Memorial in May

This is one of three El Paso hospitals I worked on with HKS, in that 2014 to 2016 whirlwind of renovations and new construction for Tenet Healthcare: The Hospitals of Providence Memorial Campus.

It looks great in evening light or even at night, but I also must stop by for a look in the early morning.


Years later, this project is in ongoing maintenance. It’s great to see the solo Parkinsonia x ‘Desert Museum’ full and in bloom, without any topping or chopping.

I hope to encourage some gentle pruning of low and crossing interior branches. It’s all that’s needed!

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Hopefully, I can also get the masses of Bouteloua gracilis grasses to be cut back to the ground instead of mounded, leaving stubble, and only every few years – not annually. There’s no need to do more, as has been done.

The green form of Leucophyllum spp. is being left to grow naturally. A victory!

More than one person I know was either born at this hospital or received care here, and I hope this revives any feelings of care received.

Too bad the seat walls along the sidewalk along Oregon Street were deleted from the contract. Now with the bus lines and landscaping, even without enough trees, those would provide a resting stop walking between the bus, streetcar, or just up the long incline to UTEP.

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I’m just not used to seeing this and other hospitals with hardly any people parked out front or in the parking lot like our post-March 2020 mayhem about COVID-19. Since the saying is how everyone is “sheltering in place”.

Of course, the artist’s sculpture trees look good, too, especially without a few more pesky trees from my original design, which would have somehow blocked their visibility from the street…

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5/15/20 weather:
87F / 55F / 0 or 31c / 13c / 0 

The Drive: Exit into Tucson

I’ve admired many landscape designs along the freeways and arterial streets in Arizona’s two largest cities for decades.

A critical mass in their horticultural community gets sense, place, and designing for traffic speeds. Photos from 12/22/19:

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This is the first time I exited onto West St. Mary’s Road. Always informative and fun, colleague and friend Scott Calhoun suggested meeting at a parked food truck for lunch.

Since I arrived early and Scott was riding from afar, I had extra time. Burger King was good for a free parking space, so I walked the rest of the way.

ADOT designed some attractive concrete accents at the bridges.

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There’s no shortage of cyclists in Tucson. One cyclist on a mountain bike…

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Desert Willow / Chilopsis linearis above a mass of Beargrass / Nolina microcarpa makes a pleasing vignette while waiting for the light to change. Both are seriously bulletproof species in a wide part of the southwest.

And the other cyclist on a road bike…

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I’ll work back to how I exited I-10. Room for plants to mature.

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Regarding a request to see more Las Cruces pics on my blog, which I’ve shown many, I replied, “I have more to post on Arizona because there is more good arid-region design and plantsmanship in a few blocks of Tucson or Phoenix than in a mile of Las Cruces and El Paso or 2-3 miles of Albuquerque.”

These huge, almost trailing gray shrubs are…Texas Ranger / Leucophyllum spp. During the monsoon season, I’m sure many locals or visitors are very impressed.

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They are spaced well for rhythm, as are their masses for structure. No need to design 3 times as many plants for immediate effect, only to later remove half or more. Or shear into muffins, cylinders, boxes, …

Occasional accents were tucked in, but one must be stopped to appreciate them. Or rolling the dice by walking along the right shoulder, protected only by a curb.

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A minor detail, but some different massing of plants away from the yuccas, then placement of the occasional yucca further from those masses, especially from the drivers’ direction, would have shown off the planting better.

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A few Texas Olive / Cordia boissierii were used, but those were off to the right side and not too visible.

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It’s time to walk back, to join my cyclist / plant nerd friend for some lonche.

This ocotillo had a hard night, yet it’s still trying to hang on by blooming.

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Now, I’m stumped…

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The color combos work, but I’m stumped at the tallish Dasylirion mass in front of the interesting design motif at the corner.

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The plants appear to protect the artistry from taggers, yet they block a large portion of it from view.

I’m standing taking this, so that’s not far off the height of a typical pickup truck or SUV driver. Though perhaps the art is more visible from a Bubba Truck height?

No matter it’s still very appealing.

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An inlet shows where passive water harvesting was employed, to allow storm water from the street to soak into the median plantings.

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Both of us showed up for lunch for one of the best tortas I’ve had. And we’re wearing short sleeves in late December!

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Grape Kool-aid

As a high school sophomore, my parents drove us from our Denver home to Carlsbad Caverns via Santa Fe and Albuquerque, for spring break at the end of March 1982.

The afternoon we drove back, I still remember the scent through open car windows on that sunny, warm day. Grape Kool-aid!

Flash forward to March 25, a gray-leaved selection of the plant we saw, Silver Sierra Mountain Laurel / Dermatophyllum secundiflorum ‘Silver Sierra’, is on a project I designed near my present home.

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Near that multi-stemmed, dwarf tree, I used boulders from the Hueco Mountains on the other side of El Paso plus native and cultural companions Beargrass / Nolina greenei and cultural near-native companions Blue Sotol / Dasylirion wheeleri.

The scent at the right moment was strong, even in our thin, gusty, and dry air.

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To think seeing that plant on Walnut Canyon Drive at Carlsbad Caverns Nat’l Park symbolized my downhill slide future career, including this project.

Though on that spring break trip, I was far from knowing the plant’s name with those scented flower clusters or “Chihuahuan Desert”.

We’re now looking north and downhill along the main street into the same development. More ‘Silver Sierra’ mountain laurels are on the right parkway strip.PH-Anthem Stscp1_2020-03-25-SMLPH-Anthem Stscp2b_2020-03-25-SMLPH-Anthem Stscp2a_2020-03-25-SMLPH-Anthem Stscp2c_2020-03-25-SML


The last location at the same project my design used them is another median or island, also with some stunning views.

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A repeat from years ago: remove the stakes from all your mountain laurels. They are unnecessary a year after installation and detract from each plant.

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I wonder what was once growing in the empty soil area that is no longer there? Still no time to locate the original plans.

All this project’s ‘Silver Sierra’ Mountain Laurel were installed from 24 inch box sizes, and they grow slowly at about 6 inches / year.

That dwarf tree is evergreen and prefers alkaline soils that drain decently, or even excessively as on this project site. They are winter hardy to the cooler edges of USDA z 8a (probably thermal belt locations of ABQ, maybe even Roswell NM), and summer hardy to at least the burning low desert known as the Sonoran Desert.


4/11/20 weather:
71F / 41F / 0 or 22c / 5c / 0