Tag Archives: Agave americana var. medio-picta ‘Alba’

Saturday clippings 2/14/15

Valentine’s Day would seem to demand a quote on love, and this one by Rilke sums it up well:

Love consists of this: two solitudes that meet, protect and greet each other.

No, I didn’t grab a book off the shelf and flip to exactly the right page, but noncommittally typed in a search string query, fairly confident that Rilke must have weighed in on the matter. I honestly don’t think I own a single book of poetry, though a dusty copy of Letters to a Young Poet might be around here somewhere. No Val Day plans, but weekend plans tentatively include the Long Beach Veterans flea market on Sunday (every third Sunday), which would be a firm plan if it wasn’t so god-awful hot. (Too sunny here, too snowy there — what a winter!)

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The dew will be burning off the bocconia fast this morning, with temps expected near 90 F, then hopefully cooling for Sunday.

For a blast of pure romance, check out this post on Thread & Bones, where Mitch and Jessica announce their new photo venture and launch of their site, Ritual Photo Work. I really like the idea of reinvigorating important rituals. When we were married, I couldn’t envision a ceremony that didn’t make my skin crawl, so Marty and I were married in a courtroom, me in green silk pants I had sewn myself and copper-colored sandals. And then a day trip south to Puerto Nuevo for lobster and tortillas. No regrets, no diamonds, but there’s also no photos, no tangible remains of that day. There is only the very vivid memory, one that I hope never fades, of a troop of kindergarteners on a field trip to the courtroom bursting into spontaneous applause as the judge pronounced us legally married.

And speaking of Mitch, my oldest son, perusing Gardenista today I see that this week they reprised Mitch’s photos of The French Laundry in Napa, California. You can have a look here.

I’ve had my appetite for browsing the fleas whetted by all the chair porn I’ve been consuming lately in between deadlines on the computer.

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Russell Woodard Sculptura lounge chairs at 1stdibs.

In an increasingly incomprehensible world, chairs possess an uncanny ability to soothe. Even just photos of chairs.
If a mind is consumed with building the perfect chair, what trouble can it possibly get into? Sites like 1stdibs are a design education in themselves.
And among all the Hans Wegner Papa Bear chairs, Saarinen Tulip chairs, and Jacobsen Egg chairs can be found some interesting choices for the garden, though prices are usually higher than flea market.

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I see a lot of original Russell Woodard’s spun fiberglass table and chair sets at my mom’s retirement community.
Really amazing, decades-long durability, but so far I’ve yet to warm up to it.

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Thank goodness agaves are still one of the most affordable design bargains around.
I snapped this quick photo of a Pasadena house landscaped almost exclusively with agaves, mainly medio-picta and parryi, earlier in the week.

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I love drawing the eye with the big rosettes, too, but they don’t necessarily have to be the same species or even the same genus.
One of my favorite views, with two agaves, one yucca, three big rosettes stepping up in height, yellow, green, blue.

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The mystery mangave is throwing not just one bloom spike, but in a first, the pups are spiking too.

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The giant ‘Cyclops’ aeonium feels like joining in.

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Tiny starry flowers have also erupted in the foaming nebula that is the South African Climbing Onion, Bowiea volubilis.
Dormant in fall, it stirs into life in January, and is now tumbling down 4 feet, tracing and exploring every curlicue of the old iron plant stand.
That’s the unvarnished description, a far cry from the tangled garden monologues these plants and objects unleash, which go something like:
Dustin’s bowiea is going crazy on that plant stand.
And where the heck is Dustin going to travel next? Doesn’t he stay home anymore?
And Jerry, where did he go? I really miss Jerry, but at least I have his plant stand to remember him by.
Was it $30 I gave him for it? What a wickedly fast associative mind he has, one of those ebullient, fizzy champagne people.
Incredibly supple, effervescent, improvisational mind, a lot like that bowiaea finding tendril holds,
etc, etc.
Lots of time for more garden monologues this weekend. Enjoy yours!

better know an agave

A rogue’s gallery of agaves from Jud’s garden. Some of these I know, some I’m guessing at, and some have really stumped me.
If you have an idea, I’m all ears.

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Agave potatorum?

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With Agave macroacantha in the background

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Agave macroacantha

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Agave macroacantha, possibly a selection of Agave titanota in the foreground (Agave horrida?)

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This looks more like the Agave titanota I know.

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Agave ferdinandi-regis

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Agave guiengola ‘Creme Brulee’

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And Agave guiengola ‘Creme Brulee’ with the anchor plant, Colletia paradoxa

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Agave lophantha

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with Agave guiengola ‘Creme Brulee’

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Agave shawii?

