Front yard after spring cleaning: part 1

A visit from gardening friends last Saturday prompted me to do some much-needed cleaning and decluttering. As is usually the case, removing leaves from in and around our spiky plants took up a good chunk of time, as did sweeping up the general debris that somehow accumulates along the edges of the sidewalk bed. It seems like much of the neighborhood’s stray garbage ends up on our property, but I bet other neighbors feel the same way.

Since the front yard looks so good right now—sadly, a state destined to be short-lived—I took a bunch of photos to share with y’all. To prevent visual overload and the ensuing eye strain, I will spread the pictures out over two posts. That way, there’s more good stuff to look forward to.

Let’s start at the entrance to the “inner sanctum”—the private area separated by a 4-foot fence from the more public bed along the sidewalk:

I had this sign made pre-COVID but didn’t get around to hanging it until now

Front porch after cleaning

It’s a great place to sit and look out over the maximally cramscaped front yard

×Mangave ‘Blue Dart’, Billbergia ‘Hallelujah’, and Geum ‘Scarlet Tempest’

Left to right: Agave vilmoriniana ‘Stained Glass’, Agave xylonacantha, Yucca queretaroensis, Agave ‘Blue Glow’

I’ve been very happy with Geum ‘Scarlet Tempest’. It’s been flowering for months now.

Moroccan daisy (Rhodanthemum hosmariense ‘Casablanca’) in the front

Billbergia ‘Beadleman’

Dudleya pachyphytum × caespitosa and Dudleya candida in Borrego extruded planters by Susan Aach

What you see as you walk toward the front door

The larger of the two mounds

Larger mound

Agave shrevei var. matapensis × guadalajarana and Hechtia ‘Silver Star’

Agave shrevei var. matapensis × guadalajarana and Ferocactus rectispinus

Agave xylonacantha (top), ×Mangave ‘Lavender Lady’ (front). This side of ‘Lavender Lady’ faces north and doesn’t get any sun. The front and inside are more purple.

Agave simplex ‘Snow Devil’, just planted out

Clockwise: ×Mangave ‘Blazing Saddles’, Agave ovatifolia ‘Killer’, Agave × leopoldii

×Mangave ‘Blazing Saddles’, Agave ovatifolia ‘Killer’

Sierra Starr fairy duster (Calliandra ‘Sierra Starr’), a hybrid between Calliandra eriophylla and Calliandra californica

Calliandra ‘Sierra Starr’ flowers

×Mangave ‘Iron Man’ (left) and Encephalartos horridus (dwarf form)

Corokia cotoneaster in full leaf and flower. I don’t think I’ve ever seen so many flowers on it. 

Agave ‘Lion’s Mane’

Agave ‘Desert Love’ (A. ovatifolia × parrasana), with a Tylecodon hybrid behind it

Dioon argenteum (top), Ferocactus emoryi (bottom)

More is more is more

×Mangave ‘Man of Steel’ (back), Agave ‘Chisum’ (A. pablocarrilloi × colorata; front)

Our ocotillo (Fouquieria splendens) is now fully leafed out. I wonder if it’s going to flower for the first time this year? It looks happy enough.

Look at the Hechtia argentea on the left; it has seven inflorescences

Another Hechtia ‘Silver Star’ (H. argentea × H. marnier-lapostollei)

Hechtia ‘Aztec Sun’, a classic Bill Baker hybrid

Hechtia roseana cutting from Andy Siekkinen; it’s started to color up quite a bit in the last few weeks

Check back in a few days for part 2.


© Gerhard Bock, 2022. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. I love your new sign! And you have crammed a remarkable number of spiky and beautiful plants into your garden, Gerhard. It's looking so good. Hope I get to see it one day! Sacramento Fling? ;)

    1. Thanks, Pam. Loree gave me to courage to indulge my inner cramscaper.

  2. Everything is looking so happy and well placed. A horticultural wonderland. Don’t know how you get any work done with such a picturesque spot to sit. You must be tempted to just sit there all day and take it all in?

    Your geum has me intrigued- I always thought they liked lots of water, but judging by what you are growing it with, that must not be the case?

    Your Agave shrevei var. matapensis × guadalajarana looks like it’s about to jump out from behind the metal planter and pounce on unsuspecting Hechtia ‘Silver Star’. Plants with personality indeed.

    1. I wish I could sit still for long. I'm too restless :-)

      Geum 'Scarlet Tempest' has been such a pleasant surprise, both in terms of how it's managed to thrive on little water and how vigorously it's been blooming.

  3. That's a lovely view you have from your front patio--you can sit and admire so many choice plants--if you ever have the time to sit and relax1 Encephalartos horridus, that's a beauty, as are of course the Agaves. Very pretty Geum, too.

    1. I've vowed to make an effort to just sit and relax. Typically, though, my mind starts drifting to the next project, and off I go.

  4. Everything looks pristine and I love the "new" sign too. What's your approach to clearing debris in tight areas between those spiky plants? Careful as I thought I was being using clippers in retrieving leaves falling on my agaves, I still tore up my hands last week :( Your Geum look great and I'm impressed by the volume of flowers on the Corokia.

    1. I use 12" tweezers to remove leaves from agaves and other spiky plants and then do a quick pass with the leaf blower to get the small debris out. That technique works well for me.

      For extra protection, I highly recommend gauntlet gloves like these.

    2. Thanks for the tips! I just ordered 12-inch tweezers. I have gloves like that - somewhere.

  5. Wow. It's the first time I see the panoramic garden view from the sitting, and it's phenomenal. The elevated placement of some potted plants is genius, shifting the eyes up from the planting bellow. The pair of Dudleya in Borrego extruded planters are a great match. Agave shrevei has a choice form, ‘Snow Devil’ a choice pattern, and as alway, I get a kick out of the red thorns of the Ferocactus.

    1. With so little horizontal space left, I've been making an effort to move up. The Corten pedestal planter you see in the larger mound is one way to do it.

      Susan Aach does phenomenal work. I love these highly textured pots.

  6. I had to look up that geum, another sterile hybrid which would do great here near the coast (8b). It's from a nursery in Kirkcudbright, Scotland, coincidentally one of the few towns in Scotland I've visited! What a visual feast you wake up to! Maybe it's the lighting, but Agave 'Chisum' really stands out for me.

    1. I got Geum 'Scarlet Tempest' at a UC Davis Arboretum plant sale. They carefully select plants suitable for our climate. I thought this geum might be iffy, but it's a winner.

      It's true, Agave 'Chisum' looks beautiful backlit. But then, most agaves do, at least to me :-).

  7. Love the sign, and I don't think I've ever seen your front patio that empty! "More is more is more" sums things up perfectly, I bet your visitors were blown away! How did Stella and CoCo do together? (assuming there was a meet up)

  8. Really like the photos and especially the pots by Susan Aach.


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