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Back Issues
2012 - Summer Issue
Casas Bonitas
Outdoor Living
Article: Jessica Muncrief
Photos: Bill Faulkner
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If you think living in the desert means you have to be surrounded by dirt and cacti, then spend a little time with Mark Nash. As the owner of Nash Patio and Garden in El Paso, he has helped clients fulfill their visions in a variety of landscapes. Mark gave Ventanas a tour of one of the most verdant gardens he has created in the area to give our readers some tips and ideas on how they can create their own Eden of shade and green optimally designed for outdoor living all year round.


Nash Patio and Garden
"The house is really designed to be a shade garden. It's all about the trees. You are under the branches everywhere you go" says Mark. The clients really wanted to be able to enjoy an outdoor lifestyle, so the primary concern was ensuring it was cool enough during the hot season from May through September. The property boasts four separate patio and outdoor living areas, so, trees were planted every 15-20 feet. "It's designed to always be cool. It's very livable all day long, not just at specific times of the day," notes Mark. This abundance of shade didn't come without its challenges, however. While many plants would have thrived for the first few years, they would have needed to be replaced once the trees and branches started to create that ceiling effect they were striving for. Therefore, all the plants were chosen for their abilities to thrive both in the shade and the sun, and they were strategically placed for optimal visual effect. Mark explains, "Where the shade is the darkest, we used the lightest colored plants in order to really brighten up those areas."

Even though it is a Santa Fe style home, the owners were adamant that they didn't want a xeriscape or desert theme. They wanted to be able to see green no matter which window they looked out. So Mark opted for a less manicured look in which green vegetation was really allowed to grow naturally. "We weren't necessarily going for color," he notes, "but instead we chose a lot of different shades of green. There are so many hues and tones that it has the same effect as using a lot of color." To tie it all back into the style of the home, they incorporated a variety of natural textures and earth tones. Adobe walls, several types of flagstone, and a number of stone and ceramic accent pieces were used throughout the plan. Art and accessories by Laura Carrillo Designs, along with mosaic tables and teak wood furniture provide those additional Southwestern style touches as well.

Over the most utilized areas, those surrounding the pool, Mark constructed beautiful, raw cedar pergolas. The added shade, accompanied by the built-in fogging systems, can drop the temperature in those areas up to 40 degrees. Wisteria and other climbing plants were used for added shade and protection from birds. "We've been allowing some of the branches to grow under the pergola as well for that natural, unstructured feeling," Mark adds.

A natural concern with a green landscape in the desert is the need for a lot of upkeep. In order to create a low maintenance garden, very little grass was used which eliminated the need for constant mowing. The shrubs only require pruning about once a month and almost all the flowers are perennial so they come back every year.

While trees and an abundance of green are not the first visions that come to mind when conjuring up images of desert living, Mark has proven that this landscape can thrive in the Southwest's natural environment. A canopy of tree branches, carefully selected plants and the appropriate accent pieces are key elements in creating a lush desert oasis. With careful planning and placement, there is no reason to live amongst the cacti if preferences lean towards more vibrant landscaping. ///
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