Friday, August 10, 2012

LEEDing and Drive-Bys

When meeting with some possible project team members for a proposal here in Abq, I took a colleague by some random landscapes and plantings to clue him in on my work and the norm here. Though he knows Abq fairly well.
The EDI (Environmental Dynamics, Inc.) project included their architecture studio, plus some local environmental organizations' offices. I even rented a space in there for a few years. Spiky plant dependence - guilty!

Someday, I'll fish out images of scenes when plants here are in bloom. (that isn't summer or winter, though I even captured winter blooms on the penstemons here one year...weird!)

North side - along the parking spaces. Shade in the cool season, early morning and evening sun in the warm season, no permanent irrigation since this gave us a LEED credit.

To the rescue - Little Bluestem / Schizacrium scoparium, Sunset Hyssop / Agastache rupestris, and Beargrass / Nolina microcarpa (&##@* - the contractor and nursery got the wrong ones here, I wanted our native N. texana). They only get the occasional hand-soaking from a hose in the dry spring, which is allowed by LEED.
Like the Sunset Hyssop? The scent evokes a more refined licorice.

West sideSotol AKA Desert Spoon / Dasylirion wheeleri has room, and firecracker penstemons between it, to soften it and provide some bright red. But some excess maintenance happens here, limiting flowering more than is necessary.

Soaptree / Yucca elata to eventually give evergreen height, with Alkali Sacaton / Sporobulus airoides and Desert Marigold / Baileya multiradiata among it, and Mescal Agave / Agave neomexicana behind it

South side - this was in the preview post, but plants without easily
breakable parts or that cannot take a south face's hot microclimate,
made worse by asphalt and hot cars.

Beargrass, Soaptree, and Alkali Sacaton to the rescue. Past posts show
this on a fall or winter afternoon, walking out the opposite door and
facing the warm, golden glow of the billowy Alkali Sacaton mass
into the setting sun. A rugged, wild western!

Elated about these natives, the sacatons softened by Yucca elata.
Not elated about no maintenance on this thornless Maverick Mesquite. I told one of the principals, "Don't make me come here with my pruning saw."  They know I will, since their "maintenance person" hasn't a clue on what to do or how to prune.

"But Jorge's so nice".

"Yes he is, but he knows you since he has the maintenance at our Aliso project, which I got his late boss hired to do the install on - which he's already wrongly pruning the dwarf trees on." I'm not picky, just reasonable and expecting basic skills. 

A nice architect / owner touch - they made these gabions from
broken, removed concrete, to add space definition.

Some hate them. I like reused items not sent to the landfill - more for less.

These Mescal Agave plants were from 1 gallons a few years ago, as
well as some Desert Marigold, removed by over-maintenance, using
time that could have gone into pruning all two young mesquite trees.

The native wildflower once between my agaves. Glad these were missed it or left alone, and so are the butterflies and people who like summer flowers. More on that issue of maintenance vs. neglectful, unnecessary, and counterproductive maintenance.

This is one of several homes in an upscale area of Corrales, that did the faux-Tuscan look. I'm not into the terrible boulder placement, either, but those California or Desert Fan Palm / Washingtonia filifera both made it through the nasty Feb. 2011 freeze without being wrapped up. Imagine what the under planting could be!


  1. This is what I do when advising people who are incapable of envisioning what you are trying to explain will work in their yard. They can't picture in the mind's eye what you already know or should know.

    I tell people, drive around your neighbourhood and see what is working and what you like. Especially new home onwers or clients of commercial sites. We are all material or fleshly minded and need to literally feel, taste, smell and actually see for ourselves. I admit it, I'm a handson learner and merely reading about something working in theory isn't enough. I have to see it.

    1. Of course, all the advising to many who don't seem to care takes much time away from designing. I lose hours every week to that...never get paid for that.

  2. The landscaping works with the building so well it's hard to picture one without the other. The rip rap gabion wall is the right application as opposed to the somewhat creepy seating walls I've seen. I like it a lot in this context.

