Sunday, November 28, 2010

The Oasis

What do you see in this view from last Sunday, of natural areas bordering a typical residential neighborhood?

Note the two rather large, white, circular structures far below.

Those are water well / pumping stations, providing water to much of Albuquerque - and to enable a continual oasis of eastern forest or floodplain riparian trees, as opposed to something more logical - oasis spots with SW native plants, just more concentrated and creatively designed.

One can observe thirsty cottonwood, ash, sycamore, maple, and the like down low, where it is artificially or naturally wet. While numerous species of native, xeric trees and other plants flourish right above.
Native trees could shade our oft-low-slung homes; all native species could minimize erosion, attract wildlife, etc. And lend a local sense of place. Many foothills species are evergreen, as a bonus.
15 years ago, Abq's Water Conservation Landscaping and Water Waste ordinance passed into law; think of all such native species, including trees, that should have been available by now to capitalize on that, in a variety of sizes, forms and in large quantities.

But no vision here for that, so no dice. Sad, isn't it?

Imagine the possibilities of retrofitting other areas of our cities, from ill-contrived, all-oasis areas into appealing, more effective, and well-designed oasis spots?

Thursday, November 25, 2010

Sumac Variations

Threeleaf Sumac / Rhus trilobata is one of the most drought-tolerant shrubs native to my area:

Native to many desert grassland, steppe (AKA shortgrass prairie), and foothill areas of the American West, Threeleaf Sumac varies in its' timing and color variations during fall. A muted orange-yellow is most common in my experience, while brilliant burgundy, yellow, and red colors are found less commonly.

Just look up on the rocky slopes in the distance. See the various russets to oranges of more Threeleaf Sumac?

When planted from typical container stock into the landscape, one has to view the individual in the fall to know what one will get - if fall color is important. And with our locale's present nursery industry, do not expect locally-grown stock from the Chihuahuan Desert's edges - it is probably whatever was available from mass collected seed much further north, often lacking the variations seed from our plants would exhibit.

This brilliant young seedling was growing in the shelter of a boulder:

Wednesday, November 24, 2010

Blinded by the Light

Anyone visiting the dry west from humid ecoregions soon notices our light is clearer, brighter; especially at higher elevations.

Our light usually does magical things, though it also can be a negative, causing skin cancer or paint colors to fade. (ever wonder why AZ and NM have so many white cars?) 

Our light even pops out the color on the last flowers of Wright's Verbena / Glandularia wrightii, scattered about the foothills.


Monday, November 22, 2010

Axis in Nature

Look close; the concept of the axis can be found all over nature, even in the rugged terrain seen yesterday:

Notice the granite boulders in the foreground, and the Desert Prickly Pear they shelter and frame? Then, the bright green lichens framed on the distant boulder? Just like plant patterns. Just for you, Tara!

A prospective client years ago, inheriting a past design of mine, was surprised I did not utilize the concept of axis and focal points more in my work. I have since embraced using "axes", and design is exciting again.

Saturday, November 20, 2010

Autumn Sage, Breakfast Beignets

Another sunny morning starting work, but listening to a song posted at Turntable Kitchen, I grew hungry. So, I was inspired to make coffee w/ chicory and beignets, to finish off the remaining mix from Cost Plus!

I cranked up Louis Armstrong on my stereo, "I'm Just A Lucky So And So", fitting for this meal. Then, I whipped it all up:

While Louis Armstrong morphed into something somber by Lyle Lovett, the beignets were finished, the coffee ready! I wish I could say I picked the grapefruit from our tree this morning... 

But at least where I cooked these, we still have nice Autumn Sage flowers left, even after yesterday AM's hard freeze.
It is odd how one beignet turned out with this shape and color. But since a certain friend was unable to claim it from Austin...

It's mine! Time to eat - no music, but a book bought last year that I'm starting, Mary Irish's "Trees and Shrubs for the Southwest."

Thursday, November 18, 2010

TX and OK in NM

In late Nov. and earliest Dec., Texas Red Oak / Quercus buckleyi colors up in vibrant reds, oranges, and burgundys in many Albuquerque gardens:

I saw a number of these young trees while making a deposit this afternoon near the house. This oak outdoes the foliage color of habitual lollipop trees such as Bradford Pear or Raywood Ash, and it equals similar colors on xeric Chinese Pistache.

