reshuffling some garden standbys


I edit, thin, and prune the steady accumulation of curbside and flea market finds constantly, but there’s a few stalwarts that consistently defy the purges. This Los Angeles street lamp shade has been kicking around the garden for years and was recently brought into use again for the outdoor Thanksgiving dinner, lit from within by a camping lantern, the glass rim sitting directly on the gravel. One early morning not long after that dinner I lay awake in bed and had one of those drowsy, half-awake epiphanies, making the connection that an iron base, also in my collection of oddities, found years apart from the glass shade but also formerly part of an old Los Angeles streetlight, should fit like a glove as a proper pedestal. I bought the iron base at the local flea market from a gentleman who helped source Chris Burden’s Urban Light installation at LACMA and proceeded to use it decoratively to encircle potted agaves. It all had the magical feeling of inevitability that morning as I rushed outdoors at first light to tip out the potted agave and slip the glass shade into the iron boot, Cinderella style, but in truth the shade and base aren’t a true fit. The shade is more or less stable on the base but not sitting in the groove, so it is technically prone to toppling. But wouldn’t that have been fun if it worked out? Ultimately I’d love to make a mold of the base and cast it in concrete for a series of pots.


Fooling around with flea market stuff is a breeze compared to the drama and stress of moving established plants. I finally decided to move the young Yucca rostrata in the front garden that is subjected to less than full sun during the short days of winter to the now sunnier back garden. With the soil falling away from the roots, the transplanting attempt effectively devolved into a bare-root operation which may not be optimal for success. The yucca was planted high and water temporarily withheld while it settles and acclimates (and hopefully doesn’t rot) but even so may not survive the move.


But doesn’t it look grand here? In the front garden it had to contend with crowding from Agave ‘Jaws,’ which is as voracious for garden space as its namesake was for moonlight skinny-dippers. Fingers crossed and best of luck, little yucca! I’m fairly certain that this yucca is ‘Sapphire Skies’ unlike the straight species just a few feet away.


I’ve never grown Aloe marlothii, a bucket-list plant for sure. And with all the new planting space that opened up recently, I became consumed with the idea of growing it against the east fence. Happily, it was found locally at Green Touch Nursery, an excellent source for succulents and cactus. In the end, though, the yucca won the spot and the aloe was given the hottest spot in the garden near the back porch, in all-day sun and reflected heat from the house and pavement, to keep those spines the deepest red.


Another standby, what looks like a foundry basket, a gift from artist Reuben Munoz, has been used in the past as a bench, with cushions, as well as put to use like here, as a table. A potted Agave americana var. striata elevated on a makeshift pedestal had its terminal spines corked for safety. Always plenty of corks around for just such an occasion!

I’m hoping stronger light will intensify what strikes me as fairly anemic coloration and striping. I like the vague, swirled markings of the striata agaves, which remind me of paint being mixed
Agave geminiflora ‘Leaping Lizards’ with newly acquired Calibanus ‘Lotusland’ on the right from Green Touch Nursery (cross between calibanus and beaucarnia)

An assortment of concrete cores and odds and ends is indispensable for container displays — and easy to break down when the displays become tiresome or in the way.

Agave ‘Snowglow’ with Agave americana var. medio-picta ‘Aurea’ on the right

My only other americana is the incredibly slow growing, nonoffsetting Agave americana var. medio-picta ‘Aurea’ — at least I think that’s what this is! The variegated shrub behind the agave is another garden standby grown off and on — Corokia virgata ‘Sunsplash.’ Very lightweight and graceful in its shrubby architecture, takes to pruning, and is always a bright spot for the dry garden.


I picked up the corokia and this Rhodocoma capensis at Roger’s Gardens, possibly the only person shopping for plants now that the nursery is geared toward winter holidays, when santa visits, gifts, and ornament shopping become most shoppers’ priorities. I’m just not there yet this year. I’ve never grown this restio or seen it available locally so had to give it a try. It will eventually have to be moved from this snug little spot because it’s one of the bigger restios.


Now I’d like some nice drizzly rain to gently water in the yucca — unfortunately, coping with lack of rain in December is an old standby too. Getting out cards, cookies, and gifts are next on the list (but, honestly, I’d rather be digging…)

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5 Responses to reshuffling some garden standbys

  1. Kris P says:

    You find the most interesting plants – and things. Thanks for the introduction to Green Touch Nursery, which I’d never heard of before. I hope the Yucca rostrata handles its shuffle. I’ve an even smaller specimen of ‘Sapphire Skies’ I got from Annie’s a couple of years ago that I’ve been eyeing, trying to judge when it might to appropriate to move it from its pot to a forever home.

  2. Elaine says:

    I hope your little yucca survives. They are super tough so fingers crossed. Too bad about the lantern. Could see it sitting atop the iron mesh table surrounded by potted plants. Would look like a giant Christmas lightbulb emerging from the foliage. I am with you on not feeling the season yet. Too much fun to be working outdoors.

  3. You have a way with these finds Denise, working in things that would look silly if I tried it. Your vignette with the basket from Reuben is positively dreamy!

    Seeing the big rostrata that were moved to Sean Hogan’s new garden—and what small root mass they had—I’m feeling quite positive for the outcome of your yucca.

  4. Denise says:

    @Kris, Oscar at GT Nursery says he’s been there approx 5 years. He has a table of his own private plants, which is so interesting to investigate! And he keeps a nice selection of plant-sale type cactus and succulents too. But he has a good selection if you want to buy big specimen succulents. H&H Nursery is maybe a mile away. I bet my Sapphire Skies is from Annie’s too — a Sean Hogan selection if I remember correctly.
    @Elaine, Christmas lights inside the light shade is a great idea!
    @Loree, I wish you could have seen Reuben’s RR. I’m tempted to drive out because the new owners have supposedly not changed a thing. I checked online and saw other yuccas with not much root mass, so I hope you’re right. So glad Sean took his with him!

  5. hb says:

    My great uncle who moved to LA just after WWI had one of those street lights out in front of his house. They were elegant.

    That’s a choice marlothii you found, nice and bumpy.

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