Tag Archives: Agave vilmoriniana

Bloom Day March 2016

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No flowers open yet, but the long-awaited beschorneria bloom stalk itself is stare-worthy. Parrot colors of vivid red with buds tipped in green.
Improbably taller every day, with new subtle twists and angles to admire

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It passed by the Euphorbia ammak a few days ago.

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The bricks in the photo above lead to the Chinese fringe tree that bisects the narrow east side of the house.
Does Chionanthus retusus leaf out and burst into bloom simultaneously everywhere or just zone 10?

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Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ is finished flowering, leaving some pretty cool seedpods

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In the past, I’ve often wondered about the bocconia’s will to live. This winter’s rains have brought out its latent, robust side. I’ve even found a seedling.

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Different kinds of echeverias continue to flower in their charming crookneck style. With Agave ovatifolia ‘Frosty Blue’

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Surprising color match on the blooms of Echeveria pulvinata and Grevillea ‘Robyn Gordon’

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a gift aloe, no ID

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Anisodontea ‘Strybing Beauty’ is still looking very promising. Healthy, clean leaves with an airy, open habit of growth.
This will be its first summer, a true test. High on my to-do list is to start a glossary of all the plants I trial in the garden, with a thumb’s up or down.

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No blooms, just enjoying the view of wet pavement. We are becoming such rain fetishists here.

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Wet Agave ‘Dragon Toes’ with a flash of orange deep in the background from Aloe ‘Johnson’s Hybrid’

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I’ve pulled a lot of the poppies, but there’s still a few in bloom every day.

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I’d love it if Salvia leucantha ‘Santa Barbara’ stopped growing now. And bloomed like this, at this size, until November.
We don’t ask much from plants, do we?

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Lastly, Agave vilmoriniana, lord of all he surveys. He’s made good size over the winter too. Blooms from poppies, salvia, kangaroo paws.
Oh, and believe it or don’t, but that euphorbia is in bloom too. Subtle bordering on pointless. Euphorbia characias ‘Black Pearl.’
Now, imagine if the blooms were chartreuse up against that salvia. Taking note for next year.
Carol at May Dreams Gardens collects our Bloom Day stories the 15th of every month.

Othonna cheirifolia

I just had a panicked moment, several of them actually, trying to recollect the name of this very good plant that has prospered through this very challenging summer.

I could only remember that Heather had blogged about it blooming in her zone 7 Portland garden in spring, which turns out is all I needed to remember.

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Othonna cheirifolia, native to South Africa, chalky blue, spatulate leaves, going by the piratical-sounding common name of Barbary Ragwort.
Small yellow daisies in spring are less compelling than the carpet of glaucous leaves that remains year-round in my zone 10.

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To get a sense of just how blue othonna is, see its chalky blueness growing next to bright green Grevillea ‘Mt. Tamboritha.’ White felty leaves of ballota in the background.
Together with their strikingly blue color, the slender, smooth-edged, spoon-shaped leaves effortlessly set themselves apart in a jumble community of plants.

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Growing at the base of a young Octopus agave (A. vilmoriniana), it’s had as much sun and irrigation as the agave — scorching in regards to the former, spotty with the latter.

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Leaf color just about matches the agave too.
On 12/7/12 I blogged that it was “just found today,” so this is almost a three-year-old clump.
If you’re after blue at a galloping pace, there’s always Senecio mandraliscae, the Blue Chalk Fingers.

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A subtle but remarkably durable plant with a tricky name to remember.
(There’s another othonna with the memorable common name of Little Pickles, a small-scale ground cover with blue succulent leaves, Othonna capensis.)
Othonna, Othonna, Othonna. There…committed to memory at last.


Bloom Day September 2015

Since I’m already running a day late for the Bloom Day reports collected by May Dreams Gardens on the 15th of every month, I’ll try to limit the repetition.
September pretty much mirrors August, but here’s a couple oddballs, a roster of irregulars I didn’t include for August.

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This salvia lookalike from the acanthaceae family, Brillantaisia subulugarica, has been blooming all summer. Tall, over 5 feet, with big, coarse leaves.
An interesting plant that defies whole-hearted recommendation. If you like big, coarse, and purple, then this one’s for you. For zone 10.
I do need to point out that it is dripping wet from the 2 inches of hallelujah rain that fell early Tuesday morning.

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Ptilotus nobilis, from Australia, much taller than the hybrid ‘Joey’ that was circulating through nurseries recently. From the Amaranthaceae family.
All the info available refers to its touchiness about soil, so I’ve trialed it in a large container with marrubium for a couple months. I’m surprised it’s made it to September.
The ptilotus that have been showing up at nurseries like it hot, dry, perfect drainage and good air circulation. I need to trial this one quick as a cut flower before it expires.

