Night Effects

I smile when others “discover” garden lighting, especially subtle methods that don’t detract from night skies.

My first job out of college was being a design grunt at a firm in San Diego’s Mission Valley, in pre-AutoCAD 1989. They often used lighting, aware of its high-impact dimension in outdoor living.

What a difference, even in a new landscape.

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Forestiera neomexicana in containers, Salvia clevelandii in front

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In San Diego nearing the beaches, shade trees aren’t as necessary, and people there live outdoors all year like few others. Yet they appreciate night lighting, to extend garden time. In the high desert, even with low humidity and shading from trees and architecture, summer days outside are not so pleasant.

Then night comes, blissful except the hotter periods: that’s when garden lighting allows the landscape to be savored. Forestiera neomexicana in containers will be pruned and lifted once established, for more wow factor.

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Winter isn’t bad to enjoy lighting, either, sans the breeze.

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I must drop by as hospital staffing grows, to see how many break out on the patio. Not to mention what these Prosopis glandulosa trees will develop into, lit up at night.

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That mesquite grouping will be joined by the Yucca rostrata as they also mature.

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Yucca rostrata with Salvia clevelandii

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You may remember my former house from 1998 to 2013.

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Agave scabra with young Verbena wrightii and Salvia chamaedryoides
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Nolina greenei, with Parthenium incanum and Salvia henryi in front

I rolled over in bed awakening to this many spring mornings, sleeping all night with the sliding doors open.

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Yucca rostrata, Lavandula, Salvia greggii, Quercus fusiformis, with a potted Aloe vera that came out in the warm season

After specifying landscape lighting for a few clients who valued it, I figured I deserved it, too. Mine was low-voltage, but a quality brand – FX Luminaire.

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Of course, luminarias add to the scene, but that’s only in chilly December.

Someone once asked (challenged) me, “why light up a cactus?”

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Opuntia engelmannii with Chrysactinia mexicana

That’s why!

The purple wall probably bothered her, too.

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When trying out garden lighting, first experiment with a big box store brand to find where it will work and the effects you want, before spending more money on a higher-grade system to truly reveal your spaces.

Free advice: really, really rethink copying the “airport runway” look of path lights, which many default to.

Indirect lighting does something, not drawing attention to itself. The former provides a professional touch others will want to copy but you get to live with.

4/29/17 weather: 60 / 43 / .03

Weekend Work Recovery

Can you believe I posted on my blog again, after 15 months away?

Much has happened since, which you’ll learn in time including my move and recent employment in a different field. Recovering from a tough week at the day job by checking my design practice’s projects, to help issue substantial completion…or not! 2/18/2016 photos, El Paso TX.

Stop #1: Hospitals at Providence, Sierra Campus

That’s quite the renovation by HKS, and I really enjoyed working with them and the renovation contractor JE Dunn Construction. I’ll focus on the good this time, but maybe fill you in on a few items in need of correction, so our plans’ design intent is fulfilled.

My placement of the low garden walls helped provide spatial definition, and I only wish I would have designed them a little higher and to stop pedestrians in more places.

Availability caused some of my speficied plants to be changed…it was native Purple Threeawn and not Gulf Muhly. The yuccas were supposed to be larger, but Yucca elata rockets upward once it establishes, so I’ll stick with that. Overall, the Chihuahuan Desert was respected, even if interpreted quite a bit.

Stop #2: UTEP to Downtown, Hotel Indigo and San Jacinto Plaza area

I’m always up to seeing great designs, evesdropping on others’ designs like that last set, instead of criticizing mine. Though there was little to criticize this leg of the trip. Just inspiration galore.

On a past post, we had to enjoy drinks and excellent tacos on what turned into a sunny, spring-like afternoon. Malolam it was…some good design at the development housing them, among some major site planning screw-ups, which I posted on a while ago.

Stop #3: Hospitals at Providence, Transmountain Campus

This landscape was finished around Thanksgiving, so the various plants like Chaparral Sage, Deergrass, and Beaked Yucca are small. Much was done with a tight budget on a huge site, and I can only commend the architect HKS and the owner Tenet Health.

The general contractor Robins and Morton knows how to run a tight ship, yet with southern hospitality. Much came together with an odd blend of professionalism and stress. One of their field superintendents told me how he’s never seen such a scale of project get done in such a short time.

Our drive home was bound to be good, even if I had to work the rest of the weekend!

Have you enjoyed a day much more because you saw something inspired?

A Place to Sit

I’m in Marfa again, this time for a design symposium. I splurged for little more than this town’s boutique “hotel”, but I have lodging with immense privacy and space, which I really miss.

Curiously, the front garden area is completely walled in with my favorite landscaping must-have, built-in: the seat wall.

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restful and simple, but my design brain is revving up
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finally, a durable hipster-panel fence / gate…steel

There isn’t one plant growing around these walls; I think it needs something discrete and to shade the hot NW evening sun. (29N latitude, 5000′ elevation sun) But planted so a group can still be comfortably accommodated inside.

Possibly add a few low-key containers?

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morning has broken

Note there’s only one way into the graveled front area, via the steel gate. At 6′ tall and being a guy who wears jeans to dress up, no problem for me to hop over the seat walls.

While Marfa is informal, I would rather provide a space for the maximum types of guests. Had this been a Quercus project, I would have included 3 gaps to better access that space, each 3-4 feet wide – a pair at opposite ends of the portal (covered porch), where the lower walls meet it; the other gap stepping down, aligned with the front door.

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a new day

After seeing Brad Lancaster speak at the end of the first day, before any planting occurs, we need to first build in passive water harvesting. I haven’t seen him in years, maybe since he was hanging out with a bunch of plant nerds at my old house. Loads of free resources on that – here. (both his books are a must, though)

With an adequate depth of mulch and planted, the soil acts more like a sponge, optimizing plant root system health – just like what happens in our arroyos. Low water-use, indiginous plants coordinated with water harvesting thrive and reproduce, because that now-moister soil in the plant root zone extends cooling and moisture into dry periods, that simply doesn’t happen without it.

Caveat – the uber-minimalist direction of gardens in Marfa, or other modern gardens, need to bend some, on being kept too neat. That perfectly clean ground plane is best left for the floors inside the house; some organic matter is necessary where plants grow. I hope my former home landscape of 15 years was proof of having such a balance.

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great coffee…is there a better time of day?

With all the above in place, then we can sit back and enjoy the view and serenity just a little bit more.

This place is great to stay at, by the way. And the owner / host happens to host the Thursday night show on KRTS called Rockabilly. A fitting musical pairing from my high school days, which he and his sister play – here.