Friday, June 8, 2012

On Top of My World

Inspired by A Garden On Sherlock Street, I decided to go on top of my roof and show you all an "aerial" view from several areas around the El Presidio Gardens.  This post is also for David from The Desert Edge.  You asked me awhile back to take a look at those Palo Verdes on the other side of our parking lot wall.....and today I'll show you what it looks like from high above.  I am scared of heights and climbing onto the hot summer roof needed to be done before monsoon.  There were beer bottles  along with lots and lots of acorns.
El Presidio is two stories high.  When I moved here 4 years ago, there was nothing here.  Look at the other side of that fence and you'll see what I had to work with......empty space!!!  This was actually beneficial for me as I was able to organize and plan out the space.  I didn't think I could have a green garden as it was all rock and ugly clay soil.  It was a battle and I remember that a lot of sweat and tears went into the physical planning.  You are looking down upon the Fern Garden.  The tree on the left is Chitalpa.  The tree on the right with the purple blooms is the Jacaranda.  The bushes behind with the red blooms are the oleander that provide a natural green screen from the ugly school behind.   The purpose of this garden was shade protection for birds.  And also for our energy bills.
Tucson is a desert.  It's one of the "greenest" deserts in the world.  We have some of the highest plant and animal diversity in our Sonoran ecosystem.   It was a hot day and I had to clean acorns off the roof.  It has taken me years of proper pruning etc to get this view.   At the end of the roof(above pic), you will note one of our very healthy Live Oaks.  To the right of that tree is a Mesquite forest and close to the front of the pic is a Euc.   Palo Verdes are yellow in the background creating a wonderful canopy for birds to nest, shade etc.
Every space requires fixing.  When I look at the space below, I see several holes.  There is a cactus that I hope will fill in that spot.  It is growing but after last years freeze, many of our cacti froze to death.  This is a transplant that is slowly moving up and out:)  If you are interested in bird gardening, it is important to provide lots of hiding areas where they can sit in the shade.  The blossoms provide food for our hummingbird and verdin populations.
But this photo best expresses what I've done to our property.   I love the desert but if you notice the adjacent property, there isn't much going on there.  There's a lovely Ocotillo and a lot of open ground with little landscaping. Most of the properties around us look like this, but I refuse to accept that landscaping in the desert HAS to be boring.  It's not.  It's quite exciting.  And our water bills are excellent.....proper planning.  My big issue will be the pruning over the years but luckily we have some great homeowners here who help out with the cuts.  Now the next set of pics are for you David:)
I'm curious.  This property is a group of Ecoconscious condos.  Note the rain barrels and Palo Verdes.  They have grown quite large over the the past 2 years!  They've added a lovely shade to our hottest exposure...the West side of the gardens. As they've grown, the trees have extended their arms onto our parking area.  Their back area is quite small and has also become a nesting ground for hummingbirds. I will say that they have really left their grounds extremely well maintained.  It is all very Sonoran and desert friendly. I'm not complaining about the Palo Verde choices, BUT were they appropriate for that tiny space?
Let's pull back a little.  Our old warm charm and their modern day charm has created a thicket of trees for birds.  The very left of this photo is a Children's Academy that has sparse vegetation. 
I'll leave you with this image here.  I'm happy with the progress of the property but I am concerned about several of these Palo Verdes growing into our parking area.  Suggestions?  Ideas?  I can tell you that once hummingbird nesting is over, I'll be asking the homeowners to do some pruning on the lower branches.  Several hummers have placed nests under the park area.  Very very smart:)  I'm making progress at El Presidio.  It's slow, but the face of our landscape is changing and every year I smile even more:)  More tomorrow.....


  1. You did wonderful landscaping and designing the gardens. Your hard work has paid off beautifully. Wonderful photos, have a great weekend!

  2. I love the warm pics. We've had our heater on over here for a couple of weeks now. I mean when it gets below 55 F with a cold wind associated, I hate it.

    At first I thought the red flowers were from a Australian Bottle Brush plant. But I see you also have a Desert Willow with the purple flower variety. Your young Jacaranda is looking rather leggy and long. Are you going to train it into two main trunks ? Nature and environmental circomstances seem to be already training it.

