Tag Archives: Euphorbia tirucalli

Monday clippings 6/22/15

It’s almost the end of the month, a good time to unpack some random June impressions.

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Dustin’s potted Aloe ‘Johnson’s Hybrid,’ the mother of my little one I mentioned recently. See how spectacular?
Blooms nearly year-round, and Dustin says it’s much better than the similar ‘Grassy Lassie’ and especially fine for container culture.

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Detail of my favorite CMU (concrete masonry unit) hack so far, a little bench set amidst CMU stacked planters at a local Thai restaurant.
I need to go back for a thorough examination so I can get started on my unapologetic theft of this brilliant idea.

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Massed succulents around town are at their peak of beauty before the really hot days of summer begin in July. Aloe brevifolia perhaps

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Kiwi aeonium, aloes and echeverias

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Agaves as front porch sentries

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massed Queen Victoria agaves at Orange Coast College

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Tree aloe, Aloidendron barberae, at Orange Coast College

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Euphorbias tirucalli and ammak vying for supremacy. Orange Coast College

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A tiny glimpse of Joe Clements’ work at Claremont College. I need to return and take a much longer look around.

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Possibly Agave ‘Cream Spike,’ with opuntia, also seen at Claremont College

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Cotyledon orbiculata is in bloom everywhere.

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Everywhere except my garden, that is. Clumps are still too small.

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A sweet variegated ferocactus seen on a recent garden tour.

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And just a couple photos from a 100-degree visit to the elegant Rancho Reubidoux Saturday.
The stacked pots on the far left are new, most enviable acquisitions.
I had just streamed a documentary on the Catalan architect Gaudi the night before my visit and couldn’t help seeing his organic forms in a lot of Reuben’s impressive pottery.
All containers are stone and cement, which has the effect of draining the garden of random colors, clarifying line, shape and form.
Everything has been pared down, simplified, classicized, if that’s even a word, and is emphatically serene and spacious. Fresh adventures always beckon Reuben and Paul.

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The heat and strong light frustrated documentation attempts, so we mostly hung out here under the deep, shady overhang.
Reuben and Paul’s buddy, cactus purveyor Rob MacGregor, regaled us with talk of spiking barrel cactus with hot nails to spur growth of multiple heads.
Marty can’t wait to try this on mine. (No way!)
And I was able to bring home one of Vicki Perez’s creations, a planted tractor funnel, so it was an altogether fine day in the inland inferno.

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For an older look, I had forgotten all about this video Mitch made of the Rancho several years ago until Reuben mentioned it yesterday.
(Reuben, persuading the paletas vendor to loan you his popsicle cart for the day further confirms your devilishly detailed genius. The lime paleta was divine!)

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And don’t forget the big CSSA show is this week, June 26-28, 2015, at the Huntington.
Rob says he’ll be giving a lecture there, which hopefully will include more fiendish ways to propagate succulents.


terraced gardens and the Cow Horn agave

I love terraced gardens, with their multiple shifting perspectives from up, down, side to side. I can probably trace this appreciation to an aunt’s hilltop home in the harbor town of San Pedro, Calif. My dad’s sister had a house that overlooked Los Angeles Harbor, bought with fishing money, when there were still big local schools of sardine and albacore. The hill was buttressed by multiple terraces. The plantings were nondescript, but the idea intrigued me even as a kid, this modest example of domestic-scale geoengineering, with the land falling away beneath you, yet there always being level ground underfoot provided by the terracing. Visiting the terraced villages of the Cinque Terre in Italy many years later was a continuation of this childhood fascination. Terraced gardens still pull me in to this day, as this local one did featuring a favorite agave from western Mexico, the Cow Horn agave.


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Agave bovicornuta here being harassed by a bougainvillea. Yucca rostrata on the topmost terrace.

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Aeoniums and lavender, Kalanchoe tomentosa, Aloe striata, with an attempt to tame and train bougainvillea against a retaining wall.
A Dragon Tree holds a corner of the upper terrace.

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Another feature of terrace gardens: incredibly satisfied-looking plants in the free drainage and warmth from the stone in this eastern exposure.
This house and garden is just a couple blocks from the ocean.

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Deep green and blue again, this time the green provided by the Pencil Cactus, Euphorbia tirucalli
The blue agave looks like possibly Agave celsii ‘Nova’ (now going by A. mitis.) except that solitary agave is not known for pupping so many offsets.
It also looks a lot like my ‘Dragon Toes,’ which does offset freely.

