your own by now. “Giving most landscape maintenance people your trust here is like giving whiskey and your Porsche’s keys to teenaged boys.” – my local adaption of Wasowski ala O’Rourke.


same median looking south, I’m also impressed how the wild Larrea tridentata / Creosote Bush are all left on the street sides…classy

Desert plants used well offer an understated elegance.

The low lighting really added some drama on this secondary neighborhood entry. About a half-mile away over the hills, onto Calle Vigas.


agaves and rocks just work

Agave neomexicana is also elegant – not the most interesting agave to many, since it isn’t zone-pushing, unusual, or glamorous enough. But it’s our’s, so just use it well and experiment well with it.

After a few years in my own garden I was blessed to own, I got such things right after enough cuts and flesh wounds.

Then I was free to unleash such things correctly the first time on loads of “paying projects”!


the mountain that used to be my workout hike

Looking back on the original development on Anthem Road, sunset! The Sophora there and on nearby plantings are barely blooming, just a little higher…maybe 4200′?


the orange is ongoing water main work

Looking more closely, I only wish I could bottle up the fragrance for you of each Sophora x ‘Sierra Silver’.  But I did sacrifice life and limb on these bloom close-ups versus a rather territorial carpenter bee.


Streetscape Awakens

My house hunt is starting. Per regional custom with posted hours, the open house closed almost 2 hours early, which I drove miles out of my way to see. But now there was time to spare.

Time to visit a recent landscape design – Engler Road streetscapes, taken 3/5/2017:


Soils at this site are caliche with some gravels on top, which inhibits roots from developing and limits plant choices. Hopefully the medians depressed 12″ will percolate in some extra rain water, to help.

The 20 or so Cercis canadensis var. texensis specified are now taking to dusty New Mexico.


The gloomy day didn’t help the tan tones including the shrubs in back, allowed to stay – I specified green-leafed Leucophyllum langmaniae instead of the gray L. zygophyllum that we ended up with.

Also doing well are the yuccas and grasses, somehow magically left un-shaped into balls last November when they went dormant. My maintenance plan was followed here but not everywhere in this development.

Got me!


A few Yucca rostrata punctuate the repetitive mass of Bouteloua gracilis, like the effect one gets driving those restorative stretches of open road around Marfa or Carrizozo.

It just takes a few of these accents, which will soon accent the skyline.


The yellow leaf margins on the yucca are a detail I often forget about. And the state grass of New Mexico, Blue Grama, is coming alive.


Many green shoots are responding to the ground and air temperatures warming, even if a few weeks early. With all our mountains  protecting us, my guess is even if we get one of those freak March or April snowstorms and some more freezes (our last frost date averages April 1), few or none will be hard freezes below 28F, when the serious damage occurs.


Yes, This is How It Really Looks

Many westerners brag about the sunsets; we get so many.  And more iPhone photos from my quick work trip to Las Cruces.

From just NW of Austin…..625 miles, or so :-)

Looking S and E – 

Sierra Vista trail looking S towards El Paso

I’ve mountain biked part of this trail a few times, though it’s a bit chunky and crosses many arroyos…but the 360 degree view is great, so is that I’ve seen few others riding there.

those watermelon reds on the foothills & mountains

The blue-green foliage and golden stalks of Sotol / Dasylirion wheeleri make this even better. See the young Fishhook Barrel Cactus / Ferocactus wislizenii at the bases of a pair of sotols?

There’s also no El Paso heat island! Following a 97F high hours earlier, it was already below 80 at 7:30 pm. I think that spot is 5000′ elevation, so that cooled it several degrees from in town, 1000′ lower.  Oh yeah!

plants aren’t icing on the cake, they’re part of the cake


Looking west –

about to set

Ocotillo / Fouquieria splendens all on fire

The calm was a rarity in that spot. When I would come down for work and stay overnight, I often drove up the road nearby with a cup of coffee, and just watch the stars or moon and feel the cool breeze. I sometimes take a drive to my nearby trailhead, before bed, and do the same.

A bit of solace during late nights working in my motel room, and like home away from home.

Do you have a favorite place outside for solitude?

Edit Sans Sod

This is the mid-century modern renovation and plant edit I hinted at. A day later, my grill is ready for making my Labor Day dinner; the charcoal scent is divine.

Las Cruces, 9/6/2015 –

NM plant icons preserved, pinons and yuccas

I’m glad the sizeable Piñon / Pinus edulis were protected and retained; they’re the state tree. Hopefully, some other plantings are added at the root zones without damaging any shallow roots, that can help shelter those upland pines’ roots and add some moisture via their drip irrigation.

