Tag Archives: Agave celsii var. albicans ‘UCB’

the short but productive life of Agave mitis ‘Multicolor’

There’s something about an agave bloom that’s crazy making.
Emotions are as variegated as the leaves of this nomenclature-challenged agave. (Bought as Agave celsii ‘Multicolor,’ it might even be chiapensis*.)
I’m thrilled, sad, awestruck, and a little dumbstruck, too, at having to deal with the enormously heavy carcass.
And then there’s that bloom stalk itself, a slow-motion supernova years in the making. Agaves are called the century plant after all.
But not very many years in the making, it turns out, with Agave mitis ‘Multicolor.’
Earliest reference on the blog is 2011. To be safe, we’ll say I had it a year before that photo, 2010, which still makes it a five-year-old when it bloomed.
That’s a relatively young age for an agave to bloom (after which they die).

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Photo from 2011, the only one I could find. Obviously not a well-documented agave on the blog.
All the leaf litter from the parkway jacarandas rendered it less than photogenic year-round.

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And I didn’t take any photos of it in bloom either, but this is where the bloom spike currently rests, tied to the pipe stand.
Sources indicate a 4 to 6 foot bloom spike, but this one is touching the eaves here at over 11 feet.

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Instinctively, I want to honor the now-deceased agave by growing on its brood of bulbils, but there’s hundreds of them. I now run a house for orphaned agave bulbils.
(If anyone would like to nurse one of these babies, be my guest. But be warned, it’s a very cold-sensitive agave.)
I’ve already got a half dozen or so rooted and started this batch earlier in the week.

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And there’s lots more where those came from.

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And now this week the Agave mitis var. albicans ‘UCB’ started to bloom.

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Notice they’re both considered forms of Agave mitis, but this one’s cinnamon-colored blooms are nothing like ‘Multicolor’ (photo here.)

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In May 2014. It was transplanted from pot to garden in 2013. I haven’t had this agave very long either. I found it close to this size at a Pasadena nursery.

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Bloom spike in March 2015

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May 11, 2015

PhotobucketAgave sp. Sonora State, Mexico UCBG 7/13/12

I first saw this agave at the UC Berkeley Botanic Garden in 2012, when it was still known as A. celsii var. albicans ‘UCB’

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I have no idea what to expect with this one as far as its reproductive abilities, maybe offsets instead of bulbils. It couldn’t possibly match the vigor of ‘Multicolor,’ right?
I think I’m going to need more pots…



*see discussion here

this week in plants

My Portland friend Loree at Danger Garden collects impressions of favorite plants at the end of the month, so I put together a contribution of what’s catching my eye this week.

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I’m enjoying how the Verbascum bombyciferum echoes the rosette shapes of surrounding agaves, but a softer, feltier echo against the stiff, silvery-blue agave leaves of ‘Dragon Toes’ in the foreground, A. franzosinii in the background. The verbascum is temporary, while the Leucadendron ‘Winter Red’ gains size just behind it. Annuals and biennials are perfect solutions for the temporary gaps around a growing shrub. I’d love to get some seed from the verbascum after bloom, though.

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Dark green shrub is Cistus ‘Snow Fire.’ The evanescent white flowers with maroon central blotches have disappeared by the end of the day.

The 90-degree temps the past couple days are the reason that the garden is filled with the sharp, resiny scent of cistus, something I miss when the garden is without it.
They’re generally short-lived shrubs for me, but for quite a few years the iconic sounds and scent of summer included the low hum of of busy insects coupled with that uniquely pervasive scent.
If it’s going to be this hot, at least let the air be pungent with cistus.

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If there’s any plus side to the drought, it’s much less snail damage. Crambe maritima.

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Agave celsii var. albicans ‘UCB’ throwing a bloom spike, signaling its last year in the garden.

