Associates Part 1

I take notice of plant groupings growing in the same spot with identical conditions. Yet when it’s time to design, I rarely apply any of that.

Architecture, busy-ness, and dealing with client realities / curveballs take over.

I wish that wasn’t so. This is from a 9/2017 trip to the Big Bend, between Lobo and Valentine in Texas.

Another rest area in the middle of nowhere with a large yucca…


Yucca faxoniana / Palm or Faxon Yucca, at least 20′ tall.


And what else?

And a gentle reminder, this won’t look 50% as good without the yucca.


Do you ever take advantage of groupings in the wild, then create areas in your garden around those groupings? How successful are they?

I’m already thinking of a simple way to use the above plants in a purposed design for a typical space, where we can’t rely on miles of expansive scenery. I might share a sketch or two of that soon.


Hot Date in Vegas – Pt. 2

Back to Reclamation’s Date Street Campus, their first project I designed with TSK.

Building 1400, the Lower Colorado Regional Office or just “the Green Building”, the landscape was on a *tight* budget thanks to the design-build process. A success thanks to all: owner to design team to the desert.

What worked? From Boulder City NV, too hot on 6/24/2015 –

front, E of the building entrance (S facing)

The plants were chosen for tight spaces, the creosote bushes providing green and visibility out the windows via the open forms; the building can shine.

Varied rock sizes act as mulch, like desert pavement does in the wild.

Some promising information on this odd agave hybrid, whose parentage had me questioning its toughness to high desert locales – here.

Onto one of the two largest planting areas on that property, this one including a small water harvesting tank. I might share more on the sides, rear and water harvesting tank another time.

front corner, heading to the W side (W facing)

The larger spaces allow near-native Teddybear Cholla / Cylindropuntia biglovii, plus native Catclaw Acacia / Acacia greggii, White Bursage / Ambrosia dumosa, with creosotes and Joshuas. The wildflower seeding in the swale is dormant now, so I’ll have to check it out in the spring.

With half the rain El Paso gets, it’s very arid; the LEED Gold certification attained on this project severely limits irrigation. Looking at the mountains, one can see why I use “Martian” to describe their land.

Do you ever wonder what your plantings would look like, if you could only use drip irrigation to establish, then hand watering afterwards in drought?

Native Structure

I enjoy seeing the use of native plants to an area when designed to abstract patterns in nature. Those patterns come out of the common processes of land most anywhere, plus each space’s architecture.

Many areas of Texas use plants well with a space’s architecture, native or not.

Photos from Austin TX and nearby, 3/18 to 21/2015 –

look to your left, down the small woodland path
a potted Sabal mexicana…can’t do this with only soft, loose plants or crazy color quilts…even if you pay me loads of money and ask kindly :-)

Looking out onto the semi-arid sub-humid (southern) prairie.

a mass of local Yucca rupicola and the view

Sidebar: in a similar pattern of temperatures and atmosphere, for Austin to be something else, it’s long-term average might read like this –
semi-arid = 12″ – 24″ of precipitation (Ozona)
arid = under 12″… (Van Horn…but a different atmosphere)
humid = over 36″… (Houston)
Austin’s average and more years than not receive 30″, mas o menos. Smack dab in the middle of sub-humid.

Juniperus virginiana, Liquidambar styraciflua, etc all native but formalized

Not that I like their change of this space to ground glass, but it does help people visualize before going overboard on a passing fad. (at least most ground glass installs, which are poorly-done)

some would not have allowed such a thing, but perhaps since Lady Bird was behind the whole place… (as opposed to little me)
I just appreciate how all the hardscape and planting design works…Yucca rupicola and Melampodium leucanthum included
clipped Ilex vomitoria helps the cut-back, early spring perennials…without those and the axial layout, it would be lame and lifeless all winter

A return home via Fredericksburg netted something stunning – not exactly native, but adapted – from the ecoregions adjacent to the central Texas prairies, wetter and drier sides. Mas or menos

a rhythm of Agave parryi var. truncata among subshrubs, and a linear grove of Prunus caroliniana

Do you wonder why native plantings or xeriscapes can look visually unappealing, even if filled with good native or adapted plants?

I wondered, so I now strive to design with more thought.

Great gardens aren’t only about massing, but they can involve other design principles such as repetition, or just making that which thrives and is native as the majority – not the freak.