friday agave love

I had a paycheck a couple weeks back that was bigger than expected, so that’s when my ongoing cold inspection of every variegated octopus agave on offer around town turned into hot acquisition. Always expensive, always a little bit beat up, because those long arms/leaves are impossible to ship and keep in stock undamaged. Agave vilmoriniana ‘Stained Glass’ is the variegated form available, named after the late Charles Glass, curator of the Cante Institute and Botanic Garden in San Miguel de Allende, Guanajuato, Mexico, who was circuitously responsible for bringing this agave to the attention of San Marcos Growers, which introduced it in 2008. The best group of local specimens I’ve found are at the International Garden Center near the airport, and since I often work near LAX I had been checking them out for some time. Flush and with a serious intent to buy, I methodically compared each agave, counting the number of pristine leaves, and the plant with the most was the take-home winner. I emptied out this big industrial tank of accumulated odds and ends, but chiefly an enormous Miscanthus ‘Cabaret.’ It does remind me of an octopus trying to climb out of an aquarium (which I have seen done, by the way. Marty worked with fish trapped in power plant intakes way back and once brought home a small octopus. One afternoon was enlivened by the sight of it making its determined way across our beach rental’s shag carpet to the perceived freedom of the toilet. The feisty kraken was returned unharmed to the aquarium, where we fed it small crabs for a while then released it.)

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Same type of methodical comparison resulted in choosing my Agave gypsophila ‘Ivory Curls,’ purchased as consolation for suffering with a head cold in October. (There’s as many justifications for buying agaves as there are agaves to buy, and there’s two for you, a good paycheck and a bad head cold.) This was the best-looking rosette, but other plants already had pups attached, a nice bonus. Decisions, decisions. The pup-forming plants’ leaves were much more distressed, mottled with those brown spots I see on a lot of Agave americana ‘Mediopicta.’ It’s probably a harmless blemish possibly caused by overhead watering, but why ask for trouble? The good-looking but solitary plant made the cut. The blue agave behind it is Agave franzosinii, both agaves’ leaves now curling in unison. The franzosinii had already outgrown its first pot, so these cheap buckets I had on hand seemed a good temporary home. A couple Salvia ‘Amistad’ were ousted, planted in the garden, and now it’s Bucket O’gave. The gypsophila will reputedly grow no bigger than 2-3 feet high and wide, but the franzosinii can reach the size of a VW bug and will probably explode out of the bucket in a year. What I’ll do at that point is still in the planning stages (no idea!) Little agave in the front is A. X leopoldii. The species Agave vilmoriniana was also purchased and planted in the ground. I’ve been on a county-wide agave rampage this fall.

And that’s the Friday agave report.

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11 Responses to friday agave love

  1. I love your justifications as much as the plants themselves. I feel much more enabled now to follow suit. Both of these agaves have been near the top of my wish list, but I haven’t found them locally yet. And I refuse to buy them mail order because they get damaged so easily. Maybe I’ll find something equally exciting at the Ruth Bancroft Garden fall sale tomorrow.

    BTW, how big are these metal buckets? I quite like the look but I’m always afraid the roots might get too hot in the winter. Are these agaves in the shade?

  2. Denise says:

    Gerhard, these are 5-gallon buckets, and that’s a good point about heat. They’re both in sun for now. Winter shouldn’t be a problem, but by next summer I may move them into something else. I might just grow the franzosinii for a few years and then give it to a good home with room for it to expand.

  3. hb says:

    Still on the lookout myself for a ‘Stained Glass’ worth buying. I’ve seen a few just too battered. Happy you finally found yours! It looks really good.

  4. Denise says:

    Hoov, and yet they’re always pricy too. I thought these were a good price and in the best shape I’ve seen so far.

  5. Kris P says:

    I love your new acquisitions – and the great story of the determined octopus.

  6. If you need more reasons to buy agaves just let me know, I am here to help.

    Your new adoptees are all lookers, but that ‘Stained Glass’ is sexy!

  7. David Feix says:

    Denise, love the rationals, but living alone means never having to explain! I was working on a garden back in August, where I moved a large specimen variegated Octopus Agave to a more prominent spot in the same garden. Initially I hadn’t appreciated. how rare or special it was. Next I intend to surround it with silky soft white foliaged Verbascum bombyciferum, as the first dozen planted didn’t survive.

    No room or sufficient sun for more Agaves in my own garden, have to be content with Blue Glow, variegated attenuata’s, striata, gemniflora. I get to enjoy them more so in clients’ gardens, same with Puyas.

  8. Denise says:

    @Kris, some images just stay with you forever, like an octopus crawling over shag carpet.
    @Loree, if I ever run out of reasons, I’ll know where to go for help.
    @David, I’d love to have room for a dozen of that verbascum, so lovely en masse in bloom. I think a lot of agaves could get by with half-day sun. Even some of Jaws’ leaves burnt in the recent high temps.

  9. Lisa says:

    I wish I could find these agaves in Spain. They are beautiful and they look great on those containers.

  10. ks says:

    Ooo, that Ivory Curls is a looker. It’s been months since I bought a new Agave, I feel so deprived.

  11. KimG says:

    Denise, Agaves have always been my 1st love too. A year ago or so I found a beautiful Octopus Agave & equally beautiful ocean blue pot @ Jackalope in N. Hollywood.It’s growing nicely but I keeping thinking I should free it from it’s pot and it will get even bigger. Then again it’s so pretty in the pot so I can’t’ decide.

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