Even though the garden is as densely planted as ever, the changeover the last couple years to plants that will tolerate not just dry but very dry conditions and strong sun is nearly complete.
As short-lived stuff passes on and agaves bloom, I’d like to experiment with much wider spacing, which necessarily means a lot less plant collecting.
We’ll see how far I get with that plan. I can thin and prune furniture and stuff indoors no problem, but get stingy with plants? Uncertain.

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Bought unlabeled, it looks like Canna indica, the plain old “Indian shot” canna, so named for the round black seeds used in jewelry (and as makeshift ammunition).
Big green leaves, small flowers. A lush look from a tough-as-boots plant.

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For a change, I’m enjoying the restful green leaves as opposed to the splashier variegated canna varieties.
The species is such a good plant in its own right, with simple flowers, a clean outline.
Rising behind the agave tank, under the high canopy of a tetrapanax, a corner of warmth and deep orange from the canna, Abutilon venosum and Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’

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Echium simplex spikes are quickly filling out.

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Buds forming on the lacy, silver shrub Hymenolepis parviflora (formerly Athanasia parviflora). The flowers will be golden yellow umbels.

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Albuca maxima flowers reliably in the front gravel garden, with little if any supplemental irrigation

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Dyckia also blooming in the front gravel garden.
I need to decide whether to strip the lower leaves to expose the trunk on the dasylirion in the background, and what kind of arm protection to use when doing so.

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This self-sown Solanum pyracanthum surprisingly earns credit for being in bloom year-round.
I think it was included in every Bloom Day post of 2014, and then bloomed all winter too. Not bad for a reputed heat lover for summer gardens.

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Peeking under the canopy at an ever-expanding Sonchus congestus, a glamorous member of the dandelion tribe.

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Aeoniums don’t always come through winter this pristine. Mislabeled Aeonium tabuliforme, I’m not sure what it is. Some kind of abbreviated form of tabuliforme?

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The manihots are leafing out, prime shadow-casting plants.

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Corokia virgata ‘Sunsplash,’ moved yet again for some electrical work Marty was doing.
Seems there’s always way more seedpods than leaves of the ‘New Zealand Purple’ ricinus, just visible in the background, so seedpod prolific it reminds me of a red echinops.
And now April!

sunday clippings 7/6/14

I think the conversation left off with brillantaisia, the salvia look-alike I stumbled upon at the local city college. Except it’s not really a salvia but a member of the acanthaceae family. I did go back for photos and also had an odd encounter with a woman on a bike, who pedaled up to me and matter-of-factly imparted an account while I snapped photos about three youths who were chasing her, trying to steal her bike. Concerned and alarmed, I turned fully toward her and away from the gaping flowers of brillantaisia, whose tall stems were blowing in the twilight sky at my back, and anxiously scanned the campus, which was empty except for me, the woman calmly straddling the bike, and Marty & Ein waiting a small distance away in his VW bus. Did she live close by? Yes. Could we load her and the bike in the bus and take her home? No. Did she need an escort home? No. Confused by her flat demeanor, which didn’t square at all with the account of attempted theft, I repeated the questions again, trying a different order, but she declined all offers of help, never letting up that steady, slightly unnerving gaze she had first fixed on me. I studied her face, too, and could gather about as much information from her inscrutable expression as I could from the brillantaisia, which somehow came to be growing on this chain-link fence behind me and this mysterious woman on the bike. The woman and what she really wanted from me will forever remain a mystery, but it was easy enough to find out some information on the Giant Salvia:

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Brillantaisia subulugurica (or possibly b. ulugurica) on a chain-link fence at Long Beach City College.

From the Flora of Zimbabwe:

Soft-wooded aromatic shrub or even rarely a small tree, up to 5 m tall. Leaves opposite, more or less broadly ovate, sometimes purple-tinged, 10-40 cm long, often cordate at the base but lamina running back down into a winged petiole; margin coarsely toothed with small and large teeth. Flowers in a more or less open, branched purplish inflorescence, 10-40 cm long. Corolla pale to bright blue, mauve, violet or purple, 2 lipped; upper lip 25-52 mm long, covered with purplish glandular hairs; lower lip 17-40 mm long, 3-lobed. Capsule 25-45 mm long, glandular-hairy. Worldwide distribution: Democratic Republic of Congo, Rwanda, Burundi, Uganda, Kenya Tanzania, Malawi, Mozambique, Zambia, Zimbabwe.”

