Mesilla Valley, Pre-Monsoon Edition

Returning home from a hike and relaxing lunch, I stopped at our local state park to see it in warmer weather than my last visit.

Locals say in the 1980s this was farms or vacant, abused land.

Salix exigua / Coyote Willow lines the banks of the Rio Grande.

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Some areas away from the river are Atriplex and other saline soil-tolerant plants, plus invasive species that are not easy to eradicate. Other areas have been restored, the native revegetation efforts taking over the weeds – cottonwoods in scattered groves, seepwillows, and sacaton grasses included.

Anemopsis californica / Yerba de Mansa is the star out front, with lush but minty foliage and white flowers beckoning butterflies. Of course it has gentle healing properties, too.

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Prosopis pubescens / Screwbean Mesquite is coming back, whose abundance is a sign of a healthy riparian area in the Chihuahuan Desert.

 

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The entry to the visitor’s center is part of a young allee of that oft-forgotten riparian native, Juglans major / Arizona Walnut.

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And those nicely-carved canales, to drain this roof once it rains again.

Low Down

Water runs downhill, so look to the right side of this photo. The planted and naturalized areas offer proof.

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Another person just told me how “it’s not a good idea to plant in ponding areas and drainage swales.” Like this:

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I bet my person would find that acceptable, if only the weeds were herbicided. It’s even a historic plaza on El Camino Real.

As a designer who values enduring aspects of history or nature, that basin would be much better with native arroyo trees filling in and softening all the gravel plaza area behind it. Human and wildlife habitat.

These basins in my decade-old design were perfect for the latter, on the right side of the first photo and now below.

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Prosopis pubescens L, Celtis reticulata R / distant, some grasses and Atriplex canescens

I’m not sure all the grasses specified and installed in the pond bottoms made it, but some did. Most of the unirrigated native trees made it.

Xeric trees were specified, typical of settings getting deluged then staying dry, yet the deluge elevates soil moisture enough for long-term tree growth…similar to what’s observed in many of our arroyos.

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Trees were planted from smaller sizes than is regional convention. No irrigation was used in the basin, except DriWater or water truck applications the first year. That same idea was used in other basins in the same development, with similar success.

Soil: sandy loam or gravelly sand, which allows water and roots to develop deeply.

6/14/17 weather: 100 / 60 / 0.00

My Winter Walk-Off: Las Cruces, 2017

I’m late!

This Las Cruces spring may have begun in January. We shared neighboring El Paso’s warmest December-February in over 100 years of records. 2 weeks actually felt like winter, 2 days here and there – little winter to walk off.

Here’s what I saw on my block Saturday 3/18/2017, 84F and no humidity:

But how about this backdrop of floating mountains…every day I drive to work.

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A good example of Pueblo Revival architecture, and her metal work of our town’s three cross symbol is a contemporary take on tradition.

My neighborhood is mostly retired midwesterners of a different cloth than the retirees in my former ABQ hood. The plants speak loudly.

My spread-out neighborhood was developed in the 1980’s on desert sand hills immediately above the fertile Rio Grande Valley, where chiles, pecans, onions, and cotton rule. Though Las Cruces is the 2nd largest town in New Mexico, outside downtown and the Mesilla Plaza it is of a rural to suburban scale.

Always with those jagged Organ Mountains, which often resemble a western movie backdrop.

Fouquieria splendens is about to burst forth with red blooms.

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In my travels the consistently tallest and fullest Ocotillo grow between about 2000-4500 feet in the high deserts. Like here.

Onward –

There are less palms in my neighborhood than many, though there are still plenty. The ever-tough Washingtonia filifera are the most common.

Among the vernacular rock walls in town, some are mortared a little better. Definitely not the craftsmanship here to emulate the amazing dry stack walls typical in, say, New England. But this dry-look mortared garden wall isn’t shabby.

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Less fettered by brown stucco and Pueblo Revival styles than where I lived in ABQ, there are some good Desert Contemporary designs here.

Even if a bit neglected.

FYI – this neighborhood, like many others in this price range in my region of the US, have NO walkability. Every day I see residents walking along the curbs, in competition with speeding contractor trucks, drivers texting, and so on.

Any sidewalks are usually just the frontage of 1 or 2 houses, in hopes of more.

Good thing my neighbors are alert, though most are 60+ years old. I also enjoy that the majority are friendly and sophisticated, and it’s only 10 minutes of rural driving to work.

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The last few houses…

Imagine this contemporary Pueblo style house, but with plantings used well.

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The circle of vegetation was retained for my neighbors and I, plus our cluster mailbox. The house I’m renting has the white garage door, and the small mountain behind me is 4900’+ Picacho Mountain. I smile each time I see it.

Before the summer monsoon rains made the access road off limits to my Toyota Corolla, I hiked up it many times.

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That’s as close as you get to my house, which has no garden anyway!

Here’s a link to others’ winter walk-offs and Les’ blog post, which I missed. but he might not be doing a winter walk-off post?