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with Agave havardiana in the background.

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Definitely Agave havardiana (see comments for ID discussion)

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Agave americana var. medio-picta ‘Alba’

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Mark commented on the first post back in 2012 identifying this agave as A. isthmensis

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Agave parrasana, the Cabbage Head Agave, also ID’d by Mark in the 2012 post

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Agave victoriae-reginae

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Agave celsii ‘Nova’? Or plain old Agave parryi minus the truncata?

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Agave schidigera

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Agave celsii ‘Multicolor’

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Agave bovicornuta in the foreground

driveby agave garden revisited

I’ve been thinking of Jud’s garden. Did the recent unseasonal heat waves bruise any agaves? I didn’t memorize the address, so it took a while to find again, which seems to be a recurring theme with this garden. Was it on Colorado or Fourth Street? East or west of Termino? After about a half hour’s meandering, suddenly there it was again, rising up out of the suburbs like a desert oasis mirage.

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It certainly holds its corner like no other house I know.

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The driveby view is splendid enough, but seeing it on foot is the only way to appreciate the multiple shifting perspectives of rosettes and spikes.

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I’ve never seen Sticks on Fire as tall and narrow as cypresses. I wonder if they had to be pruned into these columnar shapes.

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The agaves were indeed left unblemished by the 100-degree temps.

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I’ll post a few more detailed photos of Jud’s garden this week.

Garden Bloggers Fling 2013; Matt Gil Sculpture Garden

Second garden on Friday, designed for a work/live fabrication studio and sculpture display space in a light industrial neighborhood of San Francisco. We are an avid bunch, craning necks, snapping cameras, firing off questions (my bad habit). I have to constantly check an impulse to blurt out a question and query myself first: How would I feel if this were my garden and I came face to face with me as a garden visitor? God forbid. But it is just so exciting to see these special gardens that questions tumble forth. And by special I mean wholly individual responses to climate, topography, and the space one has to work with — all the really important variables. After all the ink spilled on formal/informal and all the other garden principles drilled into us by books and public parks, seeing the imaginative responses of garden artists to the circumstances they find themselves in is unbelievably refreshing. And liberating. Bay Area gardens whisper seductively: Do what you want, where you want, how you want, and as best fits available resources and how you live, work, and play.

Amen. And then let us come visit, please.

Or, alternatively, bring in a talented Bay Area garden designer, as artist Matt Gil and his wife Lesa Porche did, when they asked Dan Carlson of Wigglestem Gardens to create a garden in which to display their sculptures, all of which are for sale. (And then let us come visit, please.)

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This blurry photo is the best I had looking at the upper deck from the garden, the office at ground level under the corrugated awning.
On the Fling we were split into two groups, so no more than 40 visited each garden at a time.

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The dining room window, light flooding in from the deck

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The hillside just visible through a scrim of backlit container plantings

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The view from the deck down into the garden with its low retaining wall holding back the plantings at the base of the steep, rocky hillside

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Descending the stairs, fountain at the bottom, bamboo against the hillside

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Colocasia growing in the fountain at the base of the stairs

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And stepping into the sculpture garden

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The steep hillside, which the owners eye nervously during the rainy season. San Francisco averages around 20 inches of rain per year, usually in the winter, but I was told there were two solid days of rain just before the Fling began.

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Succulents planted into the slope, shown draped here with mahonia

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Protea, Agave ‘Blue Glow’, Geranium incanum, echeverias, aeoniums, yuccas

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Further back, Geranium incanum spilling over the retaining wall, tall yellow kangaroo paws, aloes, California poppies, silvery dudleyas

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Using the Agave americana var. medio-picta ‘Alba’ as a visual pivot point. Kangaroo paws just behind. Aloe plicatilis almost out of frame in the top left-hand corner

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With grasses, aeoniums, poppies, and Agave parryi var. truncata

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Mangave and California poppies

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A potted cussonia streetside as we leave the sculpture garden and head back to the bus for lunch and frivolities at Annie’s Annuals & Perennials.
There will be no photos about the visit to AA&P, because honestly all I did was shop after lunch and the demonstration of nifty hose nozzles put on by a Fling sponsor, Dramm. Matt at Growing With Plants has a nice post on the visit to AA&P here.

driveby garden: Baker Street, San Francisco

For those who plan to attend the garden blogger meetup in San Francisco this year, known as the Garden Bloggers Fling, here’s a tiny glimpse of what the City offers mid January. And if you haven’t decided to attend yet, just imagine what June will be like.