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Cuttings have already rooted, and I’ll probably trial the plants in large trash bins like these.

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They can be had cheap from the big box stores to hold big shrubby stuff like Salvia ‘Amistad.’
It dawned on me just a few weeks ago that I had no salvias for the hummingbirds this fall, and these large pails were perfect for a last-minute course correction.

Everyone has probably seen these articles shared on Facebook by the time I mention them the old-fashioned way on a blog, but it’s always worth linking to anything Michael Tortorello writes. His recent piece for The New York Times, Botany’s New Boys, held a particular interest because I keep bumping into these young botany boys at the community garden. Last week one of them regaled me with his enthusiasm for fungi and visions of cash-crop success with shitaki mushrooms grown in a month’s time. Where will he get the spores? I asked.
You guessed it, a TED talk is the answer: Paul Stamet’s “6 ways mushrooms can save the world.” (Transcript here.)
I always fantasize about airbnb’ing our house when the TED talks roll into town about a mile away every spring.

Even with the recent news that Facebook has conducted covert psychology experiments on unwitting subscribers, it seems foolish not to get on board when there’s such a wealth of garden-related stuff being shared. I was introduced to Carolyn Mullet’s page when she asked permission to use a few photos, and found she has a knack for sourcing gardens that I never see via other sites like Pinterest.

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Carolyn asks on her Facebook page how are California gardens faring in this miserable drought. Lots of choices among tough aromatic herbs and small shrubs, succulents, grasses.

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Sometimes being in a tight spot can inspire new ideas. This mother of a drought makes invention a necessity.

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I’ve been half-heartedly (six months now) cleaning up my FB account and streamlining it more for garden-related stuff. Maybe I’ll finish that project one day, and then I’ll link stuff like this:
“Sowing a Garden One Knit Flower at a Time,” Smithsonian article on artist Tatyana Yanishevsky

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What’s sowing and growing in my garden is Mina lobata, the Spanish flag vine. I love it when treasures like this self-seed.

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From the recent CSSA sale, Aloe cameronii has found a home.
Confined mostly to the front garden and containers, succulents are increasingly sneaking into the back garden, which means it’s slowly developing into a drier garden too.

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Also from the sale, variegated Agave x leopoldii will cool his heels in a container for a while. Tag says “choice hybrid of A. schidigera?”

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Lots of those containers find their way under the flea market display pipe stand, which I still can’t bring myself to dismantle.

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There’s always something new and full of potential to fasten to it which would otherwise be forgotten and tucked away in a drawer.
I think I’m allowing this indulgence because, otherwise, we’ve really been clearing stuff out. Really.

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Some of those containers have been migrating to the east patio, which is more dappled sun.

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I clocked our “June gloom” lasting until 2 p.m. last week. But June has unfortunately been well-trained not to spread that lovely grey morning quilt into July.
In July it simply disappears, and like a switch has been flipped, those 70 days become 90 days.

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For those 90-degree days, the golden-leaved tansy ‘Isla Gold.’

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So good with the melianthus.

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The Miscanthus ‘Cabaret’ in the metal tank loves the 90 days too, which have pushed it to the top of the pergola.


I’ll be clearing my desk to get away to Portland for the garden blogger meetup later in the week, so there may not be any more non-stories about women on bikes and whatnot until I move this mountain of work out of the way. But I’ll be needing occasional distractions, so please keeping documenting July in your gardens and I promise to do the same as soon as I can.

aftermath of a spring heat wave



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Unseasonal, sudden onset heat, like cold, is similarly not in a plant’s best interests. The pristine good looks of Agave ‘Blue Flame’ took a hit last week.
Poor thing didn’t have time to develop a base coat and suffered a bad sunburn on a few leaves.

