Tag Archives: Agave ‘Mr. Ripple’

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.

 photo 1-_MG_2930.jpg

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.

 photo 1-P1017128.jpg

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.

 photo 1-P1017590.jpg

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.

 photo P1018204.jpg

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.

 photo 1-_MG_2044.jpg

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?

 photo e6c10ce2-1c3a-446a-bdb7-d9bfce8625a1.jpg

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

 photo 85a2102f-22a9-4486-8414-43b3e9b1c6eb.jpg

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.

 photo 13fcec5e-6307-4c64-a1b0-fe561341486a.jpg

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.

 photo 1eace203-2b71-4459-aa12-00303e5e67af.jpg

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

 photo 972c8912-5756-49eb-b073-b45ff24694f5.jpg

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.

 photo 1-P1017583.jpg

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.)

 photo P1017431-001.jpg

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.

 photo P1010106.jpg

Agave ‘Mr. Ripple’ August 2014.

 photo P1010535.jpg

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.

 photo 1-P1017552.jpg

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

 photo 1-P1017556.jpg

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

 photo 1-P1017561.jpg

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

 photo 1-P1017575.jpg

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

 photo 4a805721-43ae-4b2a-a096-4271ce0510bd.jpg

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!


It happened one night; August rain

I bought my first water plant Saturday, and it rained all that night. Not a downpour, but a steady drizzle. I’m not saying there’s any causal link between the two, just that they’re both rare events that happened to coincide one day in August when I finally made good on an old, wilted promise to start a water garden. Nobody is immune to a little magical thinking, especially gardeners and other anxious weather watchers. And I don’t mind at all buying more water plants in the offchance it pleases the drought gods that I do so. After the overnight rain, it was so nice waking up Sunday morning to the clean world.

 photo P1010049.jpg

My first water plant. Ruby-stemmed Sagittaria lancifolia ‘Ruminoides’
The fiberglass/concrete container was not intended to hold water and may be a temporary arrangement. Marty sealed it with waterproofing, so we’ll see.

 photo P1010037.jpg

I don’t think that whitish mottling is a good sign, however.
It clouded up like that before the waterproofing, too, when it held just a few glass fishing floats.

 photo P1019952.jpg

What’s submerged and rendered invisible by dark waterproofing is the desperate need for repotting, with the gallon container split open by bulging roots.
For repotting, it will need muck, won’t it? I asked the kind nurseryman, trying out the one word I know that has something to do with bogs and ponds.
Have you got muck? he queried me with a strange expression.
No, have you? I’m muckless, I rejoined, matching his strange expression with one of my own at the bizarreness of it all.
It’s not often that “muckless” gets incorporated into daily conversation, but given the chance, I’m going for it.

 photo P1010027.jpg

Tiny romneya-like flowers bloomed Sunday morning.

The nice nurseryman said a cheap solution for a suitable potting soil is a 50/50 mix of decomposed granite and pure compost.
Compost I’ve got. I just need to beg some d.g. off of Holly across the street.

 photo P1019938.jpg

Inspired by the garden rejuvenation wrought by a single pot of the common arrowhead, a container of Salvia guaranitica was plunged into the garden near the tank.
This salvia has been hanging around for years in the garden, deprived of the care it needs as I’ve moved on to other salvias, but still it lingers.
I noticed it growing near the fence under the cypress and potted up some straggly shoots a month or so ago.
No sense in taking a survivor like that for granted.

 photo P1019925.jpg

Welcome to the clean world.
Not glistening from the hose but from that holy of holies, August rainfall. That cussonia has already been moved elsewhere.
I’m on fire with pot shuffling lately, motivated by this shiny, new world.

 photo P1019989.jpg

The cussonia will get more sun here. Naturally, table and chairs had to be moved nearby to admire the cussonia.
The rain’s shiny polish doesn’t last long, does it?

