Monday, June 18, 2012

Finish the Front

Over time, gardens change. This house was built in 1998, and since, plants have grown, others died, and ideas have been refined.

As the designer, I won't change and compromise it like some clients have (boo, hiss!), but rather, to improve it. Will it reach finality? 

Feel free to chime in with your ideas!

As I watered in new Nolina texana and Penstemon baccharifolius, weeds responded. But some installed plants, grasses and wildflowers, and those from nearby vacant land, also volunteered in. That's my cue.

The wispy grasses will be transplanted. The smaller forbs are mostly unwanted and will be removed. All will be neat again.
Neat, structured, yet naturalistic; not like a hospital, but balance.

The grass you ask? Purple Three Awn / Aristida purpurea:

I won't have to buy or special order this bunch grass,  native to all mountain bajadas from here to El Paso, and over many areas of the intermountain west's deserts, onto the great plains steppes and up to the sub-humid prairies.

So, what was here? No time to show each year, but the decade's shift follows. Some plants grew, others grew but were damaged by the record freeze and drought, others reseeded to a fault, and others died.

5/2001 - 

5/2002 -

5/2009 -

1/2011 -
6/2012, looking W -
It's time to clean up and "cherry it out" better than ever. I noted transplanting all Purple Threeawn to the parkway. Plus -
+ weed out undesirables and invasive non-natives
+ slow and use stormwater flowing downhill - water harvesting
+ define entry better, the gate out to the street 

At the concrete slab by the curb, I may add an Opuntia subarmata on either side, to relate to the one in the yellow pot. Those might be planted in the ground to add evergreen structure to the grasses, or be placed in matching pots to do the same but add height. I'll have to prune those Opuntia to keep them in-bounds, but like O. engelmannii, they get huge; may as well use the same species.  

I also have many Agave neomexicana pups and countless young volunteers of Penstemon parryi and  P. eatonii, that can be added at only the cacti, or to intersperse between the grasses. Thoughts?

6/2012, looking N - 

More native grasses are here; Fluffgrass / Erioneuron pulchellum in front can be relocated into more natural areas N of the house.

The parkway does not afford rare, hard rain to soak or flow in like it could. The granite and weed fabric used in 1998 to match other homes is OK. But the fabric does not prevent weeds; I knew that, but chose to pick my battles then; no developer or builder to answer to now.

I'll pull the rock out and stockpile it on the sidewalk, dispose of the weed fabric, and remove soil to create a 6" to 9" deep swale down the middle; I'll spread it on low spots on the lot. Every 10-15 feet, I'll try to slow the water flowing downhill, such as with buried CMU block..there's probably too much bedrock at the grade for buried hay bales.  

After planting the grasses and cacti, I'll put back the stockpiled granite. But no point in June! I'll wait for the cooler 90F and higher humidity of the monsoon season to attack it, repairing the landscape lighting first.


  1. It's a conversation. Your own eco system.

    Working with Providence.

    Of course CHANGES.

    Nature changes every second, people do, a newly fallen leaf.

    Love when Providence teaches & improves my end of the conversation.

    Most people merely work with 'man'. We work with Providence. Humble heart, a servant's heart, open eyes, JOY, everyday in our work.

    Garden & Be Well, XO Tara

    1. You put things so well, Ms Tara! Yes, Providence = changes beyond what we cannot imagine, but are best to roll and work with. Always learning...sounds like when we make a sentence, Providence puts the ending and final period or exclamation point...and when we do the period, Providence starts a new sentence. Very cool!

  2. It's amazing to see those changes of the years. Nature definitely has its way and so do we to a certain extent. I guess it keep things interesting. I like the idea of opuntias flanking the slab. The pots are beautiful and would add some instant height but either way it would be beautiful!! I'm pretty envious of your nolina texana!! What about your yucca rigida?!? did you get one? A couple nice yucca rostrata could also be nice.

    1. Yes, and all the changes weren't just plants...wall, gate, but also plants and weeds! Never did get a Yucca rigida, but I did add the Y. rostrata on the far L in 2004. Can't wait to finally finish out the front when our monsoon season kicks in...

