Tuesday, August 4, 2015

Cutting down the Agave desmettiana flower stalk

The flowering Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ near our front door has made frequent appearances on this blog (1 2 3 and others). I was going to wait until the fall before removing the bulbil-laden flower stalk, but unfortunately it was leaning so much that getting to the front door was getting ever more challenging, especially for delivery folks with packages.

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For a brief moment we considered staking it somehow, but having a wooden pole protrude into the walkway wouldn’t have made access to the front door any easier. So yesterday we decided to bite the bullet and cut the big boy down.

One last look:

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And then came the saw:

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Bulbils? Have we got bulbils!

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I had a good idea that the stalk was heavy, considering how many bulbils there are and how much they have grown. But I didn’t fully realize how much it weighed until I was trying to move it. Talk about top heavy!

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The stalk was solid and quite woody.

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No more obstacle in the way!

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But fall (and cooler weather) can’t arrive soon enough for me. I’ve got so many projects to tackle, including removing the Agave desmettiana rosette and the pups underneath it. There are at least three. In fact, I’m thinking of giving this entire planting bed a makeover by swapping out most of its residents (minus the ponytail palm triplet and the Yucca rigida behind it). There’s still plenty of time to work out the details…

In the meantime, the Agave desmettiana flower stalk is propped up against one of the bay trees in the backyard. We knocked off a few dozen bulbils carrying the stalk around the side of the house, but there are plenty left. I’m hoping the remaining bulbils will grow a little more, provided there’s any energy left in the stalk. Then I’ll strip them all off and pick out the most promising 50 or so. They’ll go in an unused vegetable bed in the backyard so they can root and put on some size before they get rehomed—I already have enough Agave desmettiana ‘Variegata’ to last me for years. Don’t get me wrong, this is a very nice medium-sized agave with fairly people-friendly leaves (except for a long terminal spine), but I’m ready to mix things up.

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That albino pup in the photo above is intriguing. Does it have enough chlorophyll to survive on its own?

17 comments:

  1. Can imagine just how heavy it must have been indeed, the stem looks solid. Hopefully the albino one will develop some green later on, just enough so that it will live but mainly yellow enough to be distinct :)

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    1. The color is creamy, instead of pure white, so hopefully there is enough chlorophyll to survive. It will be a sloooooow grower if it lives.

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    2. It will be interesting experiment if your albino will make it. Why not give it a test. Your entry looks great now. I am sure this is making you feel better.

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    3. It's a good first step, Laura. I'll be even happier when the dead rosette (and the pups) are gone and I've planted the replacement, an Agave vilmoriniana 'Stained Glass'.

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  2. LOL, that first picture of you peering thru the bulbils is priceless! Sue

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    1. P.S. You can have some of the agave pups if you have room for them. They're much larger than the bulbils.

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  3. It always amazes me how big agave bloom stalks get. I don't have any agaves mature enough to produce one (yet) but I can only imagine what my neighbors will say if a stalk like that stretches into the street one day.

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    1. If your neighbors are like ours, they probably just shake their heads. I know our neighbors like me, but they definitely think I'm odd putting all these bizarre plants in my yard.

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  4. Some of the albino ones will survive, some won't. I've still got several that look very Joe Hoak-y, the rest either turned "normal" or died. After a while, you do want to grow something new...I have hundreds of them--still.

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    1. There are several rather albino-looking bulbils. I'd be ecstatic if one of them made it. I will keep the oddities but not any of the "regular" bulbils. I still have two A. desmettiana 'Variegata' in the backyard and don't need any more. I'm ready to move on to new agaves.

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  5. Love that shot of you peering out between the agave babies! I can't help but picture a mass planting somewhere, a guerrilla gardening sort of thing...

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    1. Aah, the agave troll photo! Maybe I should make that my new Blogger profile photo.

      With all those bulbils, I could have a plant sale in the fall. Put them in 4-inch pots and sell them for $2 each. I'll mull it over...

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  6. So nice to see the path clear again! I do the same thing, leaving path-blocking plants in place for way too long. My plants aren't on the scale of that one was though...

    Wait, didn't you just recently (last couple of years) give this bed a makeover? Your plants grow so quickly for someplace that gets so little rain!

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    1. I hope it'll be a few years before I have to deal with another agave flower stalk!

      This bed was created in March of 2009. I've swapped out a few plants over the years but haven't done anything major to it.

      As for growing quickly, remember that these are plants used to dry climates AND they get drip-irrigated once a week, currently for 25 minutes, so they're not entirely without water.

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  7. The gleam in your eye amidst all those bulbils is priceless! From my experience, this agave is great for container culture. I have one still in a four inch pot that is the same age as one I put in the ground that grew to huge size then bloomed. All my other agaves seem to be bursting out of their pots and require frequent repotting. I wonder if my experience with this agave is unique. The only drawback to restraining its size is it doesn't make that great arching shape.

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    1. I have one A. desmettiana 'Variegata' in a pot in the backyard in the complete shade and it's doing great. The leaves are a much deeper green than in the sun.

      I agree, it makes a good plant for a container, like many agaves. Once their roots have filled the available space, they simply stop growing. Maybe that means they won't flower either?

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