The grand houses and dowager apartment buildings of the Marina District are set back just a few feet from the sidewalk. On Baker Street, there is the rare urban garden-making opportunity in those narrow, rectangular beds bordering driveways and front door walkways. Varying in size, these photographed below are relatively large, maybe 5 X 4 feet in size, running perpendicular to the sidewalk. Most of these spaces are planted simply, grassed or paved over, but someone grabbed the reins and went absolutely wild in maybe three or four of those rectangles, and in the adjacent parkways too.

What first slowed my pace from quite a distance were the spires of this brilliant, lemony bulbinella leaning into the sidewalk:



Bulbinella nutans? This bulbinella’s leaves were strappy and wide, not grassy.


Up close, the extravagance of the planting brought me to a full stop.
And closer inspection revealed that two rectangles had been planted almost in mirror symmetry.


The two Agave americana var. medio-picta ‘Alba’ were the tip-off.
But there were also twin Mediterranean Fan Palms, one each in the center of these two rectangles, and the same plants were repeated in varying combinations.


The symmetry wasn’t pushed to an extreme, but the overall shapes and sizes were congruent with the neighboring beds.
Massed aeoniums were planted alongside one agave, a crassula alongside the other.
Both dark and green aeoniums were repeated extensively throughout.


The blue fronds of one of the young fan palms can be seen here, along with various aeoniums and dyckia. In the distance, a yellow phormium anchors another rectangle, possibly Phormium ‘Yellow Wave.’


The beds were built up and rimmed with stones encrusted with sempervivums and baby tears.


The bed with the yellow phormium, bulbinella, yucca (filamentosa?) almost buried under the phormium, Agave bracteosa, echeverias, with the dried, aged blooms of a hydrangea nearer the house. The large grassy clumps in front of the phormium may be aloes. Amazingly enough, I think there may have been some beschorneria in here too. It’s hard to say how old the plantings are, but another small garden could easily be made from the abundance of plants without leaving noticeable gaps. In the Bay Area, a succulent garden can quickly leap from the initial, spare, well-spaced plantings to the lushness of these little gardens.


The palms in particular will definitely be needing more elbow room.

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But at this moment in time, the proportions still hold up. Succulents are the perfect place holders here, easily thinned out to allow more room when necessary — well, maybe not so much the dyckia, seen here next to one of the medio-picta agaves. I don’t dare thin the enormous clump of dyckia in my front garden. It is far more formidable a plant than any agave where flesh wounds are concerned.


The phormium repeated in the parkway with what looks like Kalanchoe grandiflora.
Euphorbia characias wulfeniii has seeded among the plantings too.


I’m pretty sure this is a beschorneria in the parkway, also known as the Mexican lily, which all have spectacular flower spikes that dangle intricate lockets of blooms.


Another plant repeated in different combinations was the squid agave, Agave bracteosa, here among baby tears, variegated yucca nearby.


Lush, strappy parkway.

What a pleasure it was to stroll along this undulating sequence of intense planting built up of rosettes and variations on strappy, spiky leaves. And you can’t miss it, should you attend the Garden Bloggers Fling. It’s directly across from here:


The Palace of Fine Arts/Exploratorium, though I understand the Exploratorium is moving elsewhere soon.

Magnolia stellata 1/12/13 Legion of Honor

Magnolia stellata in bloom January 2013, Palace of Fine Arts

snapshot of August 2012

August is always a truth-telling time in the life of a garden and a good month to take a snapshot of it. The hoses have been deployed this week to deep water the trees and soak the now bone-dry soil. Most irrigating up to this point has focused on containers and new plantings, but the mature plants can’t be ignored any longer. As far as the actual layout, it can be tricky to get lay-of-the-land photos in such close quarters, which is why I rarely perform this photo exercise. But some minor changes are planned for fall, so now’s the only time to make a journal of the garden as it exists this summer.

Agaves and succulents at the back porch are easy on supplemental irrigation

But I’m getting ahead of myself, as usual. First some context and lay-of-the-land descriptions and photos to get oriented for the August snapshot, hopefully not repeating too much from previous posts. There is no lawn or foundation plantings, in the back garden or the front. Though the garden is close to the house because the lot is small, we don’t grow plants up against this wooden bungalow. There’s trouble enough with termites and wood rot as it is. The plantings are mainly on the north and south sides of the house, and to a lesser extent the east side, which is currently getting the gate and hardscape cleaned up and is mainly dominated by a Chinese fringe tree. On the west beyond the garden gate is the business end, the driveway mess of cars, trash cans, tool sheds. The lot size is 5,750 square feet.