  3. Changes and opportunities. Seeing these photos I understand the wall. Privacy for coffee,lunch and the firepit.

    Chime ask? I see a row of yellow hesperaloe against the purple wall. Yellow pot stands alone so opuntia in the ground. Less structure more natural in the parkway with natives works.

    It's not easy to be your own client is it? Not easy to be objective. Knowing the options and possibilities make decisions tougher.

    1. That's true...I sometime forget how exposed it was sitting on that patio pre-purple wall!

      Good is often harder to make the decision on a designer's own place. I *almost* did plant a row of yellow hesperaloes to replace the dead cacti, but ended up using the beargrasses. I like your mode of thinking on the parkway and cacti in the ground...hmmm, gears a turnin'.

  4. Excellent work! We are definitely on the same wavelength. Everything 'fits' together like a painting...only it's alive.

    1. Thanks, may as well work with whatever works without too much help. And with our dryness + drought, may as well use what water we get. Appreciate your comments, too!

  5. In some ways I like the general look that steps up to the house, with less--or shorter plants--in the parkway. But that loses the layering you had going on originally.

    The purple three awn is my current fav bunchgrass. The most striking use I've seen of it so far was a quarter-acre of it, solid, at a nursery garden in Orange County. It was October, and the purple had leached out to golden straw color, all of it blowing in the wind. That effect probably wouldn't work here, though. For one thing, in our residential areas people start worrying about how flammable grasses can be when they're planted densely. Is fire much an issue there too?

    1. I think the purple three awns there might keep a lower look than the feather grass.

      Fire danger - good point. Here, grasses probably won't grow too closely due to aridity to add fire danger. I guess minimizing fire is an unintended plus of the two favored landscape choices in Abq...all rocks and few plants (cheap, desert plant-phobia) or all lawn (brag about how much money is spent on irrigation) - so no contribution from neighbors!

      Should be interesting what I do once it cools down...that nursery example sounds nice.

  6. I agree with your initial statement which is to not replace that which is established. It's my attitude as well when I approach our gardens here.

    From reading your blog over a period, I know you like clean and balanced with native friendly plants. The grasses and agaves especially. So you'll need sun for these plants. I like the balance and organizations. It's very clean and attractive.

    I wouldn't really change too much and maybe this is the Tucson in me but perhaps something green near the entrance....and maybe a hardy cacti of opuntia just for a little shot of interest to break up the clean line of the grasses. That's just my humble opinion:) You're the real pro here. It looks like you have a couple trees that look great in their spots. I think cacti and agave. And....what about a stronger color(but not to offend the neighbors) to enhance those awesome grasses and maybe agaves?:)

    1. I figure if it's made it this long on mostly rainfall, has strong roots, it stays. Thanks...that is kind of what I'm after, too. Well said!

      I like your idea of something green at the entry...maybe more cacti right there. Just waiting for the mesquite to grow back on the right / inside. Color - I would be game, though the wall will be stronger once I repaint. It's been 2-3 years, so the sun has faded it.

      Great ideas...I appreciate fresh eyes to see it!

  7. OOOoooooohhhh la la! Just beautiful! I like how natural your garden is, and obviously in the desert, it all makes perfect sense. I have to say...I miss the symmetry and statement you had with the Mexican feather grass (or whatever grass that was in the hell-strip?). I just love how it looked.... so anchoring... have you considered red or yellow yucca planted in both sides of your hell-strip much in the same fashion as your grass once was?

    1. Thanks for visiting - just found your blog, too! Funny how it all evolved...wall changed, then freak freeze and no more cacti! It was MX Feathergrass, but now will be something else...I had considered some red or yellow yucca, but like you describe sounds even better - in a swale that gets rain water runoff, it might make it only concern is it will look too similar in form to the Beargrass behind it.

      I miss the way ti was, too.

    2. I did not see it in the picture for some reason - I do now! OOps, sorry ;) Now I need to google bear grass - that stuff looks NEATO! How does it do in central Texas?

    3. Beargrass is a "grassy succulent" native in central TX as well, and your local form is actually more fine and compact than our form. Pam/Digging has some examples of one in a container on her blog.

      I posted some pics of yours' here -


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