Wednesday, January 23, 2013

We continue our January therapy…

If you wanted to find yourself in the absolute opposite of Portland, Oregon, in January where would you go? Well here of course…

I apologize for the lousy photos; they were taken from the window of the plane as we started our descent into Albuquerque, NM. Can you imagine anything further from the wet, forested, green (and yet grey skied) landscape of my home? I was desert awestruck all over again.

Do you know what the airport in Albuquerque is called? It’s not an airport; it’s the Albuquerque International Sunport, seriously! We arrived in ABQ last Thursday, the final landing in route to my in-laws in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico.

Like most of the West they’d been in the midst of an extreme cold spell, but as luck would have it that all changed the day we arrived, I was in heaven. Our first full day on the ground I bundled up to go for a walk, stepped outside and broke out in laughter…it was sunny and WARM! Back inside…coat, scarf and gloves thrown to the floor. Everyone looked at me like I was crazy when I giddily announced “it’s like summer out there!” and ran back outside with my sunglasses and just a t-shirt and jeans...if only I'd thought to pack my flip-flops.

I went exploring…

Walking about one quickly realizes the residents of Truth or Consequences do not place a high priority on their landscaping. But that’s okay…it requires a certain mindset to find the beauty and I was up for the task.

This dried agave bloom spike was on the other side of the wall last time we visited, in October of 2011. It was also still attached to an agave. I absolutely love that they thought it was worth saving!

In an empty lot just down the street from my in-laws I spotted the first of several purple opuntia.

And a very tired cylindropuntia...

Most of the purple opuntia looked like this, it's been awhile since it rained here.

The white filaments of Yucca elata.

Hey what's Sponge Bob doing in the desert?

Here we have a crafty sun shade, although I'm not sure exactly what it's shading.

This residence is, well, a bit...on the scrappy side...

But I loved the railing on this short staircase...

And was quite bemused by this spiral staircase of rocks.

So much texture...

I wish my stock tanks had those diagonal lines in the middle...

Now that's a privacy fence!

Someday I hope to visit when all the yuccas are in bloom.

But until then their open seed pods are quite wonderful.

The mountains in the distance, which I would love to explore someday.

Hey look at that, I think you could call that landscaping!

This poor guy has seen better days.

Finally...some big agaves!

Opuntia of many colors.

I noticed, as I walked around the neighborhood, that putting a circle around featured plants (and sometimes other things) is standard here. Scalloped concrete is definitely a favorite.

Sadly dead palms are also frequently seen.

These are some fancy opuntia!

Next to another deceased palm.

When I happened upon this empty area and spotted more purple opuntia, I knew a few would be coming home with me.

No agave pups this time though.

Ah here we have an interesting set up. Looks to be a very low maintenance gravel and cactus-scape.

Until you notice this! A plastic and brick fantasy pond...(what were they thinking?)

Across the street, a huge (alive!) palm...

And a few metal plants.

I wonder why the different hair-cuts on the palm?

Agave sightings are surprisingly few and far between here.

Although these are seemingly everywhere. Is it the cold or dry that has them feeling so lazy?

The shadows...

Are from this large yucca....

Ha! A lawn. I wonder when exactly it's green?

Another poor palm...

And bloomed out agave.

I wonder how long it's looked like this?

I've got a few more sunny desert pictures to share...but since I'm back in Portland and our rains are starting up again (after a long strange dry spell) I think I'll spread them out. Don't want to overdose on sun and blue skies!

42 comments:

  1. Love the sun and blue skies but the dead palms and dry opuntias make me want to water everything. The brick and plastic water feature reminds me of what my mother would say when she saw something that she didn't like but also didn't want to hurt anyone's feelings - "Well, isn't that different."

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    1. Oh yes...I think moms learn that phrase in mom school. That's the same place they're taught to always have a few rumpled up kleenex in every coat pocket.

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    2. Ah the memory. I could just put out my hand and Mom would put a Kleenex in it. Allergy child.

