Tag Archives: Agave americana var. striata

clippings, 4th of July


My neighbors have been diligently practicing for 4th of July celebrations since May, the little darlings.
Fireworks are illegal here, a fact which obviously adds zest to surreptitious, after-dark escapades ending in window-rattling booms and blasts.
Seeing as it’s the 4th of July, it’s about time I empty out the odds and ends that have been accumulating in June.

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Top of the to-do list: My front porch is a disgrace, drab and basically a dog zone not fit for humans, so I’ve been taking notes around town.
I’d much prefer it resemble something like this porch.

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Not something I’d want for the porch (all plants are kept well away from this old wooden house), but I had no idea there was a variegated Solandra maxima.
In any case, my porch faces north, not the proper aspect for this sun-loving, house-eating vine.

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Hanging containers, lots of them, will be added to the porch. This is Vicki’s creation I bought at Reuben’s recent sale.
I added the silver ponyfoot yesterday, when Loree’s post reminded me again how much I admired JJ De Sousa’s use of it in her garden last year.

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An example of JJ De Sousa’s masterful use of silver ponyfoot, Dichondra argentea, in her 2014 garden, blogged about here.
The silver ponyfoot and the the shrub, Ozothamnus ‘Sussex Silver,’ despite their lush, sparkling appearance, are both very tolerant of dry conditions. Really inspired planting.

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This year’s santolina orb project is coming along nicely. Two can be seen in the photo, but I think there’s about four of them. Hard to tell now that it’s summer.
I’ve done clipped orbs in the past, the last attempt with ‘Golfball’ pittosporums, but I always end up feeling straitjacketed by having to keep the sight lines clear around them.
We’ll see how long this experiment lasts. I love the effect but haven’t been able to live with it for very long. Looks fantastic in winter.
I’ve recently seen this done with the ‘Sunset Gold’ coleonema and may have to try that next. Possibly in pots for the front porch?

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What else is new? Oh, yes, the ‘Zigzag’ euphorbia from the CSSA sale at the Huntington last week, waiting for a permanent home.

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I’ve been wanting this Euphorbia pseudocactus for some time, and variegated is even better.
It’s actually a hybrid of E. pseudocactus and grandicornis.

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The big box stores are stocking tons of succulents, many in large sizes, so it’s a good idea to check in regularly.
I’m seeing these plants deployed all over town, usually quick and dirty, planted too deep, etc.
I couldn’t resist this Devil’s Tongue ferocactus.

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The Pseudobombax ellipticum has been slow to get going this summer but is finally leafing out.

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Another slow-starter has been the Agave americana var. striata. It seemed to take forever before getting those pronounced striations.
I recently plunged the agave, pot and all, into the spot vacated by a verbascum, which was beginning to smother a young leucadendron. Shrubs always get priority.

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Yesterday I dug up the huge clump of Eryngium pandanifolium and planted instead some golden Pleioblastus viridistriatus ‘Chrysophyllus,’ a dwarf bamboo, and some bog sage, Salvia uliginosa.
Seedlings from this eryngo are throwing up a bloom stalk elsewhere in the garden, so it will live on.
It was planted much too close to the bricks and spilled over our feet under the table, and those leaves are ankle biters, armed with hooks and barbs.
(The table has been moved to join up with its twin for extra summer seating.) I’m betting the salvia and bamboo will survive summer planting just fine.
It’s the dry garden stuff that’s much touchier, often succumbing to water molds. It’s always essential to wait for fall planting for dry garden plants.
(Having said that, I did take a chance and just planted a Lavandula stoechas ‘Silver Anouk’ because it was so drop-dead gorgeous.)

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Eryngium pandanifolium in July 2013.

In other news of poor plant placement, I took out Agave ‘Mr. Ripple’ today. Several pups have been saved for containers.
The beautiful monster agave guarding the east gate has been retired. There will be no photos. I prefer to remember Mr. Ripple in his prime.

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Agave ‘Mr. Ripple’ August 2014.

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A photo from November 2013 shows the agave and the ‘Little Ollie’ hedge at cross purposes. At least now I can clip and maintain the olive hedge.

