Streetscape Awakens

My house hunt is starting. Per regional custom with posted hours, the open house closed almost 2 hours early, which I drove miles out of my way to see. But now there was time to spare.

Time to visit a recent landscape design – Engler Road streetscapes, taken 3/5/2017:

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Soils at this site are caliche with some gravels on top, which inhibits roots from developing and limits plant choices. Hopefully the medians depressed 12″ will percolate in some extra rain water, to help.

The 20 or so Cercis canadensis var. texensis specified are now taking to dusty New Mexico.

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The gloomy day didn’t help the tan tones including the shrubs in back, allowed to stay – I specified green-leafed Leucophyllum langmaniae instead of the gray L. zygophyllum that we ended up with.

Also doing well are the yuccas and grasses, somehow magically left un-shaped into balls last November when they went dormant. My maintenance plan was followed here but not everywhere in this development.

Got me!

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A few Yucca rostrata punctuate the repetitive mass of Bouteloua gracilis, like the effect one gets driving those restorative stretches of open road around Marfa or Carrizozo.

It just takes a few of these accents, which will soon accent the skyline.

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The yellow leaf margins on the yucca are a detail I often forget about. And the state grass of New Mexico, Blue Grama, is coming alive.

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Many green shoots are responding to the ground and air temperatures warming, even if a few weeks early. With all our mountains  protecting us, my guess is even if we get one of those freak March or April snowstorms and some more freezes (our last frost date averages April 1), few or none will be hard freezes below 28F, when the serious damage occurs.

Maybe.

Fore!

Back to Las Cruces for some errands and some project monitoring! But before I got off-track on more random landscapes, I enjoyed seeing some my own design and plantings mature, near their newest golf course.

Photos 6/6/2015 –

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a good day at the golf course?

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the Koelreuteria paniculata clump looks vigorous and growing

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Hesperaloe parviflora defines the edge…the Organ Mountains the stage set

Someone may have stolen a few Agave neomexicana plants from each median, mostly growing against the boulders, but my plans aren’t handy to verify.  I hope they were worth the effort…and they get pricked by the sharp leaf tips just enough!

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still imagining a few agaves by the boulder and yucca trunk

Onward.

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Chrysactinia mexicana still flowering, even though it’s been hot

More damianitas, and one of the Yucca rostrata to grow above the kinetic forms of Aristida purpurea.

Do you ever see a streetscape planting where you live, and wonder who designs them? Or do you wish streetscape plantings were part of your roadway design, not just curbs and paving? Do you ever have other ideas that might look better but not cost more?

While I am one who does the first, the other two questions are often on my mind.

Seasons at High Lonesome

Time flies! The first streetscapes for the new Metro Verde development on Las Cruces’ NE side were by two landscape contractors, the same LA (me), over a few seasons. As always, click images to enlarge –

Spring 2014

time to spare, nearby Red Hawk GC Road…young, in spring glory

With expansive views of their stunning Organ Mountains, it directly borders the smaller Doña Ana Mountains, the lengthy spine of the San Andres Mountains, and the broad and equally long Jornada.

The latter place’s actual name is Jornada del Muerto (Journey of Death), named by raiding Spaniards because it was a long distance with little to no water. It bypassed El Camino Real de Tierra Adentro and the Rio Grande valley’s more reliable water, including occasional Apache raids visits. Probably a higher reward – risk ratio than being closer to the water, but still the risk of no water.

Years ago on a roadtrip, at one point on US-380 the driver and I spotted the distant ends of both the Organ Mountains and the Sandia Mountains, at opposite directions. They are 200+ miles apart.

Ironically, the Jornada was named long before the first atomic bomb was exploded at its more remote north end on the Trinity Site, over 1/2 way to Albuquerque. Spanish-speaking people might rightfully question using the area’s name as the town grows that direction.

Nolina texana…looking to the Organ Mountains and our desert skies

Quercus polymorpha and Yucca rostrata taller…Aristida purpurea lines are opposite golden Chrysactinia mexicana lines in each median…clumps of azure Salvia chamaedryoides at the crosswalk

Small, young, and with a limited budget that still exceeds City minimum plant requirements: masses make it, while flowers flowering don’t hurt. Just wait until this spring.

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rotary heads not putting out enough water to establish the reseeded basin areas

The irrigation mainline extended from the west was too small, given diminished water pressure. Piping and valves were enlarged following our meeting; my design would have been better to just do a new irrigation connection.

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battery-powered irrigation controller in the main valve box

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wrong yuccas…these are Yucca baccata, my plans say Yucca rostrata

The yuccas were also the wrong size – the plans state 6-7′ height, not 5 gallon. A huge difference in price and impact; impact is important in a new development, at least in key areas.

The shrubs are wrong, too. I specified green ‘Green Cloud’ or “Rio Bravo’ leucophyllums. But since they didn’t forget the water harvesting basins in this streetscape, we let these stay. They are so healthy, just grayer than the developer or I desired.

