Mid-June 2016 front yard update

Spring and fall are when we do most of our gardening. Summer is for leaning back and enjoying the fruit of our labor—sometimes from inside, through the windows, when it’s too hot. That will be the case next week. The weather peeps are forecasting 105°F for Wednesday (41°C), and as hot as that is, it’s still cooler than the torrid 119°F (48°C) expected for Phoenix, AZ this coming Monday. Yikes!

For now, we’re enjoying a bit of June gloom with temps in the low 80s. Overcast skies make for better photographs, so here are some quick snaps from the front yard. They’ll come in handy next year to assess growth and progress year over year.


The plants in the new succulent mounds that have replaced the front lawn are settling in nicely. The six Gaillardia × grandiflora ‘Goblin’ have positively exploded; they’ve been flowering non-stop for months now.



The Corten veggie planter hasn’t been as successful as we’d hoped. The ‘Early Girl’ tomato growing here is significantly smaller than the one in the backyard, although both get about the same amount of water. I guess the soil we used wasn’t as “amended” as advertised. And yes, the Canary Island sage (Salvia canariensis) and globe mallow (Sphaeralcea ambigua) behind the planter box need to be reined in a bit.


Below is the latest addition, a dwarf variegated bougainvillea (Bougainvillea ‘Bambino Baby Victoria’) planted in a pot in front of the Euphorbia mauritanica near the front door. So far so good although ‘Bambino Baby Victoria’ needs to be watered more frequently (three times a week) than the other potted plants in the front yard.


The next few photos show the tail end of the big palo verde bloom of 2016. This ‘Desert Museum’ between our house and our neighbor’s has been blooming since mid April. Truly a spectacular sight—and a non-stop feast for the bees. The litter from the petals has been manageable, especially since all of us like the carpet of yellow on the driveway.




In the planting strip outside the front yard fence, the lavenders have started to bloom. After losing a handful of lavenders a few years ago (they’re quite short-lived in our climate) we planted a mix of white-, purple- and blue-flowering varieties. Invariably, the white-flowering Lavandula × intermedia ‘Edelweiss’ attracts the most attention.


×Mangave ‘Macho Mocha’ bloomed this spring, triggering the countdown to its demise. I cut down the flower stalk early because it was infested with aphids, and I haven’t noticed any signs of the mother plant dying. It’ll be curious to see how long it will take. There’s conflicting info on the Internet as to whether this hybrid always dies after flowering. The consensus seems to be that, even if it does die, it produces offsets first. I haven’t seen any babies yet.


Next photo: one of my favorite smaller aloes, Aloe ‘Hellskloof Bells’ (a Brian Kemble hybrid between Aloe pearsonii and Aloe distans) growing happily in a carpet of Dymondia margaretae. I wonder what will happen when that Echium wildpretii seedling gets bigger…


Speaking of favorites, here’s one of my favorite agaves at the moment, Agave weberi ‘Arizona Star’ rapidly pushing new leaves:


Firecracker plant (Russelia equisetiformis) blooming its head off at the base of our second ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde:


Just behind it is another new  addition, an Agave ‘Grey Ghost’ pup my succulent friend Barry gave me recently. It’s in the spot previously occupied by a cluster of Echium wildpretii that flowered this year. ‘Grey Ghost’ is thought to be a hybrid between Agave salmiana var. ferox  and Agave asperrima. It was available for a short period of time through Plant Delights Nursery. It’s one of Barry’s favorite agaves because of its elegant form, and this spot should be right for it. It will be a big boy when it grows up (to 6 ft. wide and tall).


This ‘Desert Museum’ palo verde is noticeable smaller than the one adjacent to the driveway and it started to bloom about a month later. It’s just now hitting its peak as the other one is winding down.




The green trunks contrast well with the ever-blooming Verbena bonariensis behind the tree.


Our third palo verde, a hybrid called ‘Sonoran Emerald’, is in the desert bed outside the backyard fence (we’re on a corner lot). It’s a shy bloomer compared to ‘Desert Museum’ but it forms such a lovely canopy over the sidewalk that I don’t mind.


All the plants in this bed look very happy. The orange-flowering perennial-that-wants-to-be-a-shrub is a bush marigold (Tagetes lemmonii ‘Martin's Mutant’). And let’s not forget the ‘Hercules’ tree aloe to the left of it.