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More rainy day porn with the grass Aristida purpurea, Yucca ‘Blue Boy,’ Agave ‘Snow Glow’

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Agave vilmoriniana and Crithmum maritimum, with both old seedheads and fresh flowers.

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Rain-tossed Glaucium grandiflorum.

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Plectranthus zuluensis

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Bog sage, Salvia uliginosa, with very happy wet feet.

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Abutilon venosum drinking it in.

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The yucca in bloom against the lurid coloring of the cypresses at sundown.

Bloom Day July 2015

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The planting under the Acacia baileyana ‘Purpurea’ is all fairly new, except for the Plectranthus neochilus. Stinky or not, it’s a great addition to a dry garden.
Gomphrena ‘Balboa’ is the clover-like flowers with silver leaves, which blends in seamlessly with all the ballota here.
Tall grass in bloom is Stipa ichu, the Peruvian Feather Grass, said to be noninvasive, unlike the fearsome Mexican Feather Grass.
California chain Armstrong Nurseries as well as Home Depot have both vowed to no longer sell the MFG, Stipa tenuissima.

Continue reading Bloom Day July 2015

a garden wedding



When someone who works in landscape design gets married, even the agaves are dressed for the occasion.

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Congratulations to Mary True and Cheryl Fippen on their recent wedding in Berkeley, California.
Thank you both for your kind permission to use these photos.
Additional thanks to Shirley Watts and MB Maher.
All photography by MB Maher.


backdrops for plants

Some interesting backdrops I found around town, some intentional, some borrowed, some just sheer serendipity.

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I’m wondering what came first here, the choice of color for the house and then the Lion’s Tail?
Or did the Leonotis leonurus start the ball rolling?

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This is a borrowed backdrop. From the angle where I was standing, I picked up the color of the house next-door.

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This is the house where the agave lives, beige in color, not persimmon.

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The parkway picking up that same persimmon-colored house next-door. Mattress vine, restios, helichrysum, small grasses.

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I’m thinking there’s a lot of clip, clip, clipping to keep the muehlenbeckia off those lovely low-lying rocks.

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Agave vilmoriniana without a backdrop. Well, I suppose asphalt could be considered a backdrop, the default urban kind.
I wish I had the space for this one to let those tentacles unfurl (also called the Octopus Agave).

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The Cow Horn Agave against a stone backdrop. Agave bovicornuta. Oh, I do miss mine.
There’ll be more photos of these terraces to come, just because one can never have too many photos of the Cow Horn Agave.
With aeoniums and Kalanchoe tomentosa.

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A missed opportunity to add a colored backdrop? Hard to say. The entire Spanish house/villa is white. I’ll be posting some more photos of this one too.
I need to track down the name of the grass in the foreground, most likely a sesleria. Amazing with the bulbinella.


driveby garden; AT&T Center, Downtown LA

You’d be surprised how many “Angelenos” have never visited Downtown Los Angeles, even now that it is surging with vitality again. For decades it was right up there in ignominious competition as one of the most superfluous, neglected downtowns of any major city. Working here in my twenties, lunch breaks always included long walks into the historic core, among the faded movie palaces turned dollar stores and block after block of wonderful buildings I daydreamed of owning and restoring. Well, I couldn’t afford to rent here now. Most of those buildings have gone or are going loft, and the revitalization pushes ever deeper into previous no-go areas like the South Park neighborhood I worked in yesterday, which also holds Julia Morgan’s Mission Revival gem, the still-shuttered Herald Examiner building. The former insurance high-rise I worked in yesterday was built in 1965 and has been given a new facade, LEED certification, and rechristened the AT&T Center. What struck me yesterday were these plantings in steel containers rimming the building. Most of the planters were elegantly and simply planted in low clipped boxwood hedges underplanted with silver ponyfoot, Dichondra argentea, but the designer got a little frisky and kicked up his heels with one stretch of planters.
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This isn’t the frisky business I’m referring to, but Agave villmoriniana and rosemary, very appropriate for hot and dry urban container plantings and frequently seen. The olive trees in the distance are underplanted with sedum, kept neatly within the boundaries of the polygonal cutouts in the sidewalk.

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Here’s where it gets interesting. Ornamental oreganos? Also suitable but rarely seen outside of private gardens, and certainly not large-scale commercial plantings.

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So much of the ground previously given to mediterranean sympaticos like Convolvulus sabatius (Convolvulus mauritanicus) is now given to succulents when new commercial projects are undertaken.

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So it’s a bit of a surprise to find herbaceous stuff in sleek, steel planters.

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Looks like a mint in the foreground and Dorycnium hirsutum in the background

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One of the dark-leaved Geranium x antipodeum varieties like ‘Stanhoe’ or ‘Chocolate Candy’

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Lavender and a few magenta blooms from the “bloody” cranesbill in the foreground, Geranium sanguineum. Very odd sight these days, especially in a modern commercial design. Someone is definitely giving their plant chops some play time.