 photo P1019955.jpg

The tall burgundy line in the background is drawn by a gawky Pseuderanthemum atropurpureum ‘Black Varnish,’ a plant that never loses its polish.
A tender tropical, there’s no problem overwintering it here, just that crazy legginess it gets the second season.

 photo P1019972.jpg

Pinching it back doesn’t seem to help.

 photo P1019966.jpg

More news on dark plants. Pennisetum ‘Princess Caroline’ is faithfully performing her job of hiding the compost pile behind her massive girth.

 photo P1019988.jpg

Since it’s clean, let’s take a walk on the east side.
Pots reshuffled against the fence that separates the front and back gardens on the east side, which has always been problematic for me.
Too many fences, gates, awkward angles, the canyon effect. Seen through the window behind the leggy pittosporum is the blurred shape of the east boundary hedge of dwarf olives.

 photo P1010077.jpg

It’s such a great “breathing” space despite all the harsh angles, so I’m working on making it more inviting somehow. (On the cheap, of course.)
I’d love a long table and chairs and some great hanging lamps, so will keep it mostly empty until that fine day miraculously arrives. Until then, nothing terrifyingly big and spiky will be allowed here.
This entire east side was covered in overgrown oleanders when we bought the house, which made the house’s interior dark and gloomy.
The dark woodwork indoors gives the interior more than enough gravitas already. (Marty and I have the typical seesawing argument that takes place in old houses such as this:
Paint the interior woodwork white to brighten things up or leave it original? I always argue for keeping it original, but then I’m an impractical softie.)

 photo P1010059.jpg

Speaking of terrifyingly big and spiky, Agave ‘Mr Ripple’ greets you through the Dutch door, usually left open during the day.

 photo P1010106.jpg

Mr. Ripple’s lower spines near the walkway have been clipped back, but he still has his uppers.
Marty cannot wait for the day Mr. Ripple blooms (and dies).

 photo P1019913.jpg

The copper pot is filled with rhipsalis and other hanging cactus. A Mina lobata is climbing up the iron scaffolding.
Apart from the pittosporum, now tree height, there’s currently not much planted in the narrow strip against the blue fence other than some succulents.
I’m enjoying the starkness of it all, but old habits die hard.

 photo P1010067.jpg

I can’t stop adding stuff, like the giant tree aloe ‘Hercules’ to the right of the potted agave. But that’s it, I swear.

 photo P1019918.jpg

The newly planted City Planter just moved in, the first attempt at planting anyway. It may need revision. (Too stark against the blue fence?)

 photo P1010091.jpg

Currently planted with rhipsalis, Echeveria multicaulis, and the trailing blue echeveria, whose name I’ve forgotten. A couple sprigs of Sticks on Fire may or may not root.

At the Portland Garden Bloggers Fling, Lisa Calle, the raven-haired bloggess from Spain, was the rightful winner but graciously threw it back into the raffle since it didn’t fit inside her suitcase.
(Thank you so much, Lisa ! Thank you, Potted !)

 photo P1010096.jpg

And that concludes the mini-tour of the rain-fresh east side. Mind Mr. Ripple on your way out!


agaves love company


 photo P1013123.jpg

At least I think they do, because I’m forcing them to get along. It might be closer to the truth to admit that it’s me that loves the company of agaves.

 photo P1013125.jpg

Because if that’s love Mr. Ripple is showing the little powdery blue A. potatorum, it’s his own unique brand of tough love.
I had to trim a bit of Mr. Ripple recently to allow the others some breathing room.
In the background, that’s Agave schidigera giving Mr. Ripple a wide berth.

 photo P1013115.jpg

Newly planted Agave parrasana ‘Fireball’ in the land of rosettes that is the front garden, surrounded by Echeveria agavoides.
I wish I noticed that pup peeking out before I planted it. Supposedly, this agave remains solitary, without offsetting.

 photo P1013129.jpg

I hadn’t planted any new agaves in the front garden for some time. Honestly, I suspected I was overdoing it a bit. Thank goodness I’ve come to my senses.