    Faux Tuscan is losing popularity around here and that's a good thing. Those fan palms are very hardy, we'll see how my choice of the Bismarck works out.

    1. Thanks, but I still want the wildflowers back that I added. They were pulled by owner who thought they were weeds, probably a "minimalist hipster look". Even architect hipsters need to see butterflies!

      Looking for the Faux Tuscan X Pretend Mountain Prairie look to die in Abq. Hope to live to see it, but from afar:-)

      Your Bismarckia should do well. And planting it in the summer is perfect, as most palms need heat, and the Death Star ensures that, plus your growing season does not end until Dec 1!

  3. I agree with Shirley...the landscaping really works with that building.
    I bet it is annoying, when the maintenance is not done correctly.

    The Tuscan look is great IN TUSCANY! It's been way overdone, here in Texas.

    Hope you're enjoying those cool Rocky Mountains.

    Have a great weekend.

    1. Yes, it is as though I need to have a horticultural installation-maintenance business, too. And that native-adapted nursery!

      Yes, I even hear places in your area refer to the "Mediterranean-looking hills". Crazy. Enjoying the cool rockies, the breeze, and so on. So fortunate to be able to come up here and have family all over!

  4. I like the planting with the blue building but am dying to plant something taller against the blank wall to the left hand side!

    Good job their gardener DOESN'T prune - in my experience less harm is done when inexperienced gardeners leave it alone!

    1. Thanks - the taller plants are actually a group of Yucca elata / Soaptree - they will probably equal the 1 story building in 5-6 more years. Your point helps me feel relieved - hope I can go by there and show them how to do it, again.

  5. I agree with you on people knowing the basic pruning! So many landscapers hire cut and hack people and it really gets me going. I recently had an informal interview with a landscaper who KNEW what he was doing as I've been observing his work for 5 years now. Incredible work! But there seem to be far and few of these people around Tucson! Same goes with arborists. Anyhow, those palms look great. And like Shirley mentions in her comment....faux Tuscan homes are on their way out here as well. They look dated now like something out of the 80's:) Pretty green lawn.

    1. Right - and it takes time to educate such a client away from commonly bad practices, which takes away from paying design work. If I could bill for all the communication I need to do, I could make a difference and I would be filthy rich. But I'll figure it out. Glad you found someone good who you observed - that's the best way, not word of mouth.

      Yeah...such a "pretty" lawn, half dead from grubs and desert soils. Bluegrass lawns are so Tuscan, Giovanni!

  6. I like the used concrete walls.
    Also love the W. filifera's a much better palm than W. robusta for the most part. But they don't grow as fast and take up more room. So nice they made it through that cold winter.

    Also the house with the palms would look better if they broke the grass up with a border or something. Smaller patches look greener and are easier to take care of, but most people just do what they know.

    Glad you always plant some flowers in the mix!

    1. I also like when broken concrete paving is made into retaining walls - there's a nice mortared wall like that for a huge distance at the Steele Indian School in Phoenix, that a colleague designed.

      Those W. filifera palms have all come back everywhere from Abq to El Paso. Someday, I'll learn Adobe Illustrator and do some more visual sketches of landscapes like that and insert what I think they should look like - there, no lawn, taller perennials or red yuccas at the trunks, swaths of grama grass bunches, and perhaps an informal rosemary or silktassel hedge. Always happy to put some wildflowers in to soften - I need to post that landscape when it's cooler, and the Penstemon eatonii bloom (and before they "accidentally" took out the Baileya multi.).

  7. Blue is my favourite colour , I like your idea of mixing the greenery with the blue shaded colour . I like to appreciate your work creative work, Fabulous work.

    1. Thanks so much! Here in the land of low budgets and sun, blue really does something, plus it resists the dryness and heat nicely. I just wish my flowering plants were not accidentally removed, but they often reseed from the remaining and come back.


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