Lastly, July 4th is the final day of American Flowers Week, a celebration of local and homegrown blooms.

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And what could be more American than these treasures of the New World, dahlias and corn?

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Unfortunately, these dahlias weren’t grown by me. The dahlias at my community garden plot didn’t appreciate my lackadaisical watering schedule.

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Next year, I swear there will be dahlias even if I have to forfeit zucchini.

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Latest toy at the community garden, a wood-fired oven. I missed the work party on this one.

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I may bicycle to see some fireworks or just hang out up here atop the laundry shed until Marty gets off work around 10 p.m. Ein loves getting hoisted up the ladder too.
There’s always a breeze to catch up here, and there’s even been a little clip-on reading lamp added.
I’m hoping the neighborhood gets explosions out of its system tonight. Happy 4th!


anatomy of a late-summer road trip

Is there a tinge of desperation in the road trips of late summer? By the end of summer are we stuffing itineraries with an absurd number of places to see in the dwindling opportunities to experience daylight until 8 p.m.? Guilty here. I’ll give a recent example from just this last weekend. And for the similarly desperate, there will be a trail of bread crumbs to follow for potential future road trips for the fall season. By fall I’ll be reconciled to the inevitability of autumn’s shortened days, and any road trips then will undoubtedly be washed in a golden haze of acquiescence to the rhythms of the seasons.


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image courtesy of Thread and Bones


It all began with a 63-foot-long hall in an apartment in the Mission district of San Francisco that could use the services of our 9-foot-long Turkish rug. The one we can’t use at home because of the prodigious shedding capabilities of the corgi. (Even the thinnest pretense for a late-summer road trip will do.) Los Angeles to San Francisco, roughly six hours. I’ve made this trip many, many times and have lived in a couple of the trip’s stops, like Petaluma and San Francisco. Familiarity increases the speed factor, another important consideration for late-summer road trips. My workload was fairly light, so Thursday to Monday were clear. Marty has been working all summer weekends, so it would just be me and my smart phone, a formidable traveling companion that can read to me How The Irish Saved Civilization in between navigating duties. The only question left was:

Before delivering the rug, where would I like to go?

Continue reading anatomy of a late-summer road trip

tuesday clippings 3/26/13

Nothing too thematic, just some odds and ends.

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To prove I left the plant sale tables briefly and did a lap in the show room at the recent Orange County CSSA show, here’s a Dyckia ‘Brittle Star’ hybrid that won an award. My own big clump of dyckia is starting to throw up bloom stalks, which the snails munch like asparagus spears. The slimy gourmands ate every bloom last year, and they’re on their way to doing it again this year. Some of that biodegradable snail bait was dispensed this morning, possibly too little too late.

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In the back garden, between the poppies and the anthemis, there’s scarcely any bare soil showing and it’s not even April.
I’ve started thinning out the poppies more aggressively. Diascia personata is the not-yet-blooming swathe of green behind the Agave americana var. striata in the tall green pot.

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Starting to bloom this week, though the event could easily pass unnoticed, is the Australian mintbush, Prostranthera ovalifolia ‘Variegata,’ a shimmering, aromatic shrub of medium size. I’m keeping it pruned to approximately 4 X 4 feet. Tiny, luminous, evergreen leaves, a loose, open form with contrasting dark stems. Tolerates dry but can handle regular garden irrigation. Not a specimen plant, its attractions are subtle. It brings pattern and light, not weight, to the garden. Some might find it a little nondescript. I wish I had room for more than one. In bloom its branches become studded with tiny lilac-colored bells. Not very long-lived, this is a shrub I replant over and over.

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Leaving subtle behind, I’m so excited to see some blooms on the Canary Island Foxglove, Isoplexis canariensis. These shrubby foxglove relatives may save me the trouble of throwing more money at trialing more of the rusty-colored digitalis species like ferruginea and trojana, which have yet to make it through winter. They just melt away, leaving me scratching the soil where they were planted searching for signs of life.
Not enough rainfall maybe.