Summer 2014

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John speaking to Jesus (+ City of LC landscape architect Cathy Mathew[s])…yep

I’m unsure where Luke or Mark were, but David captured it all; we’re all out doing our final punchlist a day before my birthday. Thick clouds with virga kept it in the low 80’s, a great present for our hour onsite to wrap up a new installation.

Virga = rain falling into dry air, evaporating before reaching the ground. I hear not all of you get this like we do out west! #DryHeat

Some of those green Ericameria laricifolia were planted too close to the path, so those need to be moved as per plans…..

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the wrong yuccas were replaced with another wrong plant, this time Nolina texana…not a yucca, but the same family (I think)

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previous portion of the same streetscape from 2 years ago…filling in

Seeding to create meadows, AKA “crazy color quilts” or “tapestries of (gray and brown) …”, don’t translate to tight spaces. This is why I designed in 1 gallon grasses and 5 gallon yuccas. All tripled in size in 2 years; the grasses are mature, but the yuccas need more time, and often mature to 15′ or more.

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the Texas state grass, Bouteloua curtipendula…Yucca elata soaring with the granite spires

Just imagine what the yuccas and grasses will do for this scene, given a decade or two of chile roasting seasons, roadrunners with lizards in their beeks, and occasional virga-filled skies.

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Cercis texensis, masses of moundy Baccharis x ‘Starns’ punctuated with a few pincushions of Dasylirion wheeleri

The 4,200′ elevation sun is burning lingering clouds into submission. Maybe it did reach the forecast 100F+ high after all, as I drove back in air conditioning?

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narrow street plantings of Ulmus crassifolia and Hesperaloe parviflora

This xeric planting already has some promise to be a green canopy and oasis, as much as possible without more than drip irigation.

similar on the other side of the housing area entry

Winter 2014-2015

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mix of gravel sizes…winter plant bones

After I finished some errands up in Las Cruces last Saturday, I had to catch a quick glance at how things look. Even while patchy snow and cold are ruling their few times every winter. An interesting contrast to the growing season to be sure, right to the look of the skies.

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winter’s rest looking west

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and looking east…dormant Dalea capitata, plus the other same plants noted

On the right, Lantana spp. once thrived at both entries into the housing area. They were stolen, of course, but the rabbits at least are igoring these tender morsels plantings.

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a brisk afternoon walk near New Mexico’s state grass, Bouteloua gracilis

If this couple stays there a bit longer, this will really fill in, and not just houses and commercial buildings. The winter-dormant, broad view on half-built Engler Road. 9-month-old plantings taking shape as the timeless San Andres and Organ Mountains loom under the chilled sky.

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bare Quercus polymorpha, evergreens Yucca rostrata and Ericameria laricifolia, and the dormant balance of plantings

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part of why I use negative space, grass masses, and some evergreen

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3rd time’s a charm…the right yuccas were finally installed

Only chest high, they aren’t the height specified. But from decades of past projects, I’m sure plan sizes we’re missed while bidding, or the supplier didn’t have larger sizes. Anyway, how could John not work out such a matter with Jesus?

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most definitely Yucca rostrata

Time to get back to the office for some more work, then a relaxing evening grilling up some goodies and enjoying the warmth inside my tiny place.

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headed down to-o-o Old El Paso

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detour over Anthony Gap, to slow it down and take it in

What It Becomes

Some people say that landscape architects must get paid by the number of plants used in designs!

That’s unlikely, and I’ve never seen such a thing, assuring you as one LA among countless LA’s I’ve known. The exception might be one who’s an employee of a maintenance company or nursery, working on commission. Or more likely, some LA’s, designers or clients don’t care and want immediate effect, or they never learned plant growth or plantsmanship.

Here’s how this LA proactively approaches one aspect of planting design – nor am I alone in it – plant spacing for how each garden is seen. Mature height x spread / width for each plant is listed, as presently known in the desert.

Metro Verde in Las Cruces NM, Red Hawk Golf Road…taken 10/22/2013 –

streetscape just planted, tight spaces…far parkway (“hellstrip” to bloggers) with ‘Tuscan Blue’ Rosemary, Purple Threeawn grasses…median with Monterrey Oak, Beargrass (by oaks), Damianita (front), Purple Threeawn (behind)…

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Take A Walk

Two weeks ago, I needed rosemary for the olive oil I was to dip my bread into.

Except I no longer have one rosemary, nor are there any planted around my new, downsized abode! So, I took a foraging walk. I also saw some interesting plants and landscapes within my several block excursion. This time, I returned to take a walk and see more interest within a short walk of my apartment.

Plants and gardens, even architecture, are always game. Some images from my walks Wednesday and last week:

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My apartment building (built in 1903), and a Mexican Fan Palm / Washingtonia robusta that survived the 2/2011 uber-freeze…and gravel on plastic…sigh.

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