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  2. Aaah, a much-needed desert fix. A lot of people would find these photos dreary, I love them. I've only been to Truth or Consequences once, in the early 90s, but I have indelible memories of my brother eating a green chile burger so hot, he had tears running down his face :-).

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    1. Yes indeed, these photos reflect the hard life lived in this part of the world. It's not a picture-postcard sort of place for sure.

      We went out to a Mexicali restaurant Saturday night, their salsa was amazing! I just wish they would have been a little more generous with it. I'm not a big burger fan but I like the idea of that much chile heat!

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  3. It's soo wonderful to get some warmth and sunshine. The dead palms are sad but those live ones are beautiful. I love it. Sure looks dry!

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    1. Very very dry Louis...it was ideal for helping me to appreciate the moisture I take for granted (and sometimes curse).

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  4. Love the Sponge Bob and Stairway to Plant Heaven. You know me though. I'm such a serious person.

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    1. Indeed. I should have obscured the edges of the floor mat so Sponge Bob seemed to be coming right out of the ground...that would have been funny.

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  5. I'm sorry to say that these photos just depressed me. I love the desert and wonder why people don't just duplicate the beauty that surrounds them rather than trying to "landscape". A yard full of those native grasses, dry and brown though they are, would be so much nicer than a yard of gravel. Oh, and please don't show me scalloped concrete ever again. Blech.

    I bet you can pretty easily get that same sort of look on your stock tanks (as the diagonal ridges) using some gray or silver all-weather spray paint and a simple stencil cut from cardboard. Use a color that's as close to galvanized metal as possible, or maybe just a clear polyurethane. Something that will produce a subtle effect. If I haven't made myself clear enough, email me for more details.

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    1. And to think I tried to find the purdy stuff!

      I used the word "landscape" because the word "garden" seemed even less appropriate. I don't think I've ever seen a group of people less concerned with making things look good (my in-laws excluded from that statement). While I love gravel I do think a few more plants per square yard would be appropriate, still there is an austere beauty here and loved it. Maybe my second group of photos (up next week) will provide you something to enjoy, although fair warning...there is probably some more scalloped concrete!

      As for my stock tanks I do have ridges in the middle, they just vertically rather than diagonal so no painting here. Interesting idea though.

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    2. *Amen* on Alan's 1st paragraph, esp the 2nd and 3rd sentences. In 21 years here, I can only scratch my head.

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    3. 21 years! You've seen a lot of bad...but certainly some good, in all that time. Has it changed much or have things pretty much maintained the status quo?

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    4. Plenty of good, actually but the status quo and lack of land ethic is daunting. The potential keeps me going, though time to switch places in NM or elsewhere! Southern NM has more promise (and choices) than up north, and Abq in the middle - some of both!

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  6. Sun and spikies, great to see on a winter's day (or evening as I write this)!

    As for the dead palms, do you know how they died? Was it due to drought, cold, or weevil? Oh, and I quite like that sponge bob! :)

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    1. They had a severe cold spell 3 or so winters ago. That's when a lot of the agaves were killed back (or at least made to be very very ugly) and that's probably when the palms all bit the dust. The ones that did survive must have been protected in some way because they were all big (old) plants.

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  7. I bet there are some horticultural wonders waiting to be found in them there hills. My mind would be wandering over to them. . .

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    1. Yes...mine too. Time always seems to be an issue though.

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  8. You could easily take Truth or Consequences by storm if you ever settled in to make a garden there. I wonder if it would start a craze, or just convince them that you were crazed.

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    1. Oh that I'm crazed for sure...no doubt there.

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  9. I really enjoyed this post and the sense of humour. It's great to see what gardens are like on the other side of the world.

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  10. I just love the desert..not to live but what a great change of pace

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    1. Indeed it is a change, one I completely enjoyed.

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  11. I can see why someone went for those metal agaves and cactus. I don't think I have ever seen the desert looking so sad.

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    1. True, the metal versions can withstand just about whatever nature dishes out.