These photos are all of the back garden. I always describe photos at the top of the photo, which can get confusing, or so I’ve been told. From the garage and looking east at the back porch and pergola. The pergola attaches to the back of the house and also supports a roof over the back porch. A small “lookout” deck is atop the shed which houses the washer and dryer. Cushions on the lookout are just visible. We do favor a bit of multi-use, Swiss Family Robinson spirit in our projects. Amicia zygomeris in the foreground with Pennisetum ‘Princess Caroline,’ a dominant presence in the garden this summer.


From the opposite side, looking roughly southwest. Ladder leads to the lookout.
Canopies of smoke tree ‘Grace’ and Caribbean Copper Plant, Euphorbia cotinifolia, nearly touch by August.

Crithmum maritimum and aeoniums with a potted bay.

The little bath house on the east side of the house, which now doubles as an aviary, potted bay in front.
A parakeet showed up exhausted and hungry in July.
More Pennisetum ‘Princess Caroline’ at this end too.

The wayward parakeet has been tentatively named “Wingnut. So far, no reports of a missing parakeet in the neighborhood.
Wingnut does have a cage, but the wide-spaced bars give him free range of the bath house.
The fringe tree, Chionanthus retusus, can be seen just under the shade.

The narrow east side is mainly for tables and chairs. And pots too, natch.


Hello, kitty

The iron trough at the east boundary, which is the blue-stained fence. The Verberna bonariensis was neglected and died while I was away and has been replaced with some variegated pampas grass, red-leaved Hibiscus acetosella, and a chocolate salpiglossis from Annie’s Annuals, never an easy annual to grow, for me at least.

Salpiglossis likes rich soil but seems really sensitive to overwatering (and high temps — collapsed 8/13/12)
When I’m feeling brave I grow them, but just a few and only in pots.
Annie’s Annuals carries this dark selection ‘Chocolate Royal.’
Chartreuse background is from one of the three Monterey cypresses planted at the eastern boundary.

Looking to the west under the pergola, with the office door and garage wall visible. The huge burgundy grass blocking a view of the office doorway is again the Pennisetum ‘Princess Caroline,’ which just had a much-needed thinning. It badly needs splitting later this fall, at which point a blog give-away may be in order. (Hoov, Dustin, any interest?) Stipa arundinacea in the foreground with a glimpse of tetrapanax.
The pot-bellied pig corgi Ein seems to have found an errant morsel of kitty kibble, an important part of his daily to-do list.


More of the tetrapanax. Just visible is the creeping fig-covered southern boundary wall and glimpse of neighbor’s roof beyond.
The burgundy bromeliad nestled under a tetrapanax leaf seems airborne because it’s part of a mossed basket on a tripod whose legs are buried in that Stipa arundinacea.
A grapevine threads through the top of the pergola.

Again looking west. The agave sits in a tall wrought iron plant stand that was probably made in Tijuana.

Lepismium cruciforme coloring up nicely in the sun.

Looking east under the pergola from a photo taken in June, but it still looks pretty much the same, if a bit fuller.
The kangaroo paws, fresh in the June photo, have been thinned out as they age and topple over.
Plantings in the foreground are just in front of the back porch and along the walkway.

In front of the porch looking west to the garage. Agave ‘Blue Flame.’
Flowers of the kangaroo paws have lost their clean June outline by August.

Behind the anigozanthos can be seen the Australian mintbush, Prostanthera ovalifolia ‘Variegata’

Slim, leaning trunk belongs to the tapioca, Manihot grahamii, in a large pot with Sedum confusum.
The intervals of yearly growth can be seen at the bends and angles to its trunk.
Wonder what happens if I cut it back hard next spring.

So many pots here under the pergola, a few hanging, but I never count.

The variegated grass is new to me this year, Pennisetum ‘Skyrocket,’ shown here with Xanthosoma ‘Lime Zinger’

By August, plantings near the porch are starting to crowd the walkway that runs against the house.

Feather grass, centranthus, Sedum nussbaumeranium, Senecio anteuphorbium.

And this unnamed, Chrysanthemoides incana, a trailing, silvery succulent that spills onto the pavement in fascinating patterns.
A gift from garden designer Dustin Gimbel.

This Cotyledon orbiculata has really gained size this summer and also bulges onto the walkway.
The burgundy flowers of Lotus jacobaeus are threading through the Australian mintbush. Office/garage in background.

