Wednesday, August 20, 2014

Two Gardens

Wedding Bells are soon to ring for my friend, Francesca.  She will marry Ralph and move into a Pueblo style house they have purchased in Placitas, New Mexico, a bedroom community of the Albuquerque area. 

I am working on a design for her entrance patio, currently looking like this...
The former owner is clearly not a gardener.
 This is from a photo included in the appraisal.  Not sure what the former owner intended for these concrete paving stones, but ever the environmentalist (and cheap as well!), I will somehow use them in the new design or recycle them through Craig's list.

Some things I know...Ralph would like a little bit of grass, and must have roses.
Francesca might like a vegetable and herb garden.

  The design issues....
1.  No shade, so we will probably plant a shade tree.
2.  Poor soil - a dump truck of compost from Soilutions?
3.  Need to address irrigation
4.  Awkward placement of power pole and meters (how expensive to move?) Or 
    could we establish a different path to front door with a strong focal point to   
    move  the eye away from this?  Trellis or large potted plant in front of the
    power pole to disguise it?
5.  Unknown elevation...need to find out gardening zone.
6.  Do the new owners want seating and or a dining area in this area or just a 
7.  Do they want to introduce some curves in the design or stick with straight 
8.  Water feature?  Do we keep that very modern concrete block fountain seen at the right of the photo?
9.  Fire pit, chimenea or corner fireplace?
10. Budget constraints?
11.  Need to identify orientation to the sun and what existing plants will stay...think that is a desert willow on the right side of the photo.
12.  Do Ralph and Francesca like a riot of color or a more restrained color palette?

We need to get this space looking more finished by the date of the wedding shower, because Francesca's friends may hold the shower at this location, so we will need to borrow pots of flowers, move the pavers, and perhaps install some of the hardscapes...gravel or mulch temporarily until we can decide on a suitable grass?  Ralph, would you be happy with buffalo grass?

Here are some inspiration photos...


Linear softened by round rocks

Or a combination of straight and curvy?

I lean towards curvy myself, straight lines are a little too formal and modern for me, but, of course, this will not be my garden!  Francesca and Ralph which do you like?

More pretty courtyards....
Photo Via
 Can't wait to get out to Placitas to answer some of the above questions, take measurements and see where the water spigots are located.

Here is a list of plants we might be safe we will assume hardiness zone 6b although in this protected courtyard we might be able to get away with zone 7 for some plants.  Because Placitas' water supply is limited at best, we will choose drought tolerant varieties to begin with and then perhaps add a few things that might need a bit more water as we see how well the water sippers do and how much water it takes to maintain them.

1. Hollyhocks-typical along adobe walls in New Mexico

2. Salvia (Meadow Sage)
Image via High Country Gardens

3. Yellow yarrow.  Other colors are also available and beautiful.
4. Butterfly bush - comes in many colors and is very drought tolerant once established.  As you might guess, it attracts a host of both butterflies and bees.
Image via

5. Agastache or Hummingbird Mint.  Fabulous sunset colors, very drought tolerant with a licorice scent.
Image Via High Country Gardens

6. California poppies (best grown from seed)  Adds lots of color at a small price and comes back year after year from re-seeding itself.
Image Via

7. Jupiter's Beard (Centranthus ruber Coccineus)
   A personal favorite of mine, I am transplanting some from my garden.
8. Succulents that will spread- even grocery stores carry an interesting variety of these beauties.  Great for low water gardens.
9. Groundcovers (wonderful for conserving water once established) Some possible choices....Ceratostigma plumbaginoides-Hardy Plumbago, Cotula Tiffindell Gold -Creeping Gold Buttons, 
10. Autumn Sage blooms in the fall but it is beautiful year round.
Sedum when first blooming

Transitioning as fall deepens

 By October    Image Via

 And of course, we cannot do without penstemons and lavenders!
       Penstemon digitalish Husker Red is a beauty with its gorgeous foliage...

But to be honest, I have never met a penstemon I did not love!


This is not the only project on the drawing board. In my next post we will look at renovations to a very established Nob Hill garden.