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Seems like I gravitate for a while to the powder blue agaves or variegated agaves, but there will always be room for the deep emerald green of the Cowhorn Agave.
Mine succumbed to overwatering in the back garden a couple years ago, and I haven’t seen it on offer locally since.
The back garden is becoming almost as dry as the front gravel garden, so I’ve started planting agaves in the ground in the back again. We’ll see how they fare.

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With rosemary and Echeveria agavoides.

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What the bougainvillea really wants is the terraces all to itself.
I’d never unleash it in this situation, where keeping it in bounds will require frequent trimming, putting the succulents in danger of being trampled if not smothered first.
I do admire the horizontal line of its dark green leaves snaking across the retaining walls in the upper photos, but the amount of labor and leaf litter…
All that clipping sacrifices the flowers anyway, turning what’s normally a study in scarlet to a minor meditation on magenta.

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A glimpse of the sloping front lawn of the house next-door, which shows how the Cow Horn agave matches the depth of color of green grass.

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With the paddle plant, Kalanchoe luciae ‘Fascination.’

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Another bonus of terraces is the fact that agaves are not at shin level, which is where I frequently engaged with my Cow Horn agave —
but always in cowboy jeans, of course.


Kalanchoe ‘Oak Leaf’

Wonderful architectural bloom trusses on this 5-gallon kalanchoe at Lincoln Avenue Nursery in Pasadena. Was this a Kalanchoe beharensis in flower? The leaves at the base of the plant were difficult to see without disturbing the careful display. The San Marcos Growers tag identified it not as Kalanchoe beharensis but Kalanchoe ‘Oak Leaf’ or the Dwarf Velvet Plant. Thought to be a cross between Kalanchoe beharensis and K. millot, John Greenlee is credited with bringing it to the attention of San Marcos Growers. (Read SMG’s discussion here.) I’m always interested in finding good shrubby landscape succulents, and the genus kalanchoe has been offering some fine examples. This one, with its see-through, aerial scaffolding when in bloom, looks very promising. It’s easy to see the appeal for Greenlee as a textural accompaniment for grasses. With my wallet emptied out after the holidays, I’ll wait to see if smaller sizes turn up at the spring plant sales. The challenge will be in finding as dramatic a backdrop for its pallid stems as those masses of Sticks on Fire, Euphorbia tirucalli.


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succulents around town

I’ve been accumulating photos of the ever-present succulent arrangements I see all over town.
All over town might be an exaggeration. It’s just possible that I tend to gravitate to places where there will be succulents.
But there’s no denying that they are still the Edie Sedgwick of the horticultural world, the It plant of the moment.
And from a glass-half-full perspective, they dovetail so nicely with the warmer, drier summers we’ve been having.

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Aeoniums, Portulacaria afra, graptoverias, and the trailing Senecio radicans, the fish-hook senecio.
Rolling Greens, Culver City
This seemed to be a staging area for presold arrangements.

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Agave ‘Blue Glow,’ echeverias, Sedum ‘Angelina,’ Sedum morganianum.

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Agave americana ‘Variegata’

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I’m seeing lots of wood and natural-looking containers this spring.
Dark red aeoniums, Portulacaria afra, Aeonium ‘Kiwi,’ Senecio radicans, Euphorbia tirucalli.
These have more in common with floral arrangements, packed for maximum impact, but will have to be broken apart fairly soon.
Portulacaria afra and Euphorbia tirucalli each have potential to become shrublike in Los Angeles. .

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No ID aloe, crassulas, Senecio radicans

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Furcraea macdougalii at Inner Gardens, also on Jefferson Boulevard in Culver City
I finally got my F. macdougalii out of its pot and into the garden, not an easy thing to do with a 5-footer brandishing leaves studded with hooked barbs.
Spectacular plant.