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But only a couple feet away, in full sun, delicately pale Agave celsii var. albicans ‘UCB’ absorbed it all in stride.

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This New Zealand grass, Harpochloa falx, was planted before the heatocalypse began, possibly the worst conditions imaginable in which to introduce a plant to its new home, yet it seems to have weathered the sunstorm. And if it hasn’t, I’m definitely going back for more. Oddly enough, I’d been chasing down another New Zealand grass, Chionochloa flavicans, which is why I’ve been combing the grass aisles at local nurseries, where this beauty unexpectedly popped up. I finally ordered seed of chionochloa that, knock wood, is germinating nicely. But what a nerve-wracking enterprise seed-sowing can be during a heat wave.

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It’s very similar to the Eyebrow Grass, Bouteloua gracilis, which didn’t like my garden one bit and exited roots first fairly quickly.
So excited about this NZ grass, which is evergreen, with a name I might actually remember, reminding me as it does of both Harpo Marx and his brother’s famous eyebrows.

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The castor bean plant shot up like Jack’s bean stalk, exulting in a punishing amount of sun.

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The bulk of the back garden is made up of tough, rough-and-ready plants that should stand up to whatever the weather has in mind (theoretically). Probably favoring leaves over flowers, it still brings in lots of aerial drama from pollinators. Seen in bloom here is lavender, adored by hummingbirds, bees, butterflies, night moths, all manner of winged creatures, with gaillardia, kangaroo paws, Senecio leucostachys, whose pale yellow flowers naturally age to brown.

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Amazing how much hot, dry wind a delicate thing like the annual Orlaya grandiflora can withstand.
Its bloom will probably be over by June. Never one to chase the idea of a nonstop, summer-long flowerfest, I’m completely okay with flowers going in and out of bloom.
Like savoring seasonal fruit and vegetables, for me it’s the changing rhythms that make a garden that much more exciting.

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Some plants had me worried, like burnt ember-colored Isoplexis isabelliana and the digiplexis, all of which did fine. Nothing phases a russelia, yellow flowers on the right.
I hand-watered the foxglove relatives all directly at their base, because they definitely showed some heat stress, which I also did for anything newly planted.
Everything had already been deeply mulched, which keeps the soil cool.

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I wasn’t too sure about spring-planted clary sage either, another plant I hand-watered directly at its base, and so far it seems fine.
I’ve been trying for years to add this sage to my repertoire of self-seeders and feared I’d lost another chance.

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This Coprosma ‘Plum Hussy’ was planted last year and didn’t blink in the heat, even though I forgot to give it an extra drink.

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Sunday morning brought relatively cooler temps, and having been idled and literally made dizzy by the extreme heat, I was itching to get busy. Half of Eryngium pandanifolium was sprawling onto the terrace off the kitchen, snaking around our feet under the table. I can’t speak for everybody here, but I was prepared to live with these conditions, since I’m thrilled that this fantastic eryngo from South America likes my garden. But now that I’ve got a few seedlings for insurance, I’ll probably remove the main plant and plant something a little less intimidating. Yesterday I cleaned up old leaves and removed three big offsets, which were planted elsewhere, though I doubt they’ll survive. Like all eryngos, they hate root disturbance and are famously touchy about being moved. Worth a try anyway, rather than tossing them in the compost pile. That’s one of the divisions in the photo above with the coprosma.

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March 2013, with the eryngo on the left, that surprised me by a) really, really liking my garden, and b) thereby swiftly increasing in size. Agave ‘Blue Flame’ can be seen, too, in better days. The mortared brick path on the right was in place when we bought the house. Instead of bricks and pavers on a bed of sand, I should just gravel in what’s left of the terrace, which is sinking below grade. I keep pulling the bricks out anyway to make room for more plants.

