Checking out Hospital #5

Over my career, I did landscape designs on several hospitals in El Paso and Albuquerque. The last design in this post may be my favorite, and I’m enjoying it grow in.

Photos from 2/13/20. Picking up my friend at the train station, I enjoyed one of El Paso’s many architectural gems and an established Live Oak / Quercus X virginiana:

EP Train Station-E-SML


Hurrying back to my home for the sunset, it’s The Hospitals of Providence, Transmountain Campus, starting at the entry portico.

Hosp Prov Trans-Portico 1a_2020-02-13-SML

The late sunlight caught the grouping of natives; a foothills Bull Muhly / Muhlenbergia emersleyi with the oft-used, Big Bend accent Beaked Yucca / Yucca rostrata.

There was no ability to include passive water harvesting (aka bioswales or rain gardens back east) or many site planning innovations when the architects and us other team members began work; the civil engineering design was mostly complete by then.

But we did get to use gray water, and learn a few unexpected things with plants that take that treated water along the way. Those plants weren’t included in a decade-old study since they weren’t available and tested.

Chihuahuan Desert ecoregion native plants were heavily used.

At the ER parking area, more space with less visibility concerns exist. More Beaked Yucca were specified, to take advantage of the expansive desert skies, while a green ‘Rio Bravo’ Texas Sage / Leucophyllum langmaniae ‘Rio Bravo’ was massed as an informal hedge.

Hosp Prov Trans-ER2a_2020-02-13-SML

The compact showpiece of Artichoke Agave / Agave parryi ssp. truncata was used near intersections, to allow greater visibility and interest at those key locations.

Too bad I can’t transplant some of the pups and fill in some gaps…

Hosp Prov Trans-ER2b_2020-02-13-SML

Across the way, more of the same plants unify that area’s overall effect. This will also will provide some skyline accent with the sky and view of the Franklin Mountains.

Hosp Prov Trans-ER1_2020-02-13-SML


I hope to visit other portions of this landscape as it warms up to see other areas and spring growth before summer. It will need to be done in covert fashion, since there’s now a requirement with this facility and others like it to get written authorization for photos and for one time, only.

That’s the meeting of post-9/11 security meets proprietary ownership, and this is private property.

My other hope is that post-Covid-19 protocols will not further prohibit the ability to enjoy and document landscape treatments. That’s a possibility, but perhaps being reasonable will once again rule.

DIY Adobe: A Flagstone Patio?

This flagstone patio relates to little else anywhere on Bill’s property, but that’s fine!

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Existing before he bought his home, this patio adjoins the front door patio via a step down in elevation, though it’s mostly visible only near the house.

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The simple patio begs for a place to sit, once the young boxwoods and other plantings in front grow to form more enclosure and further separation from the sidewalk. Its elegant, rectilinear shape with its cut pattern is superior to the more typical flagstone work in the back garden area.

With that planting plus the small area, it doesn’t need the usual “Cristiani seat wall.”

It can take on its own life as another living space by adding chairs and possibly a small table. Only some leveling of the individual stones would be required to provide a more firm surface across it.

Robertson Res-Flag Patio4_2019-10-31-SML


2/11/20 weather:
49F / 28F / 0.60 in (1/2 in snow) or 9c / -2c / 15.2 mm (1 cm snow)

Curves and Arcs

Curves and arcs are effectively used to connect walkways and other spaces or forms having different angles. They also work equally well to enclose a core space and provide social interaction, by turning people inwardly, and towards each other.

That looks like how curves and arcs were used here at this Scottsdale xeriscape demonstration garden, part of Chaparral Park. Design (I think) by Christy Ten Eyck’s office, now based in Austin TX.

I first learned this principle in a soph design class we all took, lovingly retitled as “[Pain in the] Aspects of Design.” Or maybe it was another 1 credit hour class, “Introduction to Design”? 1985 is hazy to me, but you get the idea…

Photos from 4/23/19.

Chap Park-Google Aerial

The below photos are from the right side of the above Google aerial view. The main circle the arc forms relate to are underneath the tan fabric shading. The concrete water feature is the focal point and the center of the circle and most arcs, below.



The water feature is a circle, as is the adjacent paving area, only it’s partly segments of a circle at the edges.


The arcs of the seat walls vary in height, so people of different heights can enjoy one section or another, plus they add some relief on a mostly flat area.



From walking this xeriscape garden, I couldn’t tell if these arcs related to the center of the fountain, but my guess is no. They do harden the edges of the walkways and provide a place to sit.



These gabion walls don’t seem to retain any grade changes, but they reinforce the curved walkway and provide spatial definition to the planting beyond.


Of course, the trees have a simple groundplane of crushed gravel and decomposed granite, instead of being overplanted and less maintainable.

This works on a large scale as this with arid-region trees like those palo verdes, but it can be translated to small spaces, too.

A mistake made by many desert designers is to pack in plants under all trees, even if those trees are xeric natives and require no heavily-irrigated plantings to help them survive. That mode of thought believes with religious fervor that less is less, while in nature in the desert, trees often grow along arroyos just like the above photo, though spaced more unevenly.

It’s best to have one’s desert eyes on in the desert! That spending time to think about why and how to use powerful forms like arcs and curves.


“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