Wednesday, July 23, 2014

Something's a Little Fishy!

Photographed with a Panasonic DMC-2525 in natural light
Photographed at night with an I-Phone, notice how the flash changes the color.
Have you ever felt like you were stuck in a rut?  Just that sort of feeling led me to check out an online tutorial for painting watercolor Koi, and here is the result.  Pretty fun.  If you would like to try it, here is the link to a tutorial by Lian Zen.

Hopefully, my watercolor group will enjoy this as much as I did, since it is an exercise I am assigning them next Monday.

My friend Wendy liked this process so much, she used this wet into wet technique to paint her most recent elephant.  She owns a bed and breakfast in Tanzania and is doing a series of animal watercolors for sale to support a non-profit she and her husband have established to promote education about autism in Africa.  Their own young son has been diagnosed with Autism and Wendy and her husband Mathias Bali know first hand the lack of programs available for children with autism in Africa.  Click on the underlined links to learn more about travel to Tanzania or to see how to support Autism education.

Isn't it colorful?  Perfect for a child's room!  If you would like to purchase this elephant, send me an email at and I will forward it to Wendy or contact her through the Umali Bed and Breakfast.

And speaking of colors, I am in LOVE with Prussian Blue!  It was not in my Koi Water Color Pocket Field Sketch Box, so I had to purchase a tube of it separately.  When I worked in oils, it was my absolute favorite blue.  It is such a wonderful color to mix with almost every other color in the box.  I also use Verdana a great deal as you can see in the Koi paintings above. Do you have a favorite color of blue?

Another of my recent paintings with just the barest hints of blue. Photographed with a Panasonic DMC-2525 in natural light.

The same painting photographed with an I-Phone in the evening with artificial light.  Quite a difference!  While I really appreciate the convenience of always having a small portable camera with me in my I-phone, clearly a better camera should be used for images that are important to you.

Saturday, July 19, 2014

Not So Very Wild

We recently spent three weeks rafting in Idaho and were very excited about seeing such an abundance of wildlife. 

On the first part of the trip, the Middle Fork, we witnessed the regeneration of the forest after a devastating fire two years ago.

Some of the motley crew on the first morning.


And osprey find the dead trees a perfect perch.

A tired and ragged butterfly catches a brief ride on the raft.

Of course, I took my paints, but the wildlife doesn't pose for paintings, so I will share a few photos...
This little bee was very friendly, the wasps...NOT SO MUCH!
I was stung twice while sitting and painting.  Everyone else on the trip was stung as well.  Fortunately there was no need of the many epi-pens that we carried with us.

The butterflies were fascinated by the bright colors of my paint box.

And a different one by the salt on my ankle.
And who knows what I had spilled on the arm of my chair, but both the butterflies and the bees visited this spot multiple times.

 Here is what I was painting in the journal I kept during the trip...

And the subject of the painting. This cabin was built by a homesteader who also worked for the forest service. 

This little doe was very bold and came right into camp to check us out.  

Sometime in the night either she or her much abused sister thoroughly chewed a sweaty river shirt which one of my fellow campers who had left it hanging on a tree outside his tent.  Every critter seemed to need salt!
The homesteader had planted many apple, cherry, apricot and peach trees and when he died he left the property to the Forest service with the provision that that they should maintain the many irrigation ditches he had dug and lined with rocks. The deer (and rafters too) enjoy this little oasis.  All of the fruit trees where well pruned up to the level that the deer could reach!

Grabbing an apple.  Sorry about the blur!  No time to change to a different shutter speed!
Leaving this little Eden of cultivated land which could only be reached by boat we traveled on down the the Salmon River.

My hat made a resting place for the dragonflies that were hunting over the river.
Proud to carry a dragonfly!

Geese ignore our passage.

A raptor is not so complacent...hawk?  eagle?
What does Peter see just behind that large dark rock?
Male and female bighorns!
Having checked us out, they bring their babies into camp...

The wildest thing we encountered was a great big dog another rafting group brought with them.  He rudely terrorized these little ones.  He thought it was all in fun, but they definitely did NOT!