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Which is what I did for the eryngo, removing some bricks in secret, of course. Seen here in May 2013, still very puya-esque in character.

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Detail of the eryngo’s 6-foot bloom stalk last August.
I’ve just started another promising eryngium from seed, another South American from Argentina, E. bracteatum, which has deep red, bottle brush-type flowers.

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Plectranthus neochilus has been stunning this spring, happy with dry soil, overcast skies or extreme heat and strong sunshine
For hazy blue, I should just forego nepeta entirely and go with this plectranthus. The tight, uniform bloom is the stunning result of very harsh treatment.
It’s a spreader, so I cut it back hard in winter.

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This Echium simplex, growing deep in a border, weathered the heat fine, but another one closer to the bricks suffered leaf burn

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The poppies run to seed fast in extreme heat

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At the front of the house, the jacarandas’ normally sticky blooms had the texture of potato chips underfoot after a few minutes on hot pavement.

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Another delicate one that withstood the worst of the heat wave. I will say this about monocarpic plants that die after blooming. They really, really give it their all. It was a pleasure, Melanoselinum decipiens.


elephant season

A few tropicals in pots can be a fine sendoff to summer. Here about a mile from the ocean, the big-leaved tropicals like colocasia, the “elephant ears,” bide their time until the temperatures start to really feel uncomfortable. By the time we’re whining about the heat in August, they’re in their element, coolly unfurling the largest leaves we’ve seen all summer. Now that the soft, angled light is what pulls me into the garden early every morning, the tropicals have achieved as much size and leaf as they will attain for me, and around November I’ll be moving the pots to dry out over winter. I’m not a tropics-mad person, per se, and keep just a few pots for what they add to a fall garden. In spring I feed them a little compost and nothing else, so they’re grown on a relatively lean diet, but they don’t like to miss a drink. I’ve pretty much stopped growing any other plants in containers, other than succulents. Even just a few big leaves make quite the impact.


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Colocasia ‘Mojito’

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Colocasia ‘Diamond Head’

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Pseuderanthemum

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While the soil is still warm, I’ve been busy shifting plants around. More evergreen, year-round plants are leaving their containers and moving into the back garden, such as agaves, two cussonias, the cabbage palms, which means there will be less room for softer, herbaceous planting in the back garden for next summer.

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Agave celsii var. albicans ‘UCB’ was moved into the garden near this summer-scorched aeonium

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A Cussonia gamtoosensis, now a little 4-foot tree, has taken a place in the garden too.

Spring will bring the usual self-sown poppies, orlaya, and whatever else turns up, and I’ve added a few bright orange bearded iris. Then the plan is mainly for grasses, yarrow, nepeta, calamint, agastache, the sturdy umbellifer crithmum, and the summer-blooming bulb eucomis to hold the fort for summer and keep local pollinators happy.

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I havn’t grown catmints for some years, but Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ sold me on them again. It still looks amazingly fresh after being cut back mid-summer, and is a wonderful bee plant. Fronting the nepeta with large rocks keeps the cats from indulging in the those catmint-rolling orgies. The rocks are quickly submerged under spring growth. I have to remind myself that the sturdy and fool-proof are a great backbone if you’re continually trying out new plants. On that note, now that I’ve pretty much ripped up the herbaceous planting in the back garden and replanted for next year, it’s always around this time in fall that I wish I had some really large pots to hold the eye. The biggest one I own is an over-the-top, two-headed elephant pot that I found at the curb amongst a bunch of other castoffs with the sign “take me.” It’s been semi-hidden in the front garden ever since. A latent minimalist streak always stays my hand when I think of moving it somewhere more prominent.

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Colocasia ‘Blue Hawaii’

I’ve decided there’ll be plenty of time to explore minimalism this winter. Pachyderms of clay for leafy elephant ears. Smoke ’em if you’ve got ’em.

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At this point, adding a couple Mexican chocolate stirrers makes sense.

