Monday, December 05, 2011

Gray Plants, Colored Walls

Gray plants are all the rage where I live. But they are rarely used well, unlike those one can observe in good designs or in our wild spaces.

A November trip to El Paso, Alamito Gardens is a public housing project that I designed in 2008 for Moore Nordell Kroeger Architects:

Chinquapin Oak turned, the clean evergreen foliage of Pale Yucca / Yucca rupicola pulling off the cool season look.

This would not work with feathery, deciduous grays. Imagine gray twigs all winter? Reality over flowery prose - like "tapestries of colors", then stating how "our area is brown", commonly used to justify design and plant choices missing the mark of a space's needs.

Blue Sotol AKA Gray Sotol / Dasylirion wheeleri:

Some elements at work:
1) low budget, installation to maintenance
2) colored walls (notably red), native stone
3) evergreen in prominent locations
4) mature plant sizes considered for their spaces
5) microclimate - prairie yuccas E walls, desert sotols W walls
6) natives where they work, adapteds where natives don't work
7) bold foliage against random stone patterns
8) spiny leaf margins against a contrasting color
9) flowering lantanas died stolen, never replaced; succulents live on
10) massings of the same plant species, to unify


  1. I think I need to look again at those 10 elements as they relate to my garden. I'm thinking I can't nod my had at many of them! I have seen some quite large chinquapin oaks. I know there must be enough space where it is planted but it doesn't look like a big spot.

  2. That's a nice clean and tidy look. And very little maintenance! Even better.

  3. Good list. Although I bet it looked beautiful in the summer with the lantana blooming. These plants really do stand out against the contrasting wall.

  4. Excellent post. Here a little recognition to me humble installation, from the Iberian Peninsula.

  5. LR - more might work at your place than first glance. But some may be unapplicable - the El Paso example is "the projects", vs. your abode!

    The oaks - good point. On this site, with sandy loam, will probably get larger, but few options to meet city codes that wont tear up paving or need too much water. Architect and owner site planning does not favor a quality landscape or such projects, the trees and land are not the clients, but rather, a non-clued-in ownership and architect. Challenging!

    R - thanks, being in da' hood dictates such simplicity and durability. But I should do a post on what individual residents do on their patios - the Mexican border influence (1/4 mile away) has all kinds of pots with seasonal and year round cacti, flowers, etc.

    HG - glad I can point out some more things. I need to do more quick and dirty lists on my posts! Without budget or good maintenance, form and contrast become my friends...

    AC - thanks, as I noted on another comment, I need to post some on what residents do to their own patios. I enjoyed that Spanish blog post on your house in "Puerco Rico", as you sometimes call it!

  6. Great post, good list. I plan to start looking at color contrasts here. Probably brights against native stone.

    Would love to see the resident's colorful gardens. The older parts of town here always have such great combinations.

  7. SF - glad it made sense! I will make it a point to show what people not in "Garden Design" do to trick out their was refreshing to see. Similar neighborhoods in NM do not seem to do that.


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