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More oregano.

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And then there was this (crooked) view down into the atrium which I couldn’t access. a Mondrian painting with pebbles, grasses, succulents and bamboo.
The variegated plant looked from a distance to be hoyas, the silver band in the center I’m pretty sure were hebes, and the maroon bands were succulents, either dyckias or a dark echeveria. There was at least twice again this length of bamboo and geometric shapes. Someone seems to be having an awfully good time with this commercial project.

The upgrade including landscaping was done by the Gensler firm.


driveby gardens; more on the disappearing lawn

I got a very late start on the self-guided Lawn-to-Garden tour Saturday, thirty gardens from 10 a.m. to 2 p.m., just because Friday was an unusually odd workday and I lingered and wallowed far too long in the glory of being home Saturday morning.


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There might have been some extended Saturday morning puttering with hanging tillandsias on maritime salvage.

Continue reading driveby gardens; more on the disappearing lawn

OC Mart Mix needs to host a garden show

Another weekend misspent ostensibly holiday shopping (why pretend?), but in actuality just enjoying plants and landscapes, these courtesy of The OC Mart Mix. Although The OC Mart Mix was patterned after the Ferry Building gourmet marketplace in San Francisco, it’s starting to remind me more and more of Cornerstone in Sonoma, Northern California, written about here and here, which hosted The Late Show in 2009, a much-loved garden show that hasn’t made a reappearance yet. Like that garden travel destination, The OC Mart Mix would also be a great location for a garden show. Rolling Greens’ new location is here, there’s more garden-themed retail signing on like Inside Out 365, and the landscaping is a low-irrigation inspiration. Plus it’s 20 minutes away from me, all worthy and compelling reasons for The OC Mart Mix to take my advice to heart.


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One of the courtyards

agave vilmoriniana and feather grass - oc mart

Agave vilmoriniana and Mexican feather grass

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succulents in a crenellated-rimmed pot

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Tall glazed pots at the entrances to shops were planted with succulents, like these aeoniums. Senecio mandraliscae is the blue dust ruffle planted in the soil around the base of the pots.

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Wonderful to see mature specimens of so many familiar succulents like Kalanchoe thyrsiflora, the flapjack plant, its towering inflorescence resembling a leaning pagoda

tree aloe bloom OC mart

Blooming aloes were some of the nicest holiday decorations I saw all weekend.

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OCMM, think of the garden show idea as my holiday gift to you. You’re welcome.

Walk the Walk

Long Beach Water Department is leading by example to gently ease citizens out of the mindset that wants to seed or unroll mowable turf grass as the default landscape. Who else is better positioned to educate the public on alternative landscapes for those expansive lawns that just won’t cut it anymore on Southern California’s average rainfall of 15 inches a year? At their own offices, this is exactly what they’ve done. Nothing fancy, no prohibitively expensive hardscape to dash low-budget hopes, just old-fashioned, solid plantsmanship.

During some errands yesterday, I stopped by their offices on 1800 E. Wardlow in Long Beach, which are tucked quite a ways back from the road.
If it wasn’t for this Agave vilmoriniana waving at me, I might have driven right on by.

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Thyme interplanted among pavers and possibly a yellow gazania. Unlike thyme, Dymondia magaretae tolerates foot traffic. Here bordered by grasses and gaura.

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Dendromecon rigida with the beach aster, Erigeron glaucus, in the background, a line of newly planted dudleyas barely visible to the left.
Decomposed granite paths weave among the plantings.

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C’mon, men. Don’t mow your landscape, play with it. Drop the mower, put on a loincloth and build a cairn. You know you’ve always wanted to, but cairns just look silly on lawns and need to be surrounded by something windswept. Now grab a Guinness and admire your handiwork.

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In the first photo above, grasses are a blue fescue and Stipa tenuissima, the latter getting the haircut treatment my husband gives ours in the parkway. Many Southern California designers are no longer utilizing this potentially invasive stipa, but you have to give it credit for its role as a gateway grass, building further interest in bunch grasses. As far as I can tell, it is universally beloved by all who see and touch it.

Second photo above: Ocotillo, Fonquieria splendens underplanted with Sedum rubrotinctum (‘Pork and Beans’) and Graptopetalum paraguayense (‘Ghost Plant’).

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The plantings were a mix of natives and exotics, including the Chilean Calandrinia grandiflora, magenta flowers in the above photo, as well as the New Zealand sedge, Carex testacea not pictured. Some native plants that were not photographed included toyon, Heteromeles arbutifolia (fronted by a big planting of Lobelia laxiflora), Salvia clevelandii, Salvia spathacea, Agaves shawii and deserti.