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  12. I'm with David and Alan, I'm afraid. I find these images depressing. When even the desert looks thirsty, you know it's bad. And I get that some people (lots of people) don't care to beautify their surroundings, but man, it sure makes for an ugly world for the rest of us. I wonder, though, if this isn't largely the result of a terrible drought? I see a lot of dead and dying plants in your pics...so sad. It reminds me of the fear that we gardeners in central Texas felt when the drought was so bad a year ago.

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    1. Yes things are certainly thirsty. I can't speak to exactly how bad it has been there. I did see a person out watering her garden and the difference was notable. Sadly this was not at a time that I could stop and talk with her.

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  13. That neighborhood has a stark beauty, and it reminds me of some of the beach communities around here, where gardeners deal with salt and sand.

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    1. Yes! I never would have noticed the similarities without you pointing it out but I have seen a few hard-luck beach towns that have a similar aesthetic.

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  14. Jeez, here I was wondering what to put in my garden, and there's a Sponge Bob for inspiration.
    We have some gravel yards here, too. Gravel is pretty drought tolerant and doesn't need much mowing, and is especially attractive when the black plastic underneath starts showing, and flapping in the wind. The best ones have sections of different colored gravel, sometimes--but not always--kept in bounds with 2x4s or metal edging.
    Shriveling in opuntias is a sign of dormancy, which to the cactus is the same thing as total drought. They won't rehydrate until spring, no matter what. You learn to like the droopy look.

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    1. Oh you've brought up one of my biggest pet peeves...the plastic! There's a bermed hell-strip I drive by all the time that started with gravel over black plastic but over time all the gravel has rolled off the berm to reveal the plastic. HATE IT!

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  15. Albuquerque resident here... our climate is ALWAYS this dry, unfortunately. I have visited Portland several times, and you are right, it is the complete opposite of Albuquerque. There is beauty to be had in the desert, even in T or C, but because of they dry climate/lack of water resources, many people have rock yards. Xeriscaping can be nice if done right, but I'm afraid the residential landscapes depicted in T or C are not a good example of it.

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    1. Thanks for commenting ABQ resident...reading the blog 'the desert edge' (http://desertedge.blogspot.com) has certainly helped me to understand just how dry it is there. Your climate makes the Phoenix/Tucson area look lush and tropic by comparison. I did find a few nice residential landscapes in T or C which I'll post next week, and I agree that xeriscaping done right is nice, gorgeous in fact!

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  16. The cacti shrivel up in response to cold, so some of what you are seeing here may be drought, but the rest is that deep cold snap we just had here in the s/w.

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    1. And I am very happy to have missed that cold snap thank you very much.

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  17. Seriously,no ABQ BioPark Botanical Garden Desert Conservatory pics? Seriously.

    I love ABQ. That's all.

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    1. Nope, we didn't spend any time in ABQ this trip...just landed and drove south. However when we were there in 2011 we visited the park and I posted about it here: http://dangergarden.blogspot.com/2012/02/rio-grande-botanic-garden.html

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  18. Nice trip, and the aerials coming in to the Sunport..oh yeah! And glad you like "Sunport" name! Some of the most beautiful places I've seen are all over NM, and the desert-mountain patterns are in need of application! But next trip, do explore into the natural areas and foothills via car and any trails - oaks, beargrass, sotols, etc that will make you sing. Shriveled cacti - severe drought + winter cold. I e-mailed my friend's possible ID's of most. Some good plants with need of more of them, plus design. Think of the built landscapes in NM as unlimited potential...

    "Fancy Opuntia" = Bunny Ears Cactus / O. microdasys. I noticed a live oak in one of the back yard shots...good choice! The lawn - Bermuda, most of Abq used that pre-80's, a warm season turf that is green May to Sept / Oct - ish, and next to Zoysia and Buffalo, is quite tough depending on soils.

    Next time, please bring water:-)

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    1. I hope to have time to explore..."next time"...life goes by too quick! And I would love to send some of our rain your way, really and truly.

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  19. Oh yeah is that dry. I can feel my skin cracking looking at the photos. So Cal is like a rainforest in comparison. You know how bad it is when the metal plants look better than the real ones. Those are good looking metal plants, too.

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  20. Thanks for the tour. I enjoyed this. :)

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