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Another look at the isoplexis, a big sturdy plant. Nothing seems to bother it, knock wood.

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Geranium maderense ‘Alba’ opened some of its pure, laundry white blooms this morning.

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The back garden viewing gallery, the bricks freshly cleaned and weeded by Marty.
I think he’s got the attention to detail necessary to win prizes at plant shows. Good thing one of us does.
I insisted he leave a few poppies that had self-sown into the bricks.
I used to keep a small table here too, until I planted that Eryngium padanifolium too close. But what a stunning plant it is.

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Around the corner on the east side of the house, the pittosporum is turning into quite the tillandsia outpost.
A neighbor brought over a basketful last week. I love it when neighbors have your number.

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The battle of the compound leaves, melianthus vs. tetrapanax. The purple wash on the melianthus’ leaves is about as strong as it gets. I think it recedes a bit in summer. What an amazingly beautiful compact selection ‘Purple Haze’ is. Fantastic improvement on the species for small gardens.


Foliage Followup 10/16/12


Hosted by Pam Penick at Digging

Two of the great memes in garden bloggery, Bloom Day on the 15th and the Foliage Followup on the 16th. Pam’s photo above of an anole in her Austin, Texas garden suggests a third meme, for wildlife, which would really ratchet up demands for a good camera kit and a steadier hand and eye than my own. Just throwing the idea out there (Deanne, yoohoo!)

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I did go back to Brita’s this weekend for the Albizia ‘Summer Chocolate’ and will have to see how this potential 20-footer likes being kept in a container. (The fate of Brita’s nursery is still undecided at this point, which I wrote about here.)

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Arundo donax ‘Golden Chain’ has been very slow to establish. It’s reputed to lack the thuggish ways of the species, and so far this has been borne out by its performance in my garden, for which I’m so grateful. I’d hate to give it up. Hardy to zone 7, maybe 6.

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The arundo shares ground with Macleaya cordata, which is definitely fulfilling its reputation for having adventurous roots.
I haven’t grown macleaya in quite a while and missed having those enormous, scalloped, jade-green leaves around, especially on foggy mornings like this one.

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An agave must be included, and this is one I don’t post about too often.
The striations of Agave americana var. striata are almost too subtle, but as it matures they are getting more pronounced.
The overall hazy blue-green effect is lovely, reading much better at a distance.

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This agave has been relatively slow growing for an americana and hasn’t even pupped yet, another mark in its favor.

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Sonchus canariensis growing lush in October. A member of the asteraceae/sunflower family, it will bloom with dandelion-esque flowers in spring.
A pup of Agave ‘Kara’s Stripes’ was tucked in at the base of the pot.
Full sun, easy on water, not too big in a container, 6-8 feet.

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The banana Musa ‘Siam Ruby’ likes it hot, even for a banana, and really started to enjoy life when the days pushed into the 90s and stayed there. Not much action from it until the high temps kicked in.

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Canna ‘Intrigue’ has been moved probably more than any other plant in the garden. On the plus side, it’s relatively slim for a canna, but it still thickens up fast and quickly crowds other plants. This is new growth since being transplanted in August. The last canna in the garden. I love them, but they’re unabashed garden hogs.

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And, lastly, not a great photo but one that shows the size of my wonderful Tree Cabbage, Cussonia gamtoosensis, which I described in more detail here. The more common Tree Cabbage, Cussonia paniculata, has been in its 6-inch pot forever, at least a couple years, finally managing to push out a set of new leaves this summer from its swollen base, still without a proper trunk, but nothing fazes the Gamboos Cabbage Tree. I’d definitely recommend this more robust tree cabbage for pot culture in colder zones.

Thanks again, Pam, for giving leaves in their infinite and fascinating variety a day of their own.


succulents in spring

Prowling around the garden yesterday with this or that new plant in one hand, spade in the other, looking for planting opportunities where I already knew none existed, it seemed more constructive to put the spade down and pick up the camera. This small group of succulents right outside the kitchen door may be overgrown and out of shape by the end of summer, or changed up on a whim, so a spring portrait seems like a good idea at the moment.

