Last plantings for 2020

In our climate, fall is a great time for planting. Since our winters are mild, the soil never freezes and roots can continue to grow over the winter, albeit slowly. 

Because of COVID-19, we've had far fewer in-person plant sales this fall, but I still managed to accumulate a stash of plants begging to be put in the ground. Here's a photographic record of what I've done in recent weeks.

RIGHT: Aloe ferox × capitata

The aloe on the right in the photo above and below is a new acquisition from Rancho Soledad Nursery. It's a hybrid between Aloe ferox and Aloe capitata. The flowers aren't open yet but I think the color will be a creamy yellow. The plant itself already has the beginnings of a trunk (inherited from the Aloe ferox parent).

RIGHT: Aloe ferox × capitata

Aloe ferox × capitata

 The spot where I planted the Aloe ferox × capitata used to be home to an Aloe aculeata, which had all but disappeared behind the leaves of the Russellia equisetiformis in front of it. I dug up the Aloe aculeata and moved it 10 ft. to the right:

Purple arrow: Aloe aculeata

It's now between Aloe excelsa and Aloe marlothii, and behind Yucca 'Bright Star':

Aloe aculeata between Aloe marlothii (left) and Aloe excelsa (right)

Aloe aculeata

 Three newly planted mangaves: ×Mangave 'Life on Mars' (top left), ×Mangave 'Black Magic' (below it), ×Mangave 'Sponge Paint' (bottom center). I also planted a Delosperma 'Granita Orange' between 'Black Magic' and 'Sponge Paint'. The agave at top center is Agave zebra, the aloe in the lower right Aloe conifera.

Aloe conifera and ×Mangave 'Sponge Paint'

×Mangave 'Black Magic'

⬐ This spot also has three new mangaves: ×Mangave 'Aztec King' (#1), ×Mangave 'Pineapple Punch' (#2), and ×Mangave 'Night Owl' (#3). The aloe is the recently transplanted Aloe marlothii × globuligemma.

×Mangave 'Aztec King' (#1), ×Mangave 'Pineapple Punch' (#2), and ×Mangave 'Night Owl' (#3)

×Mangave 'Pineapple Punch' (top), and ×Mangave 'Night Owl' (bottom)

×Mangave 'Night Owl' 

 A few changes at the base of the ponytail palms (Beaucarnea recurvata): Aloe 'AJR' (front) is now in the ground; it had been in a pot but had rooted through the drain hole. The aloe behind it is Aloe beetsilensis. To the right of the aloes, I planted a Sinocrassula yunnanensis that had been in too much shade; in full sun it will turn almost black. The other two are hardy mesembs: Cheiridopsis albirosea and Stomatium mustellinum (a night-blooming ice plant).

Aloe 'AJR' (front), Aloe beetsilensis (back)

 Our garden is so small that every plant has to prove itself, i.e. please me enough so I want to keep it around. Unfortunately, the clock had run out on the Hechtia texensis in the photo below. It's just too straggly to deserve such a visible spot.

Hechtia texensis (front), Agave obscura 'Red Skyline' (top left), ×Mangave 'Lavender Lady' (top right)

Hechtia texensis is now in a pot until I decide what to do with it, and its old spot is occupied by a new agave I brought home from Rancho Soledad Nursery, a hybrid between Agave potatorum and Agave gypsophila.

Agave potatorum × gypsophila (front), Agave obscura 'Red Skyline' (top left), ×Mangave 'Lavender Lady' (top right)

Agave potatorum × gypsophila 

 This red pot in the backyard had been home to Cordyline 'Electric Flash' for a couple of year. It had done well until this fall when it went downhill fast. I couldn't figure out why, considering I was watering it regularly. However, as soon as I began to remove it from the pot, I knew: Roots from the California bay tree (Umbellularia californica) next to it had found its way into the pot—even though the pot sits on a concrete paver!  The bay tree roots, a dense fibrous mat, had diverted most of the water away from the cordyline, causing it to the die of thirst. (To say that California bay trees have inquisitive roots would be an understatement.)

I elevated the pot a bit so now there's an air gap between it and the paver. And I replaced the cordyline with a ×Mangave 'Navajo Princess'. In contrast to mangaves with darker leaves, it doesn't need strong sunlight for best color. 

×Mangave 'Navajo Princess', wet from the dense fog we're having this morning

I still have some more plants that really should go in the ground. Maybe the weekend after Christmas!

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  1. I love your new Mangaves, especially 'Night Owl'. I'm also impressed by the color of Aloe 'AJR'. After removing two dead trees and cleaning out weeds and other opportunistic plants, I've got holes to fill all over my garden but my own plant acquisitions have been severely limited this year. My vaccinations can't come soon enough. I "need" a plant shopping spree!

    Best wishes for a safe and pleasant Christmas, Gerhard.

    1. When my Aloe 'AJR' was in a pot, leaves from the ponytail palms shaded some leaves. That's what the leaves that had been in the sun are red, and the others are still green. They should all turn red very soon.

      Here's wishing you and all of us a much different 2021, with a return to all the activities we cherish!

  2. That's a crazy story about the tree roots!

    So do you think you have more aloes or more agaves? I have to admit that I don't pay as much attention to your aloes, since I can't grow them... but they are gorgeous!

    1. I've had bay tree root invasion in other pots before, but those pots had been sitting on the ground, not on a concrete paver. The roots form a fibrous mass and secrete a chemical that keeps potential competitors at bay. Not my favorite tree, not in the least.

      As for aloes vs. agaves, I have more aloes, mostly because it's so much easier to create new hybrids (aloes flower every year vs. every 5, 10, 15, 20 years for agaves).

  3. I have good luck with Mangaves in shady spots. They color up differently but if you have one in sun and one in bright shade it's kinda like having 2 different plants !

  4. Crazy tree roots. Is this the Bay tree that we use the leaves as an herb? Always hard to believe your garden is 'small' as you have so much in it.

    1. The bay leaves used for cooking typically come from the bay laurel (Laurus nobilis), a small Mediterranean tree. The California bay is related, and the leaves have a very similar fragrance but are more pungent.

  5. Sinocrassula yunnanensis, oh, my! Aloe 'AJR', oh my!

    Agree--a smaller garden filled with choice plants is the way to go.

    1. Aloe 'AJR' is an Altman plant and readily available. I'm surprised you don't see it more in gardens. It does color up nicely.


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