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To give a sense of the length that Senecio radicans will grow, this is my old lamp stand, which has lost quite a bit of detail since this post. It had to be replanted a few months ago when Marty bumped it and sent it flying, rolling and bouncing, which it withstood amazingly well, considering. I patched it back together and added the trailing fish-hook senecio. Once it reaches the ground and I start trimming the ends, it loses that lovely, loose draping effect and thickens up, just like any plant that’s pinched back. Yes, for a change, I did try to style the photo a bit, which is incredibly hard to get right. Kudos to the pros for making it look effortless. After dragging benches and teapots out of the house, shifting things micromillimeters to the left then right again, I was exhausted. The “turk’s head” was a gift, brought home from the souks in Morocco, and the reason I’m asking Marty to teach me traditional seaman’s knot work. He’s always made “monkey fists” and these “turk’s heads,” but never ones this big. I want to make lots of them but in slightly smaller sizes, to hold down the canvas canopy over the pergola this summer, clip on tablecloths to keep from blowing in the wind, etc. We’ll see how many I make. Plans are always the easy part.

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These two, Aeonium ‘Kiwi’ and Echeveria prolifica, fill in incredibly fast.

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Echeveria agavoides

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Echeveria cante at the Spring Garden Show at South Coast Plaza in Costa Mesa.
This show will be open through the weekend.
I found this opalescent beauty in a 4-inch pot.

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An unnamed dyckia hybrid going for $75. I left it at the show, waiting for the dyckiaphiles.

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Echeveria agavoides at the show

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Echeveria subsessilis ‘Variegata’ (synonymous with E. peacockii). Beautiful but pricey.


what Dustin Gimbel does with gazanias

The humble gazania, that kaleidoscopic daisy from South Africa overused in years past as the go-to municipal ground cover, is undergoing a minor local revival. I included a few for this summer in my full-sun back garden, the LA Times did a brief writeup on them, and Los Angeles-based garden designer Dustin Gimbel designed an industrial business park frontage around their free-spirited contributions to the horizontal plane. Three examples hardly make a trend, but I think we’re all tapping into a retro-daisy zeitgeist. LA’s once ubiquitous, overplanted “freeway daisies” are sexy again. A tough, waterwise, vibrant daisy gets a new look when joined by a few well-chosen succulents and really brightens up a business park.

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Above photos by MB Maher

In Dustin’s gazania revival, he includes agaves like ‘Blue Glow,’ Aeonium ‘Schwarzkopf,’ Euphorbia tirucalli, and a stunning pouf of a euphorbia that breaks up and redirects the gazania’s silvery leaves like boulders in a river, Euphorbia mauritanica.

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I carefully stepped into the plantings, almost in full shade from the building by mid-afternoon, to catch the wave of silver as it undulates, pools, and swirls around the succulents.

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And to get a closer look at South Africaner Euphorbia mauritanica, also known as the Pencil Milkbush.
Dustin describes this shrubby euphorb as “cushiony, noodle-y goodness.” I so agree.

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As seen on the far right, Euphorbia mauritanica is just beginning to bloom in typical euphorb, acid-yellow style. Dustin also planted a few young Acacia stenophylla trees in this large industrial park rectangle, which measures approximately 12 feet wide by at least three times that in length, and the design can be easily tweaked over time to accommodate the growth of the trees.

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Dustin shows how gazanias, when treated with invention and respect, don’t just cover the ground but make it memorable.

For similar plantings, that other multi-colored, tough daisy with silvery leaves, arctotis, has been stealing gazania’s thunder lately, but arctotis quickly builds up and sprawls into a taller, bulkier plant. For a low, horizontal effect, gazania is the one. Perennial and evergreen here in zone 10, grown as annuals in colder zones. Choose the silver-leaved varieties, not the green-leaved, to get that glaucous base coat for other colors and shapes to play against. Some species of gazania, like G. linearis, have shown moderate potential for invasiveness and should not be planted close to wilderness areas.

driveby agave garden

I have the Long Beach Marathon to thank for finding this garden.
No, I didn’t run the marathon, more like actively avoided it. The marathon barricades cut off much of my end of Long Beach on October 6, so trying to get a few errands done was a circuitous challenge. I ended up in neighborhoods I don’t often see, such as the one where this front garden fills a corner lot. I vowed to return. Last night, 13 days later, I found it again, even though I had misremembered the street name.
Who needs street names with a garden like this? I bet locals use it for reference: “Hang a right at Little Lotusland…”


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Continue reading driveby agave garden

Mergers & Acquisitions

If nature abhors a vacuum, then I am nature’s willing handmaiden. By late May, the garden is stuffed, bursting at the seams like this potted Euphorbia tirucalli.