And Texas Red Oak is quite xeric AND thrives in alkaline soils, a great cultural and visual companion to desert shrubs. Not incongruous with such plants, unlike the lollipops...

Texas Red Oak is native to sub-humid, yet rocky prairie uplands, in central TX and adjacent states N and S. Also tough in arid settings, it is strong-wooded, reaching 20'-30' tall with a 15-25' spread in my region.

A duo in north Abq, with typical multi-trunk habits, from 2003. It's fall color contrasts live oak and evergreen shrubs well.
It grows fairly fast, about 18"-24" / year, unless it is drowned or neglected. Deep, infrequent irrigation is best - right?

I even detect some Sooner Crimson on some of those leaves...

Any interesting fall foliage color in your area? Tell me about it!

Tuesday, November 16, 2010

Foothills Foliage Fun - 11/16/10

Thanks for Foliage Follow Up, Pam @ Digging. My take shows foliage with form (hope that's OK) - us crazy designers!  

But first, on Friday's business trip to El Paso, a side trip to the UTEP Chihuahuan Desert Garden w/ John White as my guide. Mexican Plum / Prunus mexicana in a cool, N facing urban canyon:

Delicate Rosemary Mint / Poliomintha incana trails over rock wall:

Thinning foliage of Desert Willow / Chilopsis linearis:

Afternoon light floods dormant grass, Purple Three Awn / Aristida purpurea:
Note that the grasses work here with their companions: strong architecture, hardscape forms of the rock wall, and the strong anchoring of a desert tree left and a cactus front. You can read more on this garden online pp. 36-37, as well as more interesting items connected to the University of Texas at El Paso. And don't forget the Centennial Museum, in front of the garden.

Now, back to my house in Albuquerque. First, some shots from yesterday, when the storm gave us softer light; then today. A potted Pig's Ear / Cotyledon orbiculata:

Desert (AKA Engelmann) Prickly Pear / Opuntia engelmannii, designed to spill over CMU wall. And it does, accenting not just the wall, but Apache Plume in the foreground, with Creosote Bush and Oneseed Juniper in the back:

Today is much nicer. Though this day dawned a chilly 32F, that is normal. As are the Scaled Quail chatting nearby. So, I may as well put off some design work another hour for many more foliage and form shots. Office view @ 8 AM:

Fall foliage w/ sun's glow through Honey Mesquite / Prosopis glandulosa:

Cobalt sky, the golden, wind-battered foliage on Maverick Mesquite:

Deergrass goes tawny, a basalt fountain nested within:

Oh no, an axis! Framed by Threadgrass:

Stunted, drier Deergrass behind a thriving, potted trio of Mojave Desert native Silver Cholla / Cylindropuntia echinocarpa:

I know, but the squirrels have left some of this just for me! Look closely at the colorations on the pads (really stems, not foliage):

Alternating succulents, a floor of spotted grasses as they grow in our Desert Grassland, and borrowed landscape behind:

Another Beaked Yucca / Y. rostrata, with culturally-compatible companions Escarpment Live Oak and Lavender:

Thirsty poplars rear; xeric natives Gray Oak, Desert Live Oak front:

Cactus, Creosote Bush, and sunlit Apache Plume along steep arroyo:

Bluish Sotol (AKA Desert Spoon) / Dasylirion wheeleri:

Verdant Texas Sotol / Dasylirion texanum:

Coarse to fine - Cactus, Green Mormon Tea, Beebrush:

Cold-shriveled Claret Cup Cactus:

Cold-shriveled Beavertail / Opuntia basilaris:

Palmer Agave / A. palmeri, Beargrass, and shadows:
And this western scene, Valley Cottonwood / Populus wislizenii:

This cool season's fuzzy, next spring's Desert Marigold:

Our form of Beargrass / Nolina texana, and its usual granite companion:

Banana Yucca, safely nestled within spiny-leafed Shrub Live Oak:

The way the fibers peel from the leaves of Banana Yucca always amazes me. And since "Pam Digging" hosts this, an Agave! Compact Queen Victoria Agave / A. victoria-reginae 'Compacta'
I have never protected this in 12 years; worst was some sunburn in the brutally long, hot 2002 summer. With that, good night!