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And I couldn’t leave the pot empty. A potted Kalanchoe beharensis happened to fit snug inside the rim.

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This winter I’ll probably get all Scandinavian again and move the pot back into the shadows until it’s elephant season once more.

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

InterCity Succulent Show and Sale August 17-18, 2013

Mr. Ripple and friends cordially invite you to that holy of holies in the world of desert plants, The InterCity Show and Sale next weekend, August 17 and 18, at the Los Angeles County Arboretum.

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Agave ‘Mr. Ripple’

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Agave potatorum in the loveliest shade of powder blue, found at a plant show unlabeled

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Aloe marlothii

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Mangave ‘Bloodspot’

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the white whale of agaves, A. celsii var. albicans ‘UCB’

Now that succulents are as ubiquitous as petunias and can be found on racks outside grocery stores, there’s no need for proselytizing about their sculptural attractions and water-wise virtues. This sale is for the already converted who are looking for rarities in affordably small sizes. The discerning eye and encyclopedic knowledge of members of Southern California succulent societies have already done the heavy lifting for us in seeking out the best of the best, and these plants offered for sale are the fruit of their lifelong passion for desert plants. But if you’re still not convinced, drop your magazine, possibly turned to a regionally inappropriate article on the top 10 plants for perennial borders in August (though there’s nothing wrong with a little garden porn!) and come see why Southern California is the envy of savvy plant people all over the world. Like the bodies on Venice’s Muscle Beach, these are some seriously well-toned plants, each one an evolutionary warrior able to survive with minimal irrigation. I’m hoping to find more of my latest enthusiasm, hanging epiphytic cactus like rhipsalis.

Bloom Day July 2013

An extravagant display of blooms isn’t the overwhelming impression the garden is making this July, which is pretty typical.

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Though the Pennisetum ‘Skyrocket’ grasses are technically blooming.
In the dimming twilight, the ferny leaves of Selinum wallichianum can just be made out leaning onto Furcraea foetida ‘Mediopicta’ in the foreground.

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And the sideritis is also technically in bloom.

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Solanum marginatum’s white blooms are for all floral intents and purposes invisible.

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And there are blooms you have to move leaves aside to see, like with this little Aristolochia fimbriata. Since it reminds me of a tick, I don’t mind if the flowers stay hidden behind those very cool leaves.

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In the foreground lean in the bleached-out plumes of Chloris virgata. Eryngium pandanifolium tops the pergola in the background

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‘Monch’ asters are responsible for some of that blue.

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And ‘Hidalgo’ penstemon is the tower of lilac blue. So far this is a beautifully erect penstemon that I’d absolutely include in next-year’s garden if it decides to return or maybe seeds around. From Mexico, zoned 9-10, reputedly long-lived and not touchy about drainage issues. On that count, one of the first casualties this summer is the lovely shrub Phylica pubescens, pulled out yesterday. I pruned it lightly when I returned from being away a couple weeks. Immediate decline followed. Never, never prune touchy shrubs mid-summer. Will I ever learn?

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Peachy yarrows like ‘Terracotta’ line the path cutting through the border behind the pergola, now not more than a dog track.

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Salvia chiapensis flowering at the base of the eryngium.

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More closeups of Eryngium pandanifolium, the undisputed rock star of the garden this summer.

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Persicaria amplexicaulis will pretty much own the garden in August.

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In July I’m glad for every Verbena bonariensis I pulled out of the paving and planted into the garden in spring

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One of the “suitcase plants,” Pennisetum ‘Jade Princess.’

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Crithmum maritimum weaving into Senecio viravira. The senecio is starting to throw some more of its creamy blooms after being thoroughly deadheaded about a month ago.

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So far the crithmum has been the most reliable umbellifer to flower through summer. (Selinum wallichianum is struggling. to put it mildly.)
Crithmum with yarrow and Eryngium planum.

