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agaves en masse

This was one of those days when I could have used an I Brake For Agaves bumper sticker.


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Every town in every climate has its repertoire of plants suitable for massing in civic spaces, roadsides, road medians. Here in my coastal zone 10 we see lots of agapanthus or phormium or tulbaghia/society garlic or daylilies. Big bunch grasses are beginning to be more frequently seen. For obvious reasons, agaves are not usually candidates, unless it’s the soft-leaved Agave attenuata. But the designers of the plantings around this industrial lot saw the perfect opportunity to let loose a multitude of variegated Agave americana.


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A regiment of agaves, for the agaves en masse were also en garde, defending a boundary between public area and trespass

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Agave as guard dog

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Guard dog in bright, undulating stripes. Nobody does stripes like an agave.

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At the corner the dangerous brutes were ringed in by a length of heavy chain.

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Like junkyard dogs, they were living in formidable conditions.
Equipment-compacted soil and god knows what chemical runoff from the machinery.

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Maybe it’s the years of training, but I must have spent a half hour among them, stepping in, crouching next to, reaching over, and came away without a scratch.
Good boy. Nice dog agave.

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In these numbers, it’s difficult to discern where one agave ends and another begins.
That perfect specimen is swallowed up in a sea of writhing, offsetting agaves.

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It’s one of those horticultural ironies that a prized specimen plant or container focal point in one climate grows like weeds
in somebody else’s home town.

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I once tried to keep a single potted hosta alive for an entire summer (and failed).
And then there was the winter I applied a mulch of ice chips to a doomed peony…

9 comments to agaves en masse

  • Beautiful photos Denise, thank you for sharing your weeds with me.

  • Les

    Though they may bite, the eat less than dogs and don’t leave anything for you to step in.

  • Sue

    Trespass at your own risk for sure. Around here the equivalent would most likely be Knockout roses. I’ll take the Agaves.

  • Ice chips on a peony – You are so funny! It’s funny what we gardeners do for the sake of our treasures/weeds.

  • It really is amazing what we can take for granted. I remember when I first moved here, I’d exclaim in wonder every time I saw a Japanese Maple (they are almost impossible to grow back where I grew up). After about the first few days, I had to stop the exclamations, they are as common (and easy to grow) here in Portland as Daylilies were back in Nebraska! Of course, that doesn’t make them any less beautiful ;-)

  • Denise

    @Loree, you’re most welcome!
    @Les, and no licensing, rabies shots, etc.
    @Sue, I bet those KO roses cover quite a bit of ground all over the country.
    @Peter, isn’t that bizarre? That was early in my hort career of course [cough]
    @Scott, I love these comparisons. They help to highlight what’s special region to region.

  • The right plant for the right place…and what beautiful photos of them.

  • I’m still smiling over your final two sentences. Better to love the “weeds” that want to grow where we garden, right? Can’t resist a row of writhing, stripey agaves, that’s for sure.

  • What a sight. I’m so glad you could appreciate them for their unique contribution in protecting the industrial site. I appreciate your sharing them.