Front yard, November 2021: outside the fence

Last week, I engaged in a bout of frenzied cleaning in preparation for a visit from Portland friends and fellow bloggers Ann Amato (Amateur Bot-Ann-Ist) and Evan Bean (The Practical Plant Geek). Since things looked so nice—and, most of all, relatively free of the bamboo litter that is a constant annoyance—I took a series of photos to document the state of the front garden in November 2021. 

This post shows the area outside the 4-foot fence, in essence the L-shaped planting bed along the sidewalk. Part 2 focuses on the area inside the fence.

Since our garden is so small and I'm such an impatient gardener, I constantly change things up. As a result, the garden will never be mature in the traditional sense. There are areas that are reasonably well settled while others have recently been redone. I don't mind this one bit. In fact, I like things being in flux, otherwise I would get bored.

On this note, let's get started.

There's a lot going on here—too much. I'm tempted to remove the massive Agave weberi 'Arizona Star'. Seriously tempted. Thoughts, anyone?

Beloved by me, but so hard to photograph: Acacia aphylla with its intricate filigree of wiry stems and leafless branchlets

One of about a dozen manzanitas in our garden: Arctostaphylos 'Ian Bush', a cultivar introduced by Las Pilitas Nursery

Puya coerulea var. coerulea

I've already done a bit of trimming here, but I like how the low-growing plants in the front drape over the sidewalk and soften the hard edge of the concrete curb

This tapestry makes me happy, although Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' is getting dangerously close to being invasive 

Cephalophyllum stayneri, a low-growing “ice plant” succulent. I put it in the ground in early summer and it's been blooming non-stop since then. I'm taking cuttings to spread it to other areas of the garden.

Agave sebastiana 'Silver Lining' and two torch cacti, Echinopsis 'First Light' and Echinopsis 'Flying Saucer', all planted in October

Echinocactus polycephalus and Aloe 'Princess Jack', a Karen Zimmerman hybrid

Aloe excelsa is still in stress mode. The other day, a neighbor asked me if it was a copper sculpture!

Canary island daisy (Asteriscus sericeus) coming into its own now

Mangave 'Life on Mars', a variegated sport of 'Mission to Mars', surrounded by Grevillea 'Astraflora Fanfare' and Asteriscus sericeus

Mangave 'Black Magic' (left) looking spectacular after 10 months in the ground. Next to it (clockwise) are Agave zebra, Aloe distans × littoralis, Hesperaloe 'Sandia Glow', Aloe conifera, Mangave 'Sponge Paint', and Thymophylla pentachaeta.

Wider view. The agave in the Corten cube is Agave simplex (formerly Aloe deserti var. simplex, but now considered its own species).

Another vignette that makes me smile

Yucca linearifolia is a perennial favorite... is Baja fairy duster (Calliandra californica), which is always in bloom

Two new mangaves planted last December, Mangave 'Night Owl' and Mangave 'Pineapple Punch'

Mangave 'Pineapple Punch' and Mangave 'Night Owl' surrounded by Sideritis cypria (bottom) and Teucrium ackermannii (right)

Mangave 'Night Owl'

Agave 'Ripple Effect', a variegated sport of 'Mr. Ripple'

Aloe bulbillifera hybrid, blooming repeatedly throughout the year

Aloe 'Moonglow', Yucca rostrata 'Sapphire Skies', and Agave americana 'Mediopicta Alba'

This ripple jade (Crassula arborescens ssp. undulatifolia) and a 2nd one nearby were so desiccated a few weeks ago that I thought they were dead. Look at it now, about 7 inches of rain later!

Sand lily (Veltheimia capensis) growing rapidly after all the rain we've had

Mangave 'Red Wing' looking spectacular now that the nights are colder. It's growing in full sun, which is exactly what it wants.

