The CEED landscape project is located between Midland and Odessa just southeast of the junction of Highway 191 and FM 1788 at the entrance to the Center for Energy and Economic Development. The landscape is very large and includes the area around and behind the CEED sign, the median, and the right of way on the south side of the median at the entry drive.
Planning for the project was a joint effort between Master Gardeners, the UTPB Grounds Maintenance Staff and the CEED Facilities Director. The site is near a very busy road and a natural grassland pasture. Many of the existing native plants were intact except in areas where utilities had been dug and the median. The area soil is quite hard and rocky which created quite a challenge. Laurie Williams, TXDOT Landscape Architect, assisted in the design and advised the committee of TXDOT planting methods. UTPB installed water lines from the large pond near the building out to the entrance site and installed underground irrigation lines with small tubing for each of the plantings. UTPB also excavated the median area and brought in the large river rock for the dry creek bed. In mid-November, 2004, UTPB and Master Gardeners planted a variety of heat and drought tolerant plants. Plants were installed with no previous soil amendments, no mulch added and was to exist on only supplemental irrigation. The first 3 years the plantings will be watered regularly for successful establishment. After the 3 year period, supplemental irrigation will be less frequent.
The following plants were selected for this project.
Desert Willow, Chilopsis linearis
Vitex, Vitex agnus-castus
Texas Mountain Laurel, Sophora secundiflora
Texas Sage, Leucophyllum laevigatum, variety “Lynn’s Legacy”
Deer Grass, Muhlenbergia rigens
Lindheimer’s Muhly, Muhlenbergia lindheimeri
Red Yucca, Hesperaloe parviflora, and Hesperaloe funifera
Lantana, Lantana ‘New Gold’, and Texas Lantana, Lantana horrida
The spring of 2005 proved to be a learning experience. In the disturbed soil areas (utility area and median), every seed that had blown in had sprouted. There were large areas of bare ground with nothing but weed seedlings around our plantings. We noticed that the areas where the ground had not been disturbed (the prairie with native grasses) were weed free. After consultation with various persons involved, it was decided to research native grasses for our area and plant the bare areas to native grass. Several native grass specialists were consulted and a mixture of Sand Love Grass, Plains Bristletop, Blue Grama and Side Oats Grama was planted. The grass readily came up and was dominated by the Sand Love Grass. The grasses are quite tall and have solved most of our weeding problems. The native wildflowers have been left to continue their blooms and spread around as nature sees fit.
At the present time the grasses in the median dominate the site, however in a few years the trees will be taller. Most of the Red Yucca has been eaten by rats. Some Texas Mountain Laurels are doing well while others have seen damage from bugs and a few have died. Some sages were mowed and had to be replaced in the summer of 2006. 2 Agaves, 1 sotol and 4 nolinas (bear grass) have been added. All the lantanas were replaced the spring of 2006.
Future plans include mulching lantanas for the winter, adding more red yuccas to the median, and reviewing replacement of Texas Mountain Laurels. The grasses will be monitored and perhaps some shorter varieties introduced. Grass seeds from the prairie have blown in to the median and are growing. Once the irrigation is decreased, the grasses should take care of themselves i.e., the thirsty ones will decrease and the more drought tolerant ones will continue to thrive. Prairie zinnia would be a good wildflower to introduce in areas that are hard, rocky and dry, if there is availability at the nurseries or seed sources.
The CEED Landscape is not your typical garden and should be appreciated for the natural West Texas prairie setting and the extreme diversity of existing native plants as well as the introduced plants. As the desert willows, vitex and sage grow, this area will be a place of beauty appreciated not only by motorists passing but by the wildlife. Quail and other “critters” frequent the site, hiding in the grass, eating the seeds, unaware of the red tail hawk watching from above.
“A thing is right when it tends to preserve the integrity, stability, and beauty of the
biotic community. It is wrong when it tends otherwise.”