Here and gone

Today was a busy day in the garden. The first order of business was removing a 4 ft. Yucca gloriosa from the succulent bed next to the front door. While I liked the architectural look of this yucca and its current size, I knew that it couldn’t stay in this spot forever, considering its size potential and relatively fast growth rate. Since the base of the plant was getting thick and woody, I was afraid digging it out would become progressively more difficult so I bit the bullet this morning. Contrary to what I had expected, our trusty pry bar dislodged the root ball quite easily and I was able to lift out the plant unharmed. I wrapped the root ball in plastic, listed it on Freecycle, and by 1pm it had been picked up. Hopefully it will have a good home somewhere else.

Yucca gloriosa—here…and gone
I was surprised by the dainty roots. I had expected much thicker, woodier roots.

The big question is what to plant in this spot. I don’t honestly know. For now, I’ve put the Yucca rostrata I bought a few weeks ago at Poot’s Cactus Nursery in Ripon, CA where the Yucca gloriosa had been to see if I like it there. Yucca rostrata has the potential to grow to 12 ft., which would be too big for this spot as well. But it’s a veeeeery slow grower; it could take 20 years for it to reach its mature height.

Yucca rostrata where
the Yucca gloriosa had been

Next on my hit list were two red hot pokers (Kniphofia uvaria) outside the front yard fence. While I love their flowers, their foliage looks weedy to me. In addition, the two clumps you see in the photo below—tight and manageable this past spring—had become sprawling and quite invasive. I had been going back and forth all fall between dividing them or removing them altogether, and I finally decided to go all the way and find a new home for them.

Kniphofia uvaria in the spring of 2011
111203_kniphofia1 2_before
Look at how large and weedy the clumps had gotten!

The clumps were actually small colonies. The one on the right consisted of at least 10-15 individual plants. Offsets were coming up against the fence! As with the Yucca gloriosa, I used the pry bar, but it was much harder going and required more physical exertion than I’m used to. Luckily, my wonderful wife helped and eventually we had both clumps out. I posted them on Freecycle and I hope somebody local will give them a new home.

111203_kniphofia1 2_gone
After the red hot pokers had been removed

I replaced the right clump with an Elegia capensis, a restio from South Africa that I had planted against the fence on the left. (Read this post about the restios I bought this spring.) Unfortunately, it had been overshadowed all summer by taller plants and was languishing. I’m hoping this new spot will be more to its liking.

Elegia capensis where one of the
red hot pokers had been

Unless you know what a mature Elegia capensis looks like, you might not think that it looks like much based on the photo above. Here’s a photo I found of a stunning specimen growing in the north of France. I hope that my plant will look at least half as good in 3-5 years!

Elegia capensis growing in Brittany, Northern France
Source: Visoflora

The final plant that got the boot today was this large clump of Silver Arrow maiden grass (Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberpfeil’). This was the hardest decision for me since I truly love this grass. However, in spite of me dividing it last spring, it had simply gotten too large for its spot. Its stalks were so heavy this summer that they flopped forward and smothered the plants in front of it. My wife really wanted it gone and before I knew it, she was swinging the gold old pry bar.

Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberpfeil’, summer 2011

After a good deal of joint prying and tugging, we were finally able to lift out the clump intact. It also went into the curb and got posted on Freecycle. So far nobody has come to get it. If it doesn’t find a taker, it’ll be picked up on Monday morning by the City of Davis yard waste crew and will become compost. What a shame…

Where the Miscanthus sinensis ‘Silberpfeil’ had been. I won’t plant anything there for now because I think the emerald bamboo (Bambusa textilis ‘Mutabilis’) on the right will eventually expand to this spot.
Silver Arrow and red hot pokers in the curb, waiting for takers

Removing plants that are a familiar sight in your garden can be a surprisingly emotional thing. It was no different for me today. But I kept reminding myself that a garden is a dynamic environment, always evolving, and change is good.


  1. To bad we are not closer the Silberpfeil seems to like it up here!

  2. It's a tough task that looks worse to outsiders. Hope they all find homes!

    In a couple of years when you're ready to remove the Elegia capensis, let me know. I'd love to give that a try!

  3. Becky, I sawed off 1/4 of the root ball of the 'Silberpfeil' and am saving it for you :-).

    Alan, the yucca and some of the red hot pokers are gone. Nobody's wanted the 'Silberpfeil.' But it will live on at my in-laws and at your house--I assume the division I sent you survived?

  4. Yeah! Shall I get a hole dug while the weather is sunny?

  5. Great choice with the Elegia capensis! If our location was mild enough I would have loved to plant one out here. Mind you, I might give it a try next year as some have had success with it permanently planted out in our general area, but still very much a minority.

    I think Kniphofias in general are not good to be planted on pathways as you can easily trip with those leaves.

    What about other types of Yuccas for that spot, especially ones that doesn't grow as tall like Y. filamentosa, etc? :)

  6. Mark, I'll give the Elegia capensis a couple of years to get established. I'm keeping my fingers crossed!

    I won't plant a full sized Kniphofia uvaria again. I've seen dwarf varieties that are much more appropriate for a garden the size of ours. In fact, I planted one near the Bambusa oldhamii. It has green flowers. Unfortunately, I can't recall the name.

  7. You've got such a grassy texture theme going on in that area where you removed the Yucca, I'm wondering if a contrasting foliage shape would add interest. Almost thinking Kalanchoe beharensis, with its big felty leaves, would make a nifty contrast, and add verticality, but is it too frost tender?

    I sure agree about the weedy look of kniphofia. Don't like it.

  8. Hoover Boo, that is a GREAT idea! I love the look of Kalanchoe beharensis. I have several smallish plants, but I'm sure I could find a larger specimen for immediate impact. I need to do some more research to see how cold hardy they are. If they tolerate 25°F, we're all set.


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