Playing musical chairs in my head

It looks like we're in for a much wetter winter than most people expected. While it's still OK to plant  things like California natives and Mediterranean perennials and shrubs, the soil is too wet for most succulents. As a result, I've put most physical gardening projects on hold for the time being and am focusing on “musical chairs” simulations in my head. 

That's a good thing, a very good thing, seeing how I seem to change my mind even more often than usual.

Here are some results of my mental exercises, easily visualized thanks to the power of Photoshop:

Aloe excelsa (red) and Yucca 'Bright Star'

This permanently red Aloe excelsa needs to be moved since it's too close to the sidewalk (photo above). I'm thinking of relocating it to the spot previously occupied by the Agave weberi 'Arizona Star' I removed at the end of November (photo below).

Aloe excelsa Photoshopped into the spot previously occupied by Agave weberi 'Arizona Star'

Remember the “flagstone throne” I built in October? I still like the Agave sebastiana 'Silver Lining' I planted there, but...

Agave sebastiana 'Silver Lining'

...this agave would look even cooler:

Agave 'Chocolate Edge' Photoshopped onto the flagstone throne

It's an Agave mitis hybrid called 'Chocolate Edge'. It's been one of my favorite plants at the Ruth Bancroft Garden for years. It flowered this year, but it's making offsets. I was able to obtain pups from a 'Chocolate Edge' growing somewhere else so I'm ready to make the Photoshopped vignette above a reality.

Agave 'Chocolate Edge' at the Ruth Bancroft Garden in June 2020 before it flowered

 Agave sebastiana (below a clump at the Desert Botanical Garden) would move 100 ft...

Agave sebastiana at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, AZ the spot below, currently occupied by an Agave megalodonta seedling I got from Greg Starr:

Agave megalodonta surrounded by aloes (clockwise): Aloe capitata 'Yellow Hoodie', Aloe schoelleri, Aloe karasbergensis

Here's what Agave sebastiana might look like in this spot:

Agave sebastiana Photoshopped into the spot currently occupied by Agave megalodonta

 Agave megalodonta might move either here...

The bare spot is where I recently removed a Lomandra longifolia 'Breeze' that made things look too crowded

...or here:

Agave nuusaviorum

This spot is currently occupied by an Agave nuusaviorum, a close relative of Agave potatorum. Below is a photo of a mature plant in Oaxaca. Like Agave potatorum, this species is quite variable, especially when it comes to the number and size of the teeth:

Agave nuusaviorum in Oaxaca, © Leticia Soriano Flores

Since Agave nuusaviorum is a bit tender, its current spot isn't ideal, seeing how it's fairly exposed. I might move my Agave nuusaviorum to a more sheltered position inside the front yard fence.

As you can see, this game could go on forever, especially when one plant moves to a spot already occupied by another plant. Fortunately, it's quick and easy to go through any number of permutations in your head since no physical labor is involved.

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


  1. That's a very useful exercise! Hopefully, it'll reduce the amount of physical labor when you do get around to planting. That Agave 'Chocolate Edge' always makes me think of Mangave 'Praying Hands' on steroids.

    I noticed that the latest WeatherWest dot com summary (published 12/20) suggests the prospect of snow at lower elevation levels within the next couple weeks. Sacramento Valley was mentioned...

    1. The weather forecast has been fluctuating quite a bit. At one point, they forecast a low of 24°F for Thursday! Fortunately, that has been changed to 31°F. I've only ever experienced snow twice in all the years I've lived in the Sacramento area, and even then it was only flakes.

  2. What a great way to see all of the possibilities. You could also use Mangave 'Praying Hands' where you have the Agave Chocolate Edge'. The pairing with Aloe excelsa is perfect. With it's red colouring reminds me of a giant octopus. Could make a 'succulent seascape' in the area

    1. I'm afraid Mangave 'Praying Hands' would be too small. It's supposed to top out at 10 inches in width. Agave 'Chocolate Edge' is easily 3 ft. wide so it would make more of a statement.

  3. Photoshopping is a fun game though at times it could be a double edge sword, when it makes you over think or re think the decisions you make. You are fortunate that your plants are agreeable when it comes to relocation, and that the rainy season gives you time to play the game till a decision needs to be make.

    1. I second-guess myself all the time so playing this game actually helps me discard ideas I wouldn't have been happy with over the long term.

  4. Good photoshopping! If only the plants behave...

    That 'Chocolate Edge' is waaaaaaaayyy cool!

    Does A. excelsa always red up? Love that color!

    1. That excelsa has been this red for over a year. It's not growing, but it's not dying either. Something isn't quite wrong; I'll know more when I transplant it.

  5. Gerhard, I was going to mention earlier, but your excelsa is definitely having issues. It should green up in summer and only take on color in the cooler season. There’s healthy red on plump leaves and then there’s death throes red on a starved, declining plant. My guess is either this is a living crown on a dead stem (tree-type aloe stems seem to be more frost sensitive than the crown) or there aren’t much feeder roots and only anchoring roots. It just seems like it’s not taking up water at all. You might inspect around the crown in the dead leaves for aerial roots trying to make their way down to the soil. If you find them, that stem is indeed dead. Good luck!


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