Monday, February 11, 2013

Getting Past Gray (& Brown)

No more esoteric tapestries of Eco Gray and Sustainable Brown, missing our sere drama. More inspiration and sophistication. Pump up the volume - simple, elevated beauty makes our places powerful.

Note what stands out in natural and nearby built landscapes (abstracting ecoregion, scaled to space).

Photos: 12/30/12 on Los Lunas Hill, Valencia County NM, with two desert-centric compadres: longtime friend Ted, and new friend Andre.
Yes, brown (tans) dominates the surface; other colors make an impact by contrasting colors, forms and sizes. The olive-green Creosote Bush / Larrea tridentata is a hardy local native on gravelly, desert pavement textures. 

On the surface, there's more gray (sky) and brown (tan grasses), but a new contrast. Sandy soils change the species, and the contrast to Oneseed Juniper / Juniperus monosperma. Soil more than microclimate.

More subtle, but similar patterns to employ, and Albuquerque's Sandia Mountains as a backdrop to this very windy, exposed hillside, usually cooler than surrounding lowlands and distant city.

Might the distant Sandia Mountains be a different gray, perhaps LEED Gray? ¡Jaja!
Spiky interest was sure to be found; this is central New Mexico! Not sure this Opuntia species, but winter red is nice.

The bold but low Club Cholla / Grusonia clavata rejoices in the sunlight; I rejoice in the view.

Andre has a huge collection of different plants he likes at his home property. But
a Night-Blooming Hesperaloe / Hesperaloe nocturna contrasts a happy but winter-
dormant Ocotillo / Fouquieria splendens. Tan grasses are abstracted here, even
if unintentionally, via brown gravel.

Spiky cacti that are low are brought up for interest via Beaked Yucca or
Zoyate / Yucca rostrata. Sand Sage / Artemisia filifolia, dark boulders,
and brown crusher fines (decomposed granite) complete the scene.

DG is good in sandstorm country like this, as drifting enhanced by
typical construction has less places to pile up, unlike larger rock.

Spring afternoons in the desert of the Rio Grande Valley = blowing sand.

The rock on Los Lunas Hill is mostly basalt, with some sandstone and other gray cobbles. Rock mulch sizes should be mixed more often in our southwestern landscapes, instead of just areas of uniform rock or gravel sizes.
A wider view at the same entry to a future development. Even native flowers once evident from a closer look, become fleeting with our ubiquitous high desert rabbits. Yet, it holds together.
Desert Willow / Chilopsis linearis - there are other native multi-trunked trees that would work, even if not approved by some. The boulders could be better placed and buried 1/4 into the grade, now knowing the fate of flowering plants post-rabbit. And passive water harvesting could have been implemented originally, though it's too late now - so water would be retained better in the planting areas to help the plants beyond just drip irrigation. Not perfect, but still good.

But imagine this same space in the dead of winter, but instead with mostly high maintenance perennials - even if called low maintenance. Who would maintain it out here? I only hope the crews leave the sages be. They may love to ball-up shape maintain even well-spaced plants, but they don't do cottage garden dead-heading.

Another desert sunset on the distant Manzano Mountains, similar in importance to Valencia County residents as the Sandias are to Abq residents.


21 comments:

  1. Beautiful and fascinating plant choices in context. So colorful against the desert.

    Now I know what to do with the Artemesia filifolia from my favorite native plant nursery. I think I have it in the wrong spot.

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    1. Though I'm still waiting for spring to green up some things! That Artemisia - sun, and good to soften up bolder plants in my book. (I had no idea you tried that one, too!!!)

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  2. Wonderful views.

    Looks like someone tried to do the right thing there, with that landscape. No high maintenance plants.

    Rabbits.....hmmmm...at least, I don't have those.

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    1. I often think of our rabbits as the desert version of your deer - not enough predators! Good thing they aren't larger like those mythical "jackalopes"...

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  3. I'd rather have your gray than this Swedish gray with various associated Charcoals , black and lots of WET!!!

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    1. That's what people on the coasts tell me when they hear me bellyache on our "cloudy" weather!

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    2. LOL, I also hate May Gray and June Gloom. Never really liked the coast for those reasons alone. Well of course, then there was also those millions of other people, but that's another story.

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    3. I never knew of May Gray, but it definitely was, even in Rancho Bernardo...esp when I lived at 5/LJ Colony. Yuck, until I moved here...in Abq, now I love cloudy, moist mornings at that time. I see why people from Phoenix invade SD every summer!

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  4. That last picture is just beautiful. The grays of the mountains and land are echoed in the plants, while the red of the land (especially where the sun is shining) echoes the gravel? in the planting scheme. I think that is perfection.

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    1. Thanks - I sometimes take our skies and colors for granted, even when I say, "how cool!" Your points make me smile on this dry, chilly day!

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  5. I now understand why I don't add color to my garden in the way of bright plant pots and furniture. I like the monochromatic look. Yes I have color in flowers and of course at times the desert has the same but it can stand alone with grays and buffs.

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    1. Great insight - even though I'm into some bold color accenting, monochromatic still works. After some time, much here reverts to sandy, sublime hues or "Navajo White" from the sun!

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  6. Hi David,

    I love how you describe the subtle beauty of the Southwest. I love your comment about landscape crews taking the time to 'poodle' prune the sage (taking away much of its beauty) while not deadheading the perennials - a much easier job.

    **Thank you for your kind words. I have 'big' shoes to fill - you did a great job!

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    1. Hola! Yes, easier (or thought-requiring) tasks take a back seat to power tools, ruining what was desired in the first place. Anytime, AZPL - I can't wait to see all the great garden info you'll be writing on in Houzz - our region needs it!

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  7. Lovely, lovely. I especially like the second photo. I have a friend who is a landscape painter, and that looks like something she would love to paint.

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    1. Thanks for visiting; not bad for such an odd, gloomy day! Maybe more landscapes need to be created from observing then painting (sketching) wild scenes?

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  8. I found all of your photos in this post soothing...relaxing...ahhhh...so soft. Club Cholla / Grusonia clavata..NEATO! I totally appreciated your thoughts on the last photo - I would not have caught any of that. Makes so much sense what you said. Thanks for that lesson. Can you please expand on the passive water harvesting in that particular scene? What exactly would you have done to achieve that? Thank you! I love these lessons as I apply them master :) !!!!!!

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    1. Thanks! Soothing here, too - I need a nap...zzzz. Glad you like the club cholla - been slowly compiling a cholla post.

      Passive water harvesting - there should be cuts in the curbs and depressed grades in each median planting area, to intercept rain runoff, with some overflow in case too much water collects. 2 good resources -
      http://www.harvestingrainwater.com/
      http://windowoutdoors.com/Research/passiverainwatercapture/PRC.htm

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  9. I like it, goes well with the native desert.

    I agree, the rocks should be placed deeper into the ground. I also liked what you said about the gravel. Would be nice if they mixed things up sometimes.

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    1. The landscape contractors here obtain all these squared boulders, but they use that shape as a way to cheat and just set them on the surface...maybe rake some soil up to them. I"m just glad the ones chosen are darker like the basalt on the hills beyond. Mixing gravel mulch size - I should post on this topic, since it adds a nice texture. I wish I knew who designed it, as it's nice considering a likely number of constraints, including engineering on the lack of water harvesting.

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