Lush and Lean part 1: County landscape architect works with the desert

Lush and Lean part 1: County landscape architect works with the desert

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County Planner David Cristiani presented at this season’s first Lush and Lean workshop, Thursday, Feb. 23, encouraging residents to make landscaping choices using plants that will thrive in southern New Mexico's arid climate. Courtesy photos.
County Planner David Cristiani presented at this season’s first Lush and Lean workshop, Thursday, Feb. 23, encouraging residents to make landscaping choices using plants that will thrive in southern New Mexico’s arid climate. Courtesy photo.

Editor’s note: This is the first of an 11-part series detailing Las Cruces Utilities’ 11-week Lush and Lean workshops educating citizens how to maintain a garden while being conscientious of water usage.

By Suzanne Michaels

For the Bulletin

Landscape architect David Cristiani describes himself as an Air Force brat who has lived all over the country.

By age 13 he was a self-proclaimed “weather nerd” and was intensely interested in what grew where. Because of the frequent family moves, he said even as a kid he noticed the great contrast in flora that thrived in different regions of the United States.

Today, with 28 years of landscape architecture under his belt, Cristiani works as a planner for Doña Ana County. He urges residents to work with the desert in designing their yards, saying, “You can’t pretend you are somewhere else; we live in the Chihuahuan Desert. Working with the desert will inform what your oasis (versus general areas of your garden) looks like.”

Cristiani shared his ideas at the free Lush and Lean workshop on Thursday, Feb. 23, hosted by Las Cruces Utilities (LCU). His goal is to help residents plan their properties in a way that is sustainable in the southern New Mexico environment. Cristiani encourages residents to avoid high-water-use plants.

“Pay attention to the processes and patterns in nature,” he said. “Water is a process.”

It’s important to create depressed areas in your yard to store water, then choose native plants that thrive in wetter and drier areas in the Southwest.

He prefers hardscape that provides a place to sit, such as a “seat wall” that is also nice to look at. He also likes desert “power plants” — soft and sharp — then uses flowers to accent specific spots in spring and fall. He likes a yard that features bolder plants such as agaves and beargrass.

All Lush and Lean workshops are free and open to the public; they are held from 5:30 to 7:30 p.m. Thursdays at the Branigan Library Roadrunner Room, 200 E. Picacho. See the complete list of speakers and Lush and Lean dates at www.las-cruces.org/WaterConservation or www.facebook.com/cityoflascruces (you don’t need a Facebook account to view this page).

Las Cruces Utilities can be reached from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m. Monday – Friday at 575-528-3500 from 8 a.m. – 5 p.m.

This yard, planned by David Cristiani, uses drought-tolerant plants in a design that complements the architecture of the home and provides a contrast in spiky cactus and mesquite with soft yellow damianita. Courtesy photo.
This yard, planned by David Cristiani, uses drought-tolerant plants in a design that complements the architecture of the home and provides a contrast in spiky cactus and mesquite with soft yellow damianita. Courtesy photo.

 

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