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Crithmum, yarrow, leaves of persicaria, calamint, anthemis, agastaches, anigozanthos in the background

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Some peachy Salvia greggii are building size for a late summer show with the grasses.

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I carved off some bits of the ‘Skyrocket’ pennisetum in spring to replace Diascia personata which I found disappointing, and the grass bulked up fast. Its slim tapers move quickly from burgundy to beige.

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Tall, sticky-leaved Cuphea viscosissima seems to love the heat.

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Plectranthus neochilus is starting to bloom heavily, just as nearby Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ slows down after being cut back

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Nepeta ‘Walker’s Low’ lightly reblooming

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In a border closest to the garage/office, early spring-blooming annuals and flopping penstemons were replaced with Gomphrena ‘Strawberry Fields’
and Gaillardia ‘Oranges & Lemons.’

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Russelia reminds me of a blooming restio, great for texture tumbling around nearby containers. It’s planted in the garden and does well with minimal irrigation.


There’s odds and ends I left out, such as eucomis and the passion flower vine which has been wonderful all summer, but that’s the sketch for July. Sending out solidarity to those suffering in excessive heat, or too little heat if that’s possible, unseasonal drought, too much rain. It’s always something in July! Thanks as always to Carol at May Dreams Gardens for hosting Bloom Day on the 15th of every month (and not minding those straggling in a day late).

Agave titanota (crush with eyeliner)

Let me change the holiday music channel, if ever so briefly, by sharing the soundtrack that plays every time I walk by this agave, my crush with eyeliner.

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Agave titanota hybrid ‘Lanky Wanky’

A silly, last-round-at-the-pub name for a sideways-leaning hybrid of an elusive agave, an agave I’ve unknowingly owned for some years.

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Here’s the real thing, Agave titanota.
This agave is famous for it’s pale white leaves, though I would argue that Agave celsii var. albicans ‘UCB’ may now hold that honor.

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Agave celsii var. albicans ‘UCB’


Agave titanota has been one of my long-standing mystery agaves. While it gained size, growing nameless, anonymous, and let’s face it unloved, I occasionally pursued the legendary Agave titanota elsewhere, on eBay for example, where I was saddled with an impostor (who is now the new mystery agave). I didn’t know what my old mystery agave was, but it didn’t strike me as anything special. It took a long time to become smitten with Agave titanota, because it doesn’t form that tight, breathtaking, world-within-world form that I expect to admire in agaves. The sharkskin-like leaves jut out at odd angles, and I mistook its pale coloring for bleached-out sunburn. Its famous natural qualities I attributed to grower error. (Someone needs more reference books.)

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Fortunately for me, this agave chugged along amidst all that neglect, forgotten in a rarely watered pot in full sun.
Agaves Yuccas and Related Plants” by Mary & Gary Irish helped with the final ID, as well as seeing a labeled A. titanota at a nursery recently. The similarity of the hybrid ‘Lanky Wanky’ also confirms the ID, and I love how its more congested form accentuates the black eyeliner on the leaf margins and spine tips. The new book on agaves, “Agaves: Living Sculptures for Landscapes and Containers,” by Greg Starr, would be handy in a reference library too.

Agave titanota — still not a favorite, but no longer a mystery.

(Yeah, life is strange.)

I



some cool customers


For a reliable dose of cool, deep greens and blues are the colors to choose
Yucca whipplei, Agave ‘Blue Glow,’ Elymus arenarius, Blue Lyme Grass

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Cool comes smooth, barbed, spiked, sometimes all at once. Barbs of Furcraea macdougalii
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Cool can take the heat.
(Thank you, Aloe marlothiii, for remaining flawlessly poised during this interminably hot summer.)
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Always more cool to discover. From unknown to me before July 2012 to ecstatic possession in September 2012, Agave celsii var. albicans ‘UCB.’
A Pasadena nursery was having a 35% off sale, and there he was, an agave I’ve never seen offered locally before. The kismet of cool.
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