chasing agaves

Last Saturday, while millions marched their way into the history books, I was driving south to San Diego to meet agave expert Greg Starr. I had been looking forward to this 2-hour road trip for some time, as a beacon in an otherwise fairly bleak January. Family medical issues against the chaotic national backdrop were starting to take a toll. My guilt was somewhat lessened by the knowledge that our family would be represented by a marcher. Definitely count me in for the next one and the one after that. NPR covered the march for the drive south, and the recent back-to-back storms cleared to offer up a gorgeous, cloud-scudded and dry Saturday. Pardon my nativism, but California is so beautiful.

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My destination was this private home where the San Diego Horticultural Society was hosting the talk by Greg Starr and a plant sale. Greg was bringing agaves!

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The front garden was a life-affirming explosion of agaves and aloes. A blooming cowhorn agave, A. bovicornuta, is still a commanding presence, even among show-stealing flowering aloes.

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Tree in the background is Euphorbia cotinifolia.

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A narrow footpath runs a few feet in front of the house for access. I’d be guessing at aloe names, since the owner has access to some amazing hybrids. The bright orange in the left foreground looks a lot like my Aloe ‘Jacob’s Ladder.’

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Agave ‘Jaws’ fronted by a marlothii-hybrid aloe in bud.

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Incredibly tight tapestry of succulents, with some self-sowing alyssum and California poppies managing to find a root-hold.

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Unfortunately, Mr. Starr was unable to attend, probably due to the recent spate of severe weather and heavy rain. But the owner’s private collection of aloes and agaves was more than enough compensation. That’s Agave ‘Streaker’ above in one of his raised beds in the backyard.

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Agave pumila, at a size I didn’t know they achieved.

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Selection of Agave utahensis

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Aloe longistyla, touchy about drainage, prone to mites, but so beautiful, flaunting some of the largest flowers of any aloe in relation to clump size.

The San Diego Hort. Society members provided lots of interesting plants for sale, including a variegated agave I can’t find a reference for (‘Northern Lights’ — anyone?) With the Mini already nearly full to capacity, I stopped at Solana Succulents on the way home, detouring west to its location directly on Highway 1 in sight of the Pacific. Owner Jeff Moore manages to tuck in a stellar selection of rarities in a relatively small-size nursery. Here is where I finally found the long-coveted Agave weberi ‘Arizona Star’ in a gallon.

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A nice shipment from B&B Cactus Farm was on the shelves, like this Astrophytum ornatum. I also brought home a Parodia magnifica.

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And another cowhorn agave.

I don’t think I’ve had Jeff’s self-published book out of arm’s reach since I bought it last Saturday. “Aloes & Agaves in Cultivation” is everything you’d expect from someone who knows all the growers, hybridizers, and designers in San Diego County. He’ll be speaking closer to home, at South Coast Botanic Garden in Palos Verdes, this March. And February’s speaker doesn’t look bad either (Panayoti Kelaidis!)

This entry was posted in agaves, woody lilies, clippings, garden travel, plant nurseries, plant sales, pots and containers, succulents and tagged , , , , , , , , , , . Bookmark the permalink.

7 Responses to chasing agaves

  1. Kris P says:

    That Agave ‘Streaker’ is a beauty! Thanks for this post. I’ve put the February and March C&SS talks at SCBG on my calendar and have 3 friends interested in tagging along. I didn’t know that Moore had finished his second book – hopefully, he’ll bring an ample supply along to his talk in March.

  2. hb says:

    Huh. Interesting. Wonderful how the gardener was able to cram so much into modest space while maintaining the health of the plants, which look great!

    Also blogged here:

  3. Denise says:

    @Kris, I hope to see you there!
    @Hoov, well, the person manning the checkout table was obviously uninformed, so therefore I am too — I had no idea Mr. Starr was in our midst and saw none of his agaves for sale. “Huh” is right! So this must be Mr. Starr’s second home, the main one being in Tucson…Thanks for the link!

  4. Peter/Outlaw says:

    What a treat to see images. I can’t imagine the thrill of visiting in person! Nice haul!

  5. Hmmm… I’m confused! Maybe following Hoov’s link will clear it up. If not, well then just getting to look at that sexy Agave ‘Streaker’ is reason enough to have stopped by.

    (still sad at having missed you when in your neighborhood)

  6. Denise says:

    @Peter, so glad to give you a treat instead of the other way around all the time!
    @Loree, I was confused too — I’m assuming we’re confused about the same thing. I was so disappointed to think Mr. Starr attended and I missed it somehow, that I called his nursery. His wife confirmed that they did not attend because the rain had been so intense. Saturday was clear, but it was book-ended by some awful traveling weather. So that ends my confusion — I hope yours too!

  7. Denise says:

    @Indeed we did bump into each other, Len! I’m in one of your photos, the one just under the caption “The raised beds were perfect for easier viewing,” white hair, green scarf! You did a great job documenting that amazing collector’s garden. As usual, I was too busy looking and yakking to take more than a few photos.

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