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Echevarias and sedums tucked into every available spot. Euphorbia ‘Diamond Frost’ filling in again after laying low over the winter.

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Atriplex hortensis, the purple orach, and Verbena bonariensis dominate the air space.

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Yet the plant purchases keep on coming. This summer was to be about downsizing. Fewer pots to maintain and water throughout a very long growing season. The small garden in situ would have to absorb it all. Must have let down my guard because, boy, did I fall off the wagon — fell off it hard, then loaded it up with plants.

I’m still puzzling over what switch flipped that had me racing madly through the nursery, slowing the cart down only for small children and the elderly. For one thing, I never grab a cart. That way lies madness. One must have some rules, however arbitrary, and then stick to them.

The first rule is, only what I can carry with two hands (surprisingly, a lot).

Second rule is, for those moments of extreme weak will, a small hand basket. (Nurseries tend to hide these hand baskets, for obvious reasons, so I’ve often spent up to 20 minutes searching for one.)

There is no third rule, and this just might be the weak link. For that day, there was the second-rule hand basket overflowing with pots, sitting atop the large cart, also overflowing with pots, clearly an unforeseen set of circumstances lying well outside any known rule.

What separated this trip from one of my usual composed, judicious nursery saunters was that it came at the end of Debra Lee Baldwin’s talk at Roger’s Gardens. I’m guessing it has something to do with the “compadres” effect, sitting in solidarity on those bleacher seats with my tribe. Permission to purchase electrified the air. All I know is, after Debra’s talk, the brakes on the wagon were off. I even tossed a couple heucheras on the cart, very uncharacteristic, since I’m not at all a heuchera junkie, but this one has a big, soft leaf, supposedly bred for southern climes. (The best heuchera I ever grew was our native Channel Islands Heuchera maxima, which grew to the size of a zucchini and was often mistaken for one by visitors.)

I never keep a ghetto for new plant purchases. There’s no room, for one thing, so they’d surely expire in some out-of-the-way spot awaiting planting. A planting frenzy always follows a nursery shopping frenzy the very day of, if not morning after, and this planting frenzy had to be the biggest in recent memory. You know that smug, clever feeling when you’ve managed to squeeze in the last impulse buy? Well, it’s fleeting, and there’s always a hangover the next day as you survey your lack of self-control writ large upon the garden.

The spreadsheet (AA denotes a plant from Annie’s Annuals):

Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’
See note above.

Chrysocephalum apiculatum ‘Flambe Orange’ (2 ea 4-inch pots)’
Impulse

Teucrium hybrid ‘Fairy Dust’ (2 ea 4-inch pots)
Impulse

Eryngium tripartitum AA (2 ea 4-inch pots)
Tap-rooted, will take up little space.

Aeonium spathulatum var. cruentum AA
Aeoniums need no justification

Arthropodium cirratum ‘Renga Lily’ AA
Impulse

Neoregelia ‘Purple Stoly’
Impulse

Saxifraga stolonifera
Replacing last year’s

Venidium ‘Orange Prince’
Impulse

Tanacetum niveum AA (2 ea 4-inch pots)
Started this from seed last fall but missed a watering cycle(s)

Euphorbia rigida AA
Euphorbias need no justification

Verbascum bombyciferum ‘Arctic Summer’ AA
Verbascums need no justification

Nicotiana suaveolens AA (2 ea 4-inch pots)
Started N. mutabilis from seed last fall but missed a watering cycle(s).
And nicotianas need no justification
.

Polygonum orientale, variegated (2 ea 4-inch pots)
Hasn’t prospered for me yet. Third time’s the charm.

Sedum nussbaumerianum was trimmed back just a bit to make room for Euphorbia rigida, etc., etc., until all new acquisitions were merged into the garden.

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This weekend were staying miles away from plant nurseries.

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Edited spring 3/31/11: Polygonum orientale was spectacular summer 2010. Heuchera ‘Southern Comfort’ made the best of a poor site, showed beautiful new spring growth, and has been moved to better digs. Teucrium ‘Fairy Duster’ amazingly durable. Euphorbia rigida might be my favorite new euphorb. The neoregelia is robust and thriving. Aeonium is now in bloom. The verbascum bloomed well and a new one was brought in. All others mentioned in above list are not around to greet spring 2011 and did nothing to speak of in 2010.