Octopus agave bulbils – thousands of them

The November 2023 meeting of the Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society (SCSS) was all about making succulent wreaths. Members brought in a large variety of succulent cuttings, mostly things like crassulas, aeoniums, as well as echeverias, graptopetalums, sedums, and hybrids thereof. However, my eyes immediately went to this: Somebody brought the flower stalk of an octopus agave ( Agave vilmoriniana ) laden with bulbils! Almost all agave species are monocarpic, i.e., they flower once and then die. To reproduce, they employ various strategies. This includes making offsets, setting seeds, or producing bulbils – plantlets emerging on the flower stalk. Pollinated flowers can turn into seeds or bulbils; sometimes you find some of each on the same inflorescence. A few agave species produce bulbils as a matter of course, others do so only when the inflorescence becomes damaged. Genetically, bulbils are 100% identical to the mother plant. In reproductive (and practical) terms, they’re a mu

Drowning in leaves

Fall is a special time of year. Trees turning all kinds of color, what a beautiful sight that is. Our neighbor’s massive London plane tree But pretty soon the pretty leaves begin to fall – first a few, then a few hundred, then countless thousand. And somehow most of them end up in our garden, getting stuck in the center of agaves and aloes and swallowing up smaller plants almost entirely. See for yourself. I could have posted just a few photos to illustrate my point, but what would be the fun in that? Why limit yourself to one or two images when you can have a dozen or more! Plus, taking pictures of the annual leafageddon is the first step towards actually cleaning them up. Agave sebastiana and Malephora crocea Grevillea ‘Scarlet Sprite’ and Mangave ‘Permanent Wave’ Rainbow hedgehog cactus ( Echinocereus rigidissimus ssp. rubrispinus ) Echinocereus rigidissimus ssp. rubrispinus This Aloe ‘Apache’ is almost completely buried, just the inflorescence sticking out Agave zebra and Mang

Unsung heroes in our garden

Most posts about our garden feature plants that attract attention – the stars and divas, you might say. But there are plenty of others that are less visible. They aren’t less pretty or less valuable, they just play a quieter role. They may not take center stage, but they would be sorely missed if they weren’t there. In the spirit of Thanksgiving, I want to shine the spotlight on some of these unsung heroes and express my appreciation for their steadfastness and dependability. Many of these quiet characters are groundcovers – succulents, more often than not, but not exclusively. Echeveria minima I love echeverias, but many of them, especially the fancier hybrids, don’t do well in our hot summers. Through trial and experimentation, I’ve found a few that do. This includes Echeveria minima , a beautiful small species that slowly forms dense mats. Echeveria minima A larger form of Echeveria minima on the right Nearby are a few hybrid echeverias that have done really well: Echeveria  'L