November garden dispatches


 photo P1010302.jpg

We all have our favorite months in the garden. Our sentiments aside, the November garden continues sending out dispatches, oblivious to any seasonal bias.

 photo P1010490.jpg

dispatches from plectranthus

 photo P1010528.jpg

tillandsias

 photo P1010527.jpg

and cryptbergias

 photo P1010520.jpg

urgent communications from Echeveria gigantea

 photo P1010532.jpg

Candy-corn-colored Morse code from Mina lobata, Spanish flag

 photo P1010115.jpg

Smoky signals from Verbena bonariensis

 photo P1010484.jpg

Subtle messages from pelargoniums and aeoniums

 photo P1010397.jpg

And then there’s evergreens like Corokia virgata ‘Sunplash’ that couldn’t care less what time of year it is

 photo P1010548.jpg

And November is always a good month to talk up agaves. Ever-gorgeous Agave lophantha ‘Quadricolor’

 photo P1019811.jpg

Agave geminiflora

 photo P1010535.jpg

Favorite season? Agave ‘Mr. Ripple’ shrugs those enormous shoulders with exquisite indifference.

 photo P1010507.jpg

It’s when things quiet down in November that I notice how the patio off the kitchen is book-ended with Agave ‘Blue Flame,’ and marvel at how I managed to pull off a bit of symmetry

 photo P1010545.jpg

 photo P1010543.jpg

Agave desmettiana ‘Joe Hoak,’ still pristine in November before mollusk season starts in earnest. I’m hoping the five pups I potted up will be of good size in time for the December flea market.

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.

 photo P1018123.jpg

Agave ‘Mr. Ripple’

 photo P1018072.jpg

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

 photo P1018104.jpg

Aloe marlothii

 photo P1018115.jpg

Mangave ‘Bloodspot’

 photo P1018130.jpg

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.

my, how they grow

Looking at the front fence, in back of which, planted along the sidewalk, is a row of box hedging, now over 7 feet tall. Height restrictions of course limit privacy options for fences along the sidewalk, but as far as augmenting fence height with hedges, the sky’s the limit. At least that’s my interpretation of city fence height ordinances. Knock wood, no code enforcement complaints so far. Sounds and tantalizing scents of Labor Day festivities wafted over the hedge all weekend. The local Cambodian temple in particular was in full swing. Just the tops of the heads of tall boys on skateboards whizzing by, sometimes being pulled by their dogs, can be seen over the hedges now. If, like Ein, you are inclined to see some street action, the front porch still affords prime views. Ein’s little corgi heart beats fast for boys on skateboards, so imagine the palpitations when dogs are pulling those boys on skateboards.


Photobucket

Looking the other way, the box hedge blocks this view into the back garden. Total privacy has been achieved here, (she said, barely concealing a smug note of triumph). Agave ‘Mr. Ripple’ has sentry duty along the pathway to the east gate, which is in a local shop being repaired at the moment. He’s been repelling the soccer balls that have been sailing over the dwarf olive hedges all summer from the east boundary. Gardens are an awful lot about boundaries, aren’t they?

Photobucket


The dwarf olives on the east boundary, ‘Little Ollie’s, are over 5 feet in height now, growing much faster than I hoped for, but the height is most welcome. Growth of hedges is easy to handle, and the dwarf olives should max out at around 6 feet. As far as the other plants, growth can be a bit more problematic. Mr. Ripple, for instance, grabbed the hem of my neighbor’s dress yesterday. And now I’m clipping and shaping the olives around him. ‘Mr. Ripple’ seems to have had a fair-sized growth spurt this summer. He hopefully has achieved his maximum height at about 4 feet but may still grow wider. The Agave potatorum to his left is about a foot in diameter.