The tall green pot holds a young Agave americana var. striata. I’ve been told never to select green ceramic pots, any color but green, since it will only blend into the background. Sometimes blending into the background is the point, though. Aeonium ‘Cyclops’ leans in, with Cotyledon orbiculata, the latter two planted in the garden. The thin red tips on the cotyledon just slay me.


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Aeonium ‘Cyclops’ is recovering from a winter of snail depredation. The snails mercifully eat mostly the older leaves lower down on the stems.
Last year Solanum marginatum grew here and was a small tree by the end of summer.

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This photo was taken on a different day, after an early morning fog.
I love that loosely incurved rosette shape that this hybrid inherits from Aeonium undulatum.
‘Cyclops’ is potentially a giant that may very soon become much too large for this small corner.

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This baby Agave victoriae-reginae was growing in the ground but became engulfed by surrounding plants, was rediscovered, rescued, and given a safe haven in a small pot atop a larger container. Small agaves can become engulfed and forgotten when one too frequently prowls the garden with a new plant in one hand and a spade in the other. Froth of lime green Sedum confusum on the right.

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Backing up a bit to include Aeonium balsamiferum, spilling out of a smaller pot.
I like the echo of pot rims and rings from this angle and the tension of containment and surge.
Sliver of a trunk on the left is a 6-foot Manihot grahamii also growing in this pot, its canopy an increasingly receding tuft of leaves as the maturing trunk twists and elongates. The yellow flowers are from the bulging Sedum confusum.

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Back further still. What a happy community they’ve made for themselves, for this brief moment in spring anyway. Self-sown bronzy Haloragis erecta threads around the pots, always choosing to seed at the garden edges.

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Plant Societies

Why has it taken me so long to check out local plant societies? I’ve been a member of the various conservancies, The Mediterranean Garden Society, but membership was mostly in a passive sense, as a means to attend tours and lectures. There might be a small fear of compulsory meetings, which seem to always be held a good 40 miles away, in which case the will to attend usually flags on meeting day. But in the past month, as I checked out Cactus and Succulent Society of America-sponsored plant sales in San Diego, Los Angeles, Pasadena, and attended a meeting of my local Long Beach Cactus Club (oldest cactus club in the U.S.!), it’s become apparent that there’s nothing to fear and a huge amount of information (and plants!) to be gained.

In exchange for creating and maintaining a cactus and succulent garden on site, The Long Beach Cactus Club is allowed to hold its meetings at the Dominguez Rancho Adobe, a California State Historic Landmark. The old rancho is also home to a seminary of the Claretian order, which means the grounds are intensely private and quiet, allowing the thick adobe walls to work their magic in evoking Old California.

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It hadn’t occurred to me how insular a plant society might be. If it had, I would never have had the nerve to attend alone. I strode into the newer outbuilding where the talk was taking place and then froze up just across the doorway threshold, instantly realizing I was in the company of people who had been friends for many years. Once the group recovered from the palpable shock of a new face in their midst, I was greeted very warmly and, as a guest, was invited to choose a free plant from a little table. I kept that bright orange-leaved aloe at the foot of my chair the entire meeting. Everyone is allowed to select a free plant, and scanning the room I noted that most of the other selections were cacti. At this stage I’m more interested in succulents in a landscape and garden setting, which was one of my biggest reservations about cactus clubs, that somehow plants would be reduced to a hobbyist pursuit. What I found at the meeting was a comprehensive cultural, scientific and historical approach to the plants that quieted any such misgivings. Woody Minnich gave a talk on a recent plant-exploring trip to Peru. Exquisite photos of Machu Picchu, Cuzco, the Nazca plains from a four-seater plane. Be still my anthropology-loving heart! I was riveted to the folding chair. Apart from his authoritative knowledge of the plants, Mr. Minnich’s talk reflected his catholic interests in the people of Peru, the food, culture, geology, and he’s simply a wonderful photographer. He speaks at cactus and succulent groups all over the world. If his name pops up as a speaker at a society near you, I strongly urge you to attend. He just might be presenting a talk on his recent trip to Namibia.