Euphorbia rigida is happy here as well.

White Centranthus ruber reseeds along the walkway too. I love the surge of plants at my feet, not to everyone’s taste, I know.

The walkway along the house heading west leads to a gate to the driveway or turns south into the patio in front of the garage/office.

This summer, in the border behind the agave in the beehive pot, grows canna, castor bean, ornamental corn, Helenium puberulum.
(Teucrium hircanicum bloomed here earlier, mostly bloomed out now. Very glad to have made this teucrium’s acquaintance this year. It’s already started to reseed into the brick patio.)

And Lysmachia ephemerum, a couple blooms its first year. Uncertain whether it will thrive here in zone 10. Scabiosa ochroleuca in the background.

Potted agaves on the office patio, house now in the background.

Burnished result from mistreating a potted jade plant.

It can be difficult to distinguish what’s growing in pots and what’s in the ground here, a feature of the garden in August.
Pots are for flexibility in changing things up. There are no hardiness issues with any of these plants.

This aeonium is in the ground. Though it came unnamed, by its furry leaves I’m guessing it’s A. canariense.

Swooping branches are Senecio anteuphorbium. Blue succulent is the Mexican Snowball, Echeveria elegans.

Sonchus and Agave attenuata ‘Kara’s Stripes,’ a pup from the front garden.

The pathway off the office patio ends abruptly now, but used to run east/west through the entire length of the border behind the pergola. I needed the space for more plants, and there’s still a bricked access path against the southern boundary wall to reach the compost bins.
Who needs redundant paths, anyway?

Self-sown Mirabilis jalapa ‘Limelight’ loves August


Looking west at the garage/office wall from deep in the border that curves around behind the pergola, through Persicaria amplexicaulis to the potted agaves on the small brick patio in front of the office. Slim trunk is the Caribbean Copper Plant, Euphorbia cotinifolia, a 15-foot tree here.
On hot summer days, you can hear the crackle of its seeds exploding, a sound I heard quite a bit last week.


Looking east through the persicaria at the trunks of the smoke tree ‘Grace’

As I’ve mentioned many times, this knotweed is an amazingly good perennial for zone 10, which puts it at the top of a very short list. Never complains when the border gets too dry, as it invariably does by July. Reliably returns every spring. The bees are all over it. Doesn’t get knocked down by summer rain because we never get any, which means I’d be able to grow the new Belgium varieties whose spectacularly dark flowers are so full and brushy they are considered fit only for cut flowers — if and when they finally make it to the States.

Looking east from the border behind the pergola and its grapevine.

Still in the border behind the pergola, looking west, sideritis in the foreground. This one may be Sideritis oroteneriffae.
I’m trying out quite a few of these Canary Island shrubs. From Annie’s Annuals & Perennials.
A nearby 6-foot Salvia canariensis and some other stuff was removed late July, and a barked access path was temporarily reinstalled to assist in the removal of the smoke tree ‘Grace.’ Either removal or a severe pruning.

Looking west past a yucca to the enormous girth of Pennisetum ‘Princess Caroline’

Which completes, more or less, the snapshot of the back garden in August 2012. I know I’ll be glad that I did this sometime in January 2013.

Potting Up

Real estate may still not be improving much, but in the garden houses are always moving, as with this Agave americana var. medio-picta ‘Alba’ that has been upsized to a new home that can be comfortably inhabited for several years, an amber-glazed beehive pot, trading up from garden-variety terracotta.


At the base of the pot grows another of the surprising gomphrenas that are trickling in to nurseries without much fanfare, presumably a hybrid of perennial and annual species because they live over year to year here in zone 10. Last year it was ‘Fireworks,’ and this fall it’s ‘Balboa,’ a gomphrena I found under that name, with no other information. Silver, succulent-like leaves are its striking feature. The familiar gomphrena flowers are in a much lighter hue than ‘Fireworks.’ These new gomphrenas don’t provide the floral mass effect of the annual kinds, but they do provide a drought-tolerant display of tiny little supernovas attached to wand-like stems, similar to the bobbing effect of the bottle-brushes of sanguisorbas or the starbursts of astrantias, without the requisite buckets of supplemental irrigation. For someone who enjoys collecting plants, far too many plants, but also likes the challenge of finding ways to best display each plant’s unique characteristics, such see-through plants are invaluable, obscuring no one and adding an architectural vitality and a line-drawing effect that the eye delights in tracing over and over. I gave it the sunniest spot available, something I failed to do with ‘Fireworks,’ which I know can perform beautifully if well sited.