Photobucket

August was a month of cutting back, moving, thinning, all the predictable outcome of a zeal for plants that knows no bounds.
The agave ‘Jaws’ was moved last week too, which was terrifying, like defusing a bomb, but it did go smoothly.

Photobucket

But what a thorny dilemma: Save Mr. Ripple or the dwarf olive privacy hedge? I’ll defer that decision for now.
I’d rather think about my lovely new variegated (thornless) beschornaria, predicted height and width between 4 to 6 feet. I wonder how big it will really get?

Photobucket


Venice Garden & Home Tour 2012 (street view)

A little prelude to upcoming posts on this tour held last Saturday in Venice, California. None of these homes were on the tour. They just happened to be located in the neighborhoods we toured through. Venice oozes a love of plants and gardens. This is the third year I’ve posted on this tour for the blog, and previous posts can be found here and here. The few photos not bearing photographer MB Maher’s watermark were taken by me.

The weighty symmetry of two large agaves flanking the walkway to this front door we passed slowed me down. Agaves look a lot like A. salmiana, possibly ‘Green Giant’ or ‘Mr. Ripple.’ Dark red leaves from Euphorbia cotinifolia. Also with Euphorbia characias and coral aloes.


Photobucket

Euphorbia cotinifolia at another house, cut back hard or “stooled.” In my back garden a 15-foot Euphorbia cotinifolia is given the space to grow as a tree and is just now leafing out. With Agave attentuata and Mexican feather grass, Stipa tenuissima.

Photobucket

Same house. Chartreuse shrub is the common tender bedding plant Helichrysum petiolare ‘Limelight.’ Silvery succulents probably dudleyas.

Photobucket

Concrete pavers outlined in Dymondia margaretae. A front-yard lawn in Venice is a rare sight.

Photobucket

Graveled-over front garden. Pirate foot locker for seating on the porch.

Photobucket

More dymondia, which tolerates light foot traffic.

5512venicetour 308

Some of the sidewalks almost required a machete to navigate. Orange blur at the end is Thunbergia gregorii.
Photobucket

Echiums in the parkway/hell strip.
Photobucket

Agaves underplanted with succulents and gazanias.

Photobucket

Must be an acacia.

5512venicetour 303

Lots of Euphorbia characias on the tour. This one in a hell strip looked like it might be the selection ‘Portugese Velvet’

5512venicetour 283

More posts later this week on houses and gardens on the tour. Out of 32 houses on the tour, we saw maybe a half dozen. Some we just couldn’t bear to leave. Like Molly Reid and Cliff Garten’s home and studio, up next.


describing plants

It’s plant catalogue season. Plant Delights and Derry Watkins’ Special Plants both arrived in the mail today, although I also seem to be getting quite a lot via email. Selfishly, my preferred format for the long, slow perusal required of a first-rate catalogue is on paper. (Next best is the iPad I don’t yet possess.) A string of computer glitches has put me in a technophobic mood, not to mention the glut of Clay Shirky reading I did yesterday, not to mention the new Gmail format. That this process of constant upgrades and innovation seems to have hit breakneck speeds is why I expect to wake up one morning looking like this fellow. (Image found here)

Did I already mention that I loathe the new Gmail format? Like the insomniac developers at Google who just can’t leave well enough alone, plant names can also really grate on the nerves. Just check any catalogue list of hosta or daylily offerings. Then there are those names that bring really sweet associations, like Melianthus ‘Purple Haze,’ which always reminds me of my brother’s hero worship of Jimi Hendrix, and when he mastered a reasonable approximation of the guitar solo from ‘Little Wing’ and first played it, to the rapturous awe of my 11-year-old self. Different song entirely, but if it wasn’t for the purple haze all in his eyes, we wouldn’t have the perfect name for this compact cultivar of Melianthus major with the lovely purple wash to its serrated leaves. The agave ‘Jaws’ is another name I never forget, which surely must be the aim when selecting names. But my being unable to forget this agave’s name might also have something to do with the fact that I coinicidentally purchased it on the day Roy (“That’s some bad hat, Harry”) Scheider died, February 10, 2008. Unfortunately, I can’t cite a source for this melianthus at the moment, but Plant Delights carries ‘Jaws’ in its extensive online agave offerings.