    When and if the Paloverdes are trimmed, I hope they or you don't get someone who will do an ugly hack job. I'd definitely get their limbs off that tine roof and the leaf debri. You didn't say whether they were growing under that car port. I'd definitely take that away myself.

    BTW, have you ever eaten any of those spring fresh peas from the paloverde pods ? They taste very much like sweet peas. Last year I and my wife were at my sisters place in Ocotillo. I walked around the vacant lots in the neighbourhood where the Paloverdes were growing wild and this was June 2011. The peas were still green and fresh. They thought I was crazy going out and picking wild bean pods. Some people have no idea about wild edibles and how good they can be.

    What kind of oaks do you have ? Are they Emory Oak ? Those are picturesque and numerous over in the Huachukas just south of Sierra Vista.

    You are also right about Tucson being a green living desert. To be honest that greeness aspect could very easily be spread to even moonscaped areas of deserts further west of you. One reason you are so green there as compared to other areas is that Tucson is in the direct middle pathway or freeway of the summer monsoonal moisture flow. Lucky Dogs!



    1. Ooooo I was writing so fast I made an error.

      I meant I hope you """"DO NOT"""" hire some tree trimmer who does an ugly hack job. Mostly I think of Davey Tree or Asplung who do chop-Shop work for utility companies. Tree sculpting was always one of my favourite things because it was something of an artistic nature and I tend to gravitate towards that.



  3. really nice to see all the green space - i bet the birds and animals are too!

  4. Thank you for your ideas. The Jac is leggy but the birds have been using the branches to sit on....and as summer warms up more, the entire tree will be bushy.

    I have never tried the paloverde pods!!! That is such a cool thing. Never heard of that....and I've always wondered as I've popped several pods open. Next time I'll check this out.

    We have Live Oaks here and they are two of the largest in the Tucson area.

    It's killing me that I have to go, but my family is pulling me away from blogging now...I'll be back soon writing away!!! Thanks for your advice and comments. Chris

  5. Glad to get your "bird's eye view" of the garden. Hope you're having fun!

  6. Great job getting those photos!

    You have so much variety going on in there. Not boring at all. It really is helpful to see everything from above. I like how you noted what the neighbors are doing. Some pruning needed but glad there is something helping the wildlife in the area.

    Maybe in a year you can do it again and compare?

  7. Very cool scenes! Hmmm...much in these bird's eye views, since they really illustrate the spatial relationships.

    Your "Chitalpa" is actually a real Chilopsis linearis / Desert Willow...looks healthy. Having a clean slate is nice, especially when one has to deal with endless mulberry, elm or cottonwood roots many think are great, valuable shade trees as they tear up walls, paving, etc.

    Palo Verde trees - Tucson is quite the lush desert...if the Sonoran Desert is "arborescent", Tucson is even more treed-out. I wonder if that's what your neighboring condos are doing, using palo verdes to shade the whole are? What they've done should work well, compared to the largest trees species, though it will take careful pruning from both their side and your side. Definitely worth working together on, as it is not too small a space for those, with some cooperative maintenance, so both properties benefit.

    That other adjacent property with the vast, open DG or bare soil area - I wonder if that was lawn decades ago? That and the front yards really need a load of Palo Verde trees, ironwoods, etc...from 5 gallons with water harvesting basins, they could fill in fast, and create some shade. Their front yards with cacti and the occasional arborvitaes really need something...and a desert bosque would be it to me!

    Thanks for the tour from up high. I should do that here and show my rooftop landscape view at my first house on the west mesa. Quite revealing!

  8. Its fascinating to see your garden from your rooftop Chris - you get such a different view of the area and can see even more what brilliant progress you are making :) Its especially interesting to compare it with the less vegetated adjacent areas.

  9. Very very nice! Just goes to show if you put your mind to a thing you can overcome even a desert.

  10. Seriously inspiring to demonstrate that desert planting can be diverse and support diverse birdlife. Good 'work', Chris.


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