I bumped into Mr. Minnich again at the Cactus & Succulent Society of America’s sale at the Huntington Botanical Gardens this past weekend and told him again how much I’d enjoyed his talk. And then I got busy checking out the plants. And, yes, I succumbed and bought one of the specialty pots offered for sale at these shows. (This one is from Mark Muradian. Unfortunately, I lost my little notebook at the plant sale, and Mark didn’t have a business card, so I don’t have contact info, but he does sell through ebay.)

Lucky day to bag the elusive Agave americana var. striata. I asked the vendor if the difficulty in finding this agave is due to it possibly being less vigorous, offsetting less, and (fingers crossed) thereby being a a smaller, more manageable A. americana, and he said not at all, that it grows as big and pups just as furiously as the species. Still couldn’t pass it up.

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I also brought home Sedum confusum, Crassula rupestris, Agave guiengola ‘Creme Brulee,’ Agave ovatifolia ‘Frosty Blue,’ and an Agave utahensis which I gave away as a hostess gift last night.

More examples of pots by Mark Muradian

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The mother of all cactus and succulent shows is coming up August 13th and 14th at the Los Angeles Arboretum, The Inter-City Cactus Show & Sale. Not one to miss.

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Deja Vu Plants

In my garden, succulents are the deja vu plants extraordinaire. New acquisitions can look suspiciously familiar because, in fact, they have been brought home before. Maybe they became submerged under rampant growers, like the soft-leaved yucca I just unearthed when cleaning out some succulents, or malingered and withered away unnoticed in a pot. Whatever the case, after their disappearance or demise total amnesia sets in, just as it did with this succulent. Perhaps the amnesia is partially willful. Who can say? Not helping matters is the fact that so many succulents come without identification tags. Having a name for anything is an important step in forming a relationship. That’s my excuse, anyway.

To experience the excitement of discovery twice is not necessarily a bad thing, but it does leave one feeling sheepish when the buzz of acquiring something new eventually turns into a queasy flicker of recognition. Stranger, I’ve seen your face before.

Kalanchoe? Adromischus? Purchased nameless in 2010, lost and forgotten shortly thereafter. Found again at Terra Sol Garden Center this January, the first deja vu plant of 2011. No doubt there’ll be more.

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Kalanchoe humilis ‘Desert Surprise’

Reading about Far Out Flora’s recent trip to Terra Sol Garden Center in Santa Barbara was all the encouragement I needed for a 2-hour road trip to Santa Barbara. The nursery is worth every bit of FFF’s praise. Before the engine was turned off, my blood was already up. Through the parking lot fence I could see an enormous Agave americana with unusual markings, A. americana var. striata. The blurred striping gives a softer, more painterly effect than the stark striping seen in the common ‘Variegata,’ a beautiful agave in its own right. But that soft, greyish effect had my heart aflutter even before stepping through the gate. If I’d ever seen this agave before, I’ve no memory of it. And I know I’ve never grown it before.

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(Agave americana var. striata. Photo from the French palm brokers Palmaris.)

I was told it’s every bit as vigorous in habit as the species, if not more so. If it came in a size less than 10 gallons, I’d have bought it anyway. They did have a small pot of the legendary Agave desmettiana ‘Joe Hoak,’ which came home along with the deja vu succulent.

There wasn’t a tag on this succulent, or it’s possible I lost it in transit, so I called Terra Sol about a week after purchase and was kindly given its name, Kalanchoe humilis ‘Desert Surprise.’ I made a complete fool of myself over the phone trying to describe the color striations of its scalloped leaves. Not spots exactly, but not stripes either. Blotchy stripes? Richter scale-like zig-zagging? Bruised mottling? When I mentioned it was sitting next to the pink mother-of-thousands, Kalanchoe delagoensis x daigremontiana “Pink Butterflies,” an ID was finally made.

San Marcos Growers says this plant was introduced to nurseries in 2010, which coincides with when I first found this unnamed succulent at a local nursery. Deja vu all over again.

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