Tag Archives: Agave titanota

weekend nursery browse

On the way to dropping off a holiday wreath at my mom’s on Sunday, I stopped for a walkabout at H&H nursery, located on Lakewood Blvd. in a power line easement near the 91 freeway.
I was hoping to find a Correa ‘Ivory Bells,’ or Australian fuchsia, which blooms all winter, a kind of holiday treat for the hummingbirds. The small grey leaves are somewhat similar to Pittosporum crassifolium or Feijoa sellowiana. I’m always attracted to the correas when I see them, but they’re usually in the pink form at nurseries. I can’t say when pink began to wear on me, but I’m still not ready to let much of it into the garden again. I foolishly passed up ‘Ivory Bells’ earlier in the week and was hoping it had been shipped widely to multiple nurseries (it hadn’t). With all garden space currently spoken for, it would have to go in a container, which is fine because I’ve been on a binge trying out shrubby characters like ozothamnus and westringia in containers and want to experiment with more. As with the latter two shrubs, these experiments usually do end up in the garden but are surprisingly easy to care for during extended periods in containers and are much less bother than, say, annuals or tender perennials. (If anyone is interested in correas, Joy Creek Nursery in Oregon has a nice list of them, including ‘Ivory Bells.’)

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This photo from JJ De Sousa’s Portland garden shows how stunning shrubs can be in containers. I think this may be an ozothamnus with trailing Dichondra argentea.
I’ve grown the Ozothamnus ‘Sussex Silver’ variety.

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At the nursery, no correas were to be found. Still in the C’s, though, I found some corokias, which I love, and very nearly brought home the wiry Corokia cotoneaster.
Another photo from a Portland, Oregon garden showing what looks to be this corokia.

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Mostly I wanted to stretch my legs a bit, and this large nursery/grower is great for a stroll. And I couldn’t think of a better place to celebrate the coming rainstorm.
The tree aloes seem to be flooding the nurseries lately. These are ‘Hercules.’ In the last month or so I’ve found Aloe ‘Goliath’ and Aloe dichotoma.
My ‘Hercules’ came in a gallon. These big boys go for over $200.

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Twice the Hercules, double-trunked.

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The Agave ‘Blue Glows’ in gallons go for about $25.

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A sea of aeoniums and agaves.

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I didn’t check the price on the titanotas. Such a variable agave. These are much whiter than mine.

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Every time I see a tree-like Kalanchoe beharensis I feel a pang for the loss of mine, a single-trunked plant that became too top heavy and snapped.

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Lovely bowl of Notocactus magnificus. I still have vague plans to build a cactus bench/growing frame but it’s way too early to start collecting plants.
When I say “build,” what I really mean is transmit my vision to the builder, Marty, and convince him that the project is desperately important.

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The Little Red Riding Hood aloe, ‘Rooikappie,’ bred by the South African plantswoman the late Cynthia Giddy.
Coincidentally, I recently brought an aloe home named for her.

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Euphorbia pseudocactus. I really need to get busy planning that cactus bench. It’s becoming desperately important.

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.


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.


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.


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.)


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.)


221 North Figueroa Street, Los Angeles

From the tenth floor looks like this:


And at ground level.


Aloes, furcraea, Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, Senecio mandraliscae, Dichondra argentea.

One of the most successful public plantings of succulents I’ve seen around town. It’s been at least five years since I last visited this address and saw the early stages of these plantings, and it was a delight to see them again today, still beautifully maintained, obviously the work of an adoring plant geek. This type of detailed planting is so easily overrun by the vigorous spreaders like Senecio mandraliscae and S. vitalis, but there’s a watchful eye at work here keeping the mature plantings in balance and proportion.


Incredible variety and detail for for intimate revelation.




But in large enough swathes to read as gorgeous, abstract ribbons of color from upper stories.



With hidden ponds and streams to discover throughout the labyrinthine gardens.


An exciting, energizing view, whether at ground level or from a tenth-story window.


Really brightens up a workday.

June Leans In

Look away briefly, and June overwhelms winter’s carefully laid plans.
Since spring in Southern California really gets going in March, by June plant growth is at full throttle.
The agaves, succulents, and Mediterranean evergreen shrubs have presented a sedate, enchanting picture all winter and spring.
By spring, I’m ready for a riot, for a zero-to-60 surge in vegetation that constantly teeters on tipping into chaos. I’m ready for summer, in whatever surprising form it will take. This year the mid-border perovskias I planned to enjoy late summer have been swallowed whole by June. I should have pulled out the burgeoning self-sown quaking grass Briza maxima to make way for the perovskia, but enjoyed the grasses’ dangling lockets far too long. Two eyrngium have disappeared under a huge gaura’s skirts, but I count this year a success, since one E. planum has managed to flower and may now hopefully reseed.
What looks like ample space in February is no match for June’s sharp elbows.

Alarmed? Not really. This is where it gets exciting. The gauras last year barely stirred into life.
The perovskias are struggling somewhere amongst the haloragis and quaking grass, meant to rise up with the Persicaria amplexicaule.
Sure, many of these plants are easy thugs in areas with summer rain. I’m just grateful for the lush drama they bring to my summer-dry garden.


The Amicia zygomeris planted last fall has been a mesmerizing presence that I’ve allowed to grow as large as it pleases.
Permissiveness the first year in the garden, discipline the next.
In a small garden, something’s gotta give, and this year it’s the crocosmia getting squeezed by the amicia.
Crocosmia is tough enough to take it and will be back in force next year.


I’m keeping a careful eye on this Lobelia tupa, moved last fall to this roomier spot.
Nothing is allowed to encroach on this lobelia, not even Salvia ‘Wendy’s Wish.’
(The California poppies are long-lasting in this year’s coolish spring/early summer.)


I’d never subject anything really special to the border melee in June. That’s what containers are for.

But the pots lining the border do see a fair amount of action. Gaura lindheimeri leans into a potted sotol. Geum magellanicum gets support from potted Agave titanota*.


Onslaught of Salvia cacaliifolia barely held in check by a potted, battled-scarred A. americana. This salvia is flowering so well in this spot, I’m giving it a lot of latitude.
Cotyledon orbiculata var. oblonga, the ‘Finger aloe’ disappearing under Teucrium ‘Fairy Dust.’


Evie among the hellebores, begonias, and compost buckets against the shady back wall contemplates the pushy, shoving garden spectacle of June.


*A guess at this unnamed agave’s ID. Input welcome.