Tag Archives: Sticks on Fired/Euphorbia tirucalli

echeverias runneth over

I work at this building a lot, where there are enormous pots planted with a central Sticks on Fire surrounded by echeverias.
Lusty, thriving, insanely multiplying echeverias. They look to be Echeveria secunda.
I swear, I get the worst case of itchy fingers when I see these echeverias brimming and spilling over the rim of the pot.
Somebody needs to thin these, and leave the cuttings in a basket at the base of the pot with a sign saying “Take me.”
Because I would be more than happy to help lighten the echeveria load here.


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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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.

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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?

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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.

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Pinching it back doesn’t seem to help.

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

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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.

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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.)

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

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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).

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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.

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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.

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

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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 !)

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


streetside: succulent garden 6/24/14

Another gem of a garden found via a traffic shortcut.* I’ve been admiring it for some time and stopped by last night for photos. Driving by, the tall succulents, a Furcraea macdougalii about the size of mine, Euphorbia ammak and ocotillo, were the first striking outlines to capture my attention traveling at the speed of a car, all three plants being good enough reasons to later investigate on foot. Maybe I’m biased, but from a purely aesthetic point of view, to me some of the most successful lawn-free front gardens I’ve seen locally have featured succulents. Their strong outlines are perfectly suited to conform to that tyrannical template we all inherit with these small houses — the path slicing through the middle of a geometric grid enroute to the front door. Succulents have an inherent formalism of structure that suit the rigidity of these ubiquitous layouts that were designed to be horizontally dominated by smooth turf, but their diversity, supercharged dynamism, strong colors and shapes subvert the traditional notion of a staid front garden. All while still managing to be neat and tidy 365 days a year (here in zone 10) and incredibly easy on the monthly water bill. A love of beautiful plants and a strong eye for design can produce startling effects even within this typical suburban design framework. I’ve tagged most of the agaves but leave the ID of the opuntia and other cacti up for discussion.


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Agaves included are ‘Blue Glow,’ desmettiana ‘Variegata,’ macroacantha, parryi, stricta, bracteosa.

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My own Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ bloomed this year, its space already taken by smaller, if less dramatic agaves.

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I’m blanking on this writhing, silvery mass with serrated leaves. Dasylirion? Puya? Nolina? Silvery shrub in the background is a westringia.

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Along with the Pelargonium sidoides, pollinators can find something of interest in flowering ground covers and a big native buckwheat near the front window, St. Catherine’s Lace (Eriogonum giganteum).

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The pencil stems with orange flowers on the far left looks like a pedilanthus.

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Small-scale ground covers eloquently underplant the rosettes including this Agave potatorum.

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Aptly named squid agave, A. bracteosa. The strewn leaves are from a neighbor’s parkway magnolia.

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Agaves nestled snugly into the well-placed rocks.

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Ocotillo and a pencil euphorbia, possibly E. leucodendron.

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I mostly avoided taking photos of the house, but the Furcraea macdougalii was smack in the middle of a front window, backed by eriogonum.

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Wreathed in aloes at its base.

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The parkway/hell strip was all helichrysum silver.

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Except for this one, which I’m pretty sure is a sideritis, the first I’ve seen locally outside my own garden.

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Front gardens like this always beg the tantalizing question: What on earth did they save for the back?


*Once again a traffic jam forced me into taking a lesser-traveled route. So I’ve been admiring this newly found garden since spring, during the recent Stanley Cup playoffs and final series, driving en route to watch the games with my mom. After my dad died, we all took up the one sport he never followed, initially as a means to get together frequently during the week. I’d never been a fan of any sport before but knew that televised sports had been an important part of their marriage. I caught an Olympic hockey game in 2010 and admired the speed and athleticism, and thus we started following the fortunes of our beleaguered, star-crossed local team. At first we were unable to even keep an eye trained on the whizzing puck and found the unspoken rules mystifying. But then the Los Angeles Kings did the unimaginable, winning their first Stanley Cup not long after we became fans, keeping their diehard fans waiting over 40 years. In 2012 we still barely understood the concept of icing the puck. This last season, stretching from October to June, was an endurance test for the fans, too, but astonishingly ended in another Stanley Cup. Unlike me, my mom can recite the jersey number and stats on every team member, and she now finds golf and baseball unbearably slow to watch. Go Mom! Go Kings!

driveby agave garden revisited

I’ve been thinking of Jud’s garden. Did the recent unseasonal heat waves bruise any agaves?
I didn’t memorize the address, so it took a while to find again, which seems to be a recurring theme with this garden.
Was it on Colorado or Fourth Street? East or west of Termino?
After about a half hour’s meandering, suddenly there it was again, rising up out of the suburbs like a desert oasis mirage.

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It certainly holds its corner like no other house I know.

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The driveby view is splendid enough, but seeing it on foot is the only way to appreciate the multiple shifting perspectives of rosettes and spikes.

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I’ve never seen Sticks on Fire as tall and narrow as cypresses. I wonder if they had to be pruned into these columnar shapes.

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The agaves were indeed left unblemished by the 100-degree temps.

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I’ll post a few more detailed photos of Jud’s garden this week.