Front yard desert bed at 1½ (October 2015 update)

It’s been six months since I last talked about the desert bed in the front yard (technically outside the backyard fence on the street side). As a quick reminder, this is what this area was like until February 2014:


February 16. 2014 before the Pittosporum tobira hedge came down

After planting it initially looked sparse:


March 16, 2014 right after planting

But not for long. Just six months later many of the plants (especially the perennials) had exploded. A year later I had already removed some of them because they were crowding out the succulents. Now, a year and a half after we created this bed, the succulents have put on enough size to become more noticeable; give it another year and they’ll be standouts.


October 16, 2015

Let’s take a closer look at the plants.


LEFT: Compact Texas ranger (Leucophyllum frutescens ‘Compactum’)  MIDDLE: Aloe ‘Moon Glow’ and Agave macroacantha  RIGHT: Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha ‘Variegata’)


Mexican bush sage (Salvia leucantha ‘Variegata’). Yes, this started out as a variegated plant, However, the variegation was never strong and completely disappeared over time.


Aloe cameronii, starting to turn red. Colder temperatures will bring out the red even more.


LEFT: Agave gentryi ‘Jaws’  RIGHT: Yucca linearifolia


Agave gentryi ‘Jaws’


Agave zebra


Looking east


LEFT: Baja fairy duster (Calliandra californica)  RIGHT: Aloe ferox


LEFT TO RIGHT: Agave parrasana × colorata, Agave parrasana, Aloe deltoideodonta, Aloe broomii, Aloe hereroensis, Aloe petricola, Agave macroacantha, Aloidendron ‘Hercules’


Agave parrasana


Agave parrasana × colorata


Aloe deltoideodonta, Aloe broomii, Aloe hereroensis


Aloe broomii


Aloe deltoideodonta


Aloe hereroensis


Agave applanata ‘Cream Spike’


Looking west


Aloidendron ‘Hercules’, Aloe ‘Moon Glow’, Yucca rostrata, Agave americana ‘Mediopicta Alba’


Aloe ‘Moon Glow’, Yucca rostrata, Agave americana ‘Mediopicta Alba’, Agave ovatifolia, plus another Aloe hereroensis and Aloe ‘Moon Glow’


Whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia)


BOTTOM LEFT: Veltheimia capensis (a bulb from South Africa)   TOP LEFT:  Agave deserti var. nelsonii  MIDDLE: Aloe capitata var. quartziticola  RIGHT: Agave palmeri (dwarf form)


Pedilanthus bracteatus (aka Euphorbia bracteata) behind the ‘Sonoran Emerald’ palo verde. Luisa, this is the cutting you got from me from Rancho Reubidoux. As you can see, it’s thrived!


Agave mckelveyana


Agave ocahui (not specifically labeled ‘Wavy Gravy’ but looks pretty wavy to me)


Agave schidigera ‘Durango Delight’


Aloe ‘Erik the Red’, complex hybrid that will grow to 6-8 ft. tall by 2-3 ft. wide. In the winter it produces blood-red inflorescences.


Yucca baccata var. vespertina ‘Hualampai Blue’ (from Cistus Nursery)


Agave colorata


Agave colorata


Agave ‘Sharkskin’


View towards the west


View towards the west. Look at how big the ‘Sonoran Emerald’ palo verde has grown!

Yesterday afternoon a complete stranger rang the doorbell. He had just driven by our house and simply had to stop to take a closer look at the plants. He said he’d never come across anything like it in Davis. It was very gratifying to see somebody else so excited about what we’ve created. It made my day!

(Carl, if you read this, thanks again for saying hi and for checking out my blog! I’ll be happy to share some succulent offsets with you!)



Front yard desert garden index


  1. The area looks wonderful, Gerhard. The plants look to be thriving. Will you limb up the Palo Verde eventually?

    1. Thank you!

      As for the palo verde, I want it to provide a canopy over the bed and the sidewalk. We've been judiciously removing branch as it's growing but I don't want to be too aggressive.

  2. As I was reading along (drooling and becoming more and more jealous that you can grow these in the ground) I found myself wondering how often you see others out there checking out what you've created. Then come to find out you even had someone come to your door! Nice. It really is looking spectacular! Oh and Agave ocahui ‘Wavy Gravy’...didn't even know that existed, now I must find one!

    1. I would be happy if I inspired others to plant water-wise spiky plants. But the selection in nursersies is so slim. I should put up a sign that says, "If you want to buy plants like these, go to the Ruth Bancroft Garden."

    2. Speaking of the RBG, they had Agave ocahui 'Wavy Gravy' at the plant sale a couple of weeks ago. I'll be swinging by there in the next week or two to pick up my palo blanco, and I'd be happy to grab a 'Wavy Gravy' for you if you want. I think they were in deep 4" pots for $8.

  3. All your specimens look perfect, Gerhard - they're obviously happy plants. Although it's usually the agaves I get excited about, now I find myself lusting over Aloe cameronii and A. ferox.

    1. Kris, these are great aloes. A. cameronii will always be small, but A. ferox can grow to 6 ft. A. marlothii is similar but has prickles on the underside of the leaves (and the flowers are different).

  4. Really coming together. I just dug up a 'Moon Glow' that was failing -- the undersides of its leaves and in the interstices were filled with aphids, courtesy of the ants, and the leaves were sucked dry, turning into potato chips. I'm noticing this problem especially on hybrids. Yours look spectacularly healthy. I'm trying a diluted soap solution on other aloes in the ground that the ants seem interested in. What an amazing collection you've amassed.

    1. Sorry to hear about your 'Moon Glow'. Mine has been bullet proof. I split a 5-gallon pot with a friend of fine two years ago. She took about 1/3, and I took 2/3. I got three clumps out of it, and they've at least tripled in size since then.

      As for ants, I've never seen as many in the garden as I have this year. They're everywhere! I'm paranoid they'll move into the house when it finally starts to rain.

  5. Beautiful! The before-and-after really is like night and day. Fabulous plants -- that ferox, ay caramba. No wonder admirers are knocking on your door... And I'm so happy the P. bracteatus is doing well! (Thought of you yesterday -- there were giant pots of Mexican weeping bamboo at the entrance to the UC Riverside Botanic Garden. Forgot to take a photo, dang it.)

    1. I love Mexican weeping bamboo! It's probably my favorite bamboo.I have one in a pot and it's forever unhappy. It really wants to be in the ground, but I don't have a spot for it. Maybe if I removed one of the other bamboos...


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