Agave americana ‘Medio-picta alba’; behind it Aloe ‘Moonglow’; to the right of it Yucca rostrata:


Agave ovatifolia in front of the bush marigold:


I love how there’s always something to discover and photograph in these beds!


  1. Love that Kemble hybrid aloe, great color to the leaves. My mangave continues to flower and not die, FWIW. I really love Salvia canariensis but need a garden three times this size to accommodate it. Your Palo Verdes are spectcacular. I'm seeing them in bloom around town. Thought of you yesterday seeing Agave ocahui and pelona for sale, big plants for $50, but where would they go? Maybe I'll find smaller sizes at the Intercity show.

    1. Mangave: that's great news. My two 'Bloodspot' died, but I suspect each hybrid is different.

      Salvia canariensis: Several times a year I cut it back to within 1 ft. It looks much better afterwards. (Ditto for the globe mallow.)

      Agave ocahui and pelona: I love those species. I found a small A. ocahui at the Ruth Bancroft Garden and am enjoying watching it grow. My garden may be a little bigger than yours, but not by much.

  2. Great to see some updates, the garden is looking great! Great show with the palo verde and the new bed is filling in nicely. Your agaves are to lust for!

    1. Thanks, guys. At least the heat we get is good for some things!

  3. Your garden looks great, Gerhard. You did an exceptional job arranging the succulents and complementary plants in the bermed area formerly occupied by lawn. I love those palo verde trees more every time I see them too. If only I could figure out where to put one.

    1. Thanks, Kris. The only major thing still missing from the front lawn mounds are larger rocks. I think I may have to haul them back from the desert. The rock yards in our area simply don't have what I want.

      I was hopeful but unsure about the palo verdes but now I'm glad we planted them. I love how they look year round. Maybe you can plant one the next time you need to replace a tree?

  4. Oh my goodness everything looks fantastic! I wish you could come back over and see my front planter area Parker spent six hours pulling weeds and it looks amazing. Shows what a good Bacle do. LOL

    1. Candy, would like to see your newly weeded area. Let's talk via PM.

  5. I finally moved my A. Arizona Star (purchased at Cistus in about 2006) from a pot to the ground. It does not care for rain ! Your garden is looking excellent !

    1. It bet your 'Arizona Star' will take off like crazy, that now it's been set free.

  6. I am positively yellow with envy over your palo verdes...

  7. It looks great. That mangave is amazing, fingers crossed you got one that takes after the manfreda parent.

    1. It had the weird manfreda flowers so keeping my fingers crossed...

  8. Love what you've done to the front yard Gerhard! You didn't disappoint! Lawn freedom is a precious thing.
    Are the barrel cacti new or did you transplant them from somewhere else?
    That globe mallow is humongous..... quite a bit bigger than we've seen them in the wild.
    The Palo Verde trees are as stunning as last year, and I love how your medio-picta alba is thriving. Glad to see your Agave weberi ‘Arizona Star’ is doing so well! That one was my favorite and was my big casualty from our incessantly wet winter last December. They really don't like to be too wet.... or at least wet and cold.
    Did you have someone make the corten steel planter onsite, or were you able to buy it premade? Very handsome.
    Thanks so much for the update, Gerhard...... looking fine!

    1. Thanks!! I'd say 20% skill, 30% planning, 50% dumb luck.

      The barrel cacti were in pots. The largest one came from Mariscal in Desert Hot Springs (spring 2011 trip). They're happy to be in the ground!

      Yes, the global mallow is much bigger than in the wild because it gets water. I should shut off its emitter!

      Agave weberi 'Arizona Star' and water: That's what Kathy Stoner said as well. I'm hoping it'll do OK in the ground. I amended the soil with 50% lava rock fines, plus it's on a slight slope.

      The Corten planter box was a kit from here: http://niceplanter.com/. Much cheaper than custom-built, but you have to live with the sizes and styles they offer.

  9. Your garden reflects all the work and thought you've put into it. It looks wonderful. Enjoy from indoors this weekend. Looks like most of CA is facing a long stretch of hot hot weather. :(

    1. Thanks, Gail. That means the world coming from you.

      It looks like the weather folks have modified their forecast. Only 78 (!) today, and the highs next week won't even hit the century mark. Whew.

  10. The cool plants that you can grow in the ground always amaze me. Everything looks so healthy and happy and your lawn replacement is stunning!


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