Photobucket

Agave ‘Mr. Ripple.’ Another memorable name.

Photobucket

But the name of this dark-leaved, lophomyrtus I transplanted yesterday always eludes me.
(Checking old blog entries, I find it’s ‘Red Dragon.’ Evergreen New Zealander.)
The euphorbia I remember only as not the weak grower ‘Tasmanian Tiger,’ a name easy to recall. Its true name, ‘Silver Swan,’ I can’t seem to commit to memory.

PhotobucketPhotobucket

Roses tend to have memorable names, even when in French, e.g. Cuisse De Nymphe (“Thigh of Nymph”).

But the difficulty in finding catchy names for cultivars is nothing compared to the slow progress made in describing plants in Latin.

“Botanists are probably only about halfway through describing the plants on Earth, with roughly 200,000 species described. Yet only about 2,000 names get published a year at the current pace.” (ScienceNews.)

And having to publish new species in a printed format has proven cumbersome in the electronic age:

“[I]n July 2011, the international congress that meets every six years to revise the nomenclature code convened in Melbourne, Australia, and voted to accept certain forms of electronic publication.” (ScienceNews.)

“[R]esearchers have agreed to drop the requirement for hard copies of papers describing new species. Also vanishing from the code is a requirement that species must come with a Latin description.” (Nature.)

Names must still be in binomial Latin, as prescribed since Linnaeus, just not the physical descriptions. Beginning January 2012, “diagnostic botanical descriptions may be written in Latin or English, and the electronic publication of new names is accepted,” The New York Times 1/5/12, “The New Universal Language of Plants.”

Now, that’s progress even I can appreciate.

Added 1/23/12: “No longer will botanists have to write sentences like: ‘Arbor usque ad 6 m alta. Folia decidua; lamina oblanceolata vel elliptica-oblongata, 2-7 cm longa,’ as I did in 2009, describing a new species from Mexico. Instead, I could simply write that Bourreria motaguensis was a six-meter-tall tree with deciduous leaves that were 2 to 7 centimeters long.” – “Flora, Now in Plain English,” by James S. Miller, dean and vice president for science at the New York Botanical Garden. The New York Times, 1/22/12.

Foliage Follow-Up August 2011

Thank goodness Pam at Digging hosts a Foliage Follow-Up to May Dreams Gardens Bloom Day. The blooming lineup in my July Bloom Day post can stand in with very little revision for August. Holding down the fort and keeping the hummingbirds and insects happy in August is the same bunch of long-blooming salvias, gaura, knautia, echium, verbascum, euphorbia, Persicaria amplexicaule, kangaroo paws, valerian in bloom since early summer. I throttled back on annuals, so not much new is erupting into blossom this August. Gardens for me are still all about the eruptions, not the staid, unchanging formalities, but this year August looks a lot like July and even June. Would I take a couple lines of track from the High Line, including every last grass and perennial, and plunk it down in my garden? Oh, hell, yeah. I’m a wannabe prairie garden companion. But that would leave me with nine months in a very small garden staring at nubby perennial crowns when there can be evergreen grevilleas in bloom in winter. (Why must the garden be such a heavy-handed teacher of compromise? Work with what you’ve got. Bloom where you live. Know thyself. I get it already!) With the last rainfall over four months ago, arid zone 10 can sometimes turn planning for flowering herbaceous plants in August into a dogged military campaign, but planning for gorgeous leaves is a walk in the park.

Arundo donax ‘Golden Chain,’ Phormium ‘Alison Black,’ Aralia cordata ‘Sun King.’

PhotobucketPhotobucketPhotobucket

Continue reading Foliage Follow-Up August 2011