Nearby, Mangave 'Kaleidoscope' is in full growth mode

The blue agave to the right of it is a dwarf form of Agave palmeri

Aloe 'Erik the Red'

Yucca baccata var. vespertina 'Hualampai Blue' holding its own against two rampant neighbors, Helichrysum thianschanicum 'Icicles' on the left and a prostrate Acacia glaucoptera on the right. Both need a major trim job.

Yucca baccata var. vespertina 'Hualampai Blue' and Acacia glaucoptera

After another rainstorm last night, there's leaf litter everywhere. I'm glad I took these photos when I did!

Click here to read part 2 of the front yard tour.

© Gerhard Bock, 2021. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. Ann and Evan are in for a good time touring your garden. Lucky folks. Agave weberi 'Arizona Star' is so lovely... is it too large for it's spot? Maybe removing the smaller plants that crowd it would be easier. My favorite vignette (#10) includes that amazing Aloe excelsa, maybe because it is in stress mode, it is stunning. Mangave 'Night Owl' is a jewel.

    1. I'm hoping Aloe excelsa will suck up some of that precious water and resume normal growth soon!

  2. There's a lot to love here, Gerhard. If you pull the Agave 'Arizona Star', I hope you'll replant it elsewhere as it's striking. Thanks for sharing the photo of Mangave 'Black Magic' - I have a dinky specimen in a pot and have been tempted to give up on it but I guess I'll just move it to get more sun and let it take its time growing up.

    1. Don't give up on your 'Black Magic'. Move it into full sun, or as much sun as you can give it. You'll be surprised!

      Do you want a pup of 'Arizona Star'? I have several, it looks like.

  3. Looking grand Gerhard! Mangaves obviously love your climate. It's hard to believe I haven't seen it in person for two and a half years now. There was awhile there I was on an every year plan! I posted a front garden tour today too, my annual comprehensive walk about.

    1. 2 1/2 years since your last visit? I can't believe it. Of course, COVID has torn a big black black hole into the fabric of time...

      I loved your front garden walkabout. For others who read this, Loree's post is HERE.

  4. I'd remove the weberi because it appears to be interfering with the big Aloe on the upper left. looks like the rest of the plants will fill the space very nicely with some breathing room when it is gone, and Agaves go after bloom anyway.

    "Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' is getting dangerously close to being invasive" Just twist the knife, whydontcha? ;^)

    'Night Owl' a beauty, should have bought one when I saw one. Next time.

    Looks like some rain made everything very, very, very happy. Rain. It's magic!

    1. Decision made: 'Arizona Star' will come out. That was my gut feeling all along. It's too big and too unruly, and just seeing it like that makes me uncomfortable :-).

      Do get a 'Night Owl' the next time you see one. It really is unique.

      We had a bit more rain a couple of nights ago. I hope this will continue. It's still so early in the season. I hope you'll be similarly blessed soon!

  5. What Hoov said about 'Cousin Itt' ;) Now I'm wondering how my 'Arizona Star' is faring in my absence! The mangaves you show here are looking amazingly happy after your hot summer. It all looks fabulous.

    1. I still can't quite believe myself that this 'Cousin Itt' is doing as well as it is. This was my third try (the other two died quickly), and I swore I would give up. For once, I lucked out!

  6. Love your Mangaves. Haven’t quite figured out how to use them here. Nice to see mature specimens.
    Also that Leucadendron ebony in the background of one of the photo looks great.

    1. Basically, I use mangaves like agaves. That has worked well here. They all seem to like sun.

      That Leucadendron 'Ebony' took 5 years to get going but now it's shooting to the sky. I'm so happy!

    2. Leucadendron 'Ebony" caught my eye immediately. I tried several in planters and failed. Yours is magnificent.

    3. Donalyn, don't give up. I tried and failed in a different spot.

  7. hi, how is your Ian Bush growing? i'm very interested in planting this one for its size and form.

    1. It's doing great. For a manzanita, it's actually growing pretty quickly. It's never missed a beat, rain or shine. If you can get one from Las Pilitas, do. It really is a special cultivar.


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