Piñons typically occur only above 5500′ elevation this far south – this house is 4100′, over 5F warmer.

jewels were kept in the tangle of overplanting, cactus hording, etc.

I think this property was one I saw on drive-bys with fellow spiky plant fan E. Hodoba, from Valencia County. We were both in Las Cruces for a Native Plant Society annual meeting, and I recall a number of homes in this part of town loaded with great cacti and other plants – some not hardy the next zone colder in central New Mexico. Including a number of saguaro cacti, some with arms…those may have been there since the last big freezes in late 1976, I’ve been told.

I’m unsure how saguaros made it without help most winters, given the usual couple lows most winters in the low teens.

The neighbors I was visiting assured me a number of cacti and agaves on their block, and in this landscape, froze in the 2/2011 uber-freeze, never to grow back, even given months. They got to -5F or so, with nearby areas -11F.

Cow’s Tongue / Opuntia linguiformis

Some plants like that are almost perfect in appearance, including a few creosote bushes. Other plants like some sotols and Spanish brooms look stressed.

I wonder what the exterior shell of the house will turn out like. I also wonder if a more intensive planting, in diversity and density, might be added once the house exterior is finished, along the walkway and especially near the front door. Possibly a subtle water feature, and some flowering, though that’s not essential. That’s the direction I might go, given my decades in the high desert.

Then again, I also like privacy from solicitors, and I would have a low garden wall up front with a locked gate…

Not sure about a few simple, bold containers by the front breezeway…

making the house numbers a design feature

Sorry for accidentally cropping out the Fishhook Barrel Cactus / Ferocactus wislizenii in the last photo; I also meant to take some close-ups of it, as it had a bloom.

I hope you were able to relax this weekend, even if you had to work some like me.

Back to my cold SanTan Hop Shock IPA:-)

Lawnless Las Cruces 

A fast diversion, enroute to an après design charette social.

well done!

Yucca torreyi, Y. faxoniana, Opuntia subarmata, Senna wislizenii, Leucophyllum spp. star there. Effectively out-shining the gravel and river rock, as they should.

With Piece of Eden showing an array of SoCal lawnlessness (her great term), I had to join in!

My ecoregion’s climate is more harsh, so many soft succulents that thrive on the coastal slopes in California may not have a prayer here, at least year-round…we compensate with grand natives Opuntia and Yucca, plus woody desert shrubs and trees. Lawnless in the desert is often older, with less hardscape and site features than theirs. For now…


A preview up the street. Like this Dasylirion wheeleri and Yucca elata combo, holdovers from the previous front yard –

primo specimens a great idea to protect, retain

How large is that sotol? About the maximum size I see in my region, which are the largest I’ve seen anywhere.

I’m 6′ tall…Señor Sotol is 8-9′

Too bad I’m not better at selfies!

a mid-century modern redux & landscape edit

Do you go by other gardens for inspiration, to just enjoy, or both?

Drive-by Desertscapes: Las Cruces v16.8

After I finished some tasks, I remembered to drive back where I had zoomed by earlier, and get the camera out.

Musical accompanyment: Living in the USA, by the Steve Miller Band

Photos last weekend:

Sure, it’s just another hot June day, but unusually “humid” for us, thanks to two odd tropical systems dying and moving their mucky air over us for days…and still barely 100 a few times, so far.  But it made for more interesting skies than the usual June of space blue, transparent to 100+ miles.

Do you take advantage of a few extra minutes in a place you’re visiting, when you see something unusual?


Back to Las Cruces for some errands and some project monitoring! But before I got off-track on more random landscapes, I enjoyed seeing some my own design and plantings mature, near their newest golf course.

Photos 6/6/2015 –


a good day at the golf course?


the Koelreuteria paniculata clump looks vigorous and growing


Hesperaloe parviflora defines the edge…the Organ Mountains the stage set

Someone may have stolen a few Agave neomexicana plants from each median, mostly growing against the boulders, but my plans aren’t handy to verify.  I hope they were worth the effort…and they get pricked by the sharp leaf tips just enough!


still imagining a few agaves by the boulder and yucca trunk



Chrysactinia mexicana still flowering, even though it’s been hot

More damianitas, and one of the Yucca rostrata to grow above the kinetic forms of Aristida purpurea.

Do you ever see a streetscape planting where you live, and wonder who designs them? Or do you wish streetscape plantings were part of your roadway design, not just curbs and paving? Do you ever have other ideas that might look better but not cost more?

While I am one who does the first, the other two questions are often on my mind.