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.


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.


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.


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.


The last few houses…

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



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.


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?


In many commercial and home landscapes the rest of us design – without a lofty budget, horticulturists to maintain, not enough or too much irrigation, and other limitations – some design elements remain in spite.

Why not learn what those are? Then, before finishing the design, go back and edit it down to what’s necessary.

I hear this technique called reductionism, and anyone can do it.

the Dion’s architect provided me colors and finishes for building and roofing…

As this project was installed just over 6 months ago, and it’s been summer since the end of May, there are more plantings than obvious in the foreground on the slope and basin…just wait until next May.

Yucca pallida, in drivers’ eye-level raised planters, colored walls…

A designer knows he has achieved perfection not when there is nothing left to add, but when there is nothing left to take away. – Antoine de Saint-Exupery. Yes, that Antoine de Saint-Exupery, of The Little Prince.

Steve Martino’s term, “walls and weeds”…

An ordinary waste space of a drive-through lane; just add some thought.

After all, people sit in their air conditioned cars and trucks, idling in these lanes for several minutes, so why not a garden for them?

more room, more morning sun, same Y. pallida…and an overstory of a single Yucca faxoniana…brown wall for a backdrop…
flowering OK too, in the right place

We’ll see how long that mass of Orange Globemallow / Sphaeralcea munroiana lasts, or is tolerated, since it doesn’t yet have pop-culture appeal.

I figured since various, local globemallows grow in waste spaces against curbs or paving in sand and clay, no matter how hot, this South Valley spot might feel like home. Just in a prettied-up design version!

But that’s reduced, too. What can you reduce, to make even better?

How Tucson Welcomes

Most everyone notices the hospitality they are given when visiting another’s home. 

The ambiance a place offers is much like the curb appeal of a development or property owner; it benefits they and others. One place that gets it is rightfully called “world class”, since it isn’t merely in the desert, but it is of the desert.

Tucson, AKA the Old Pueblo, has a unique way of welcoming from other desert communities. Photos from February 2014:

stately Saguaro and swaying ‘Desert Museum’ Palo Verde tell arrivals and residents where they are…plants evoke a sense of place far more than rocks, architecture, or brochures…

Continue reading “How Tucson Welcomes”