Mid-March garden snaps

In recent weeks, I've been posting mostly about my San Diego trip in February. In the meantime, good things have been happening in our own garden. Warm days in the high-60s have kicked things into high gear, aided on my part by the occasional watering. Rain—real rain falling from the sky—has stubbornly refused to make an appearance. A meager 0.1" is all we've received in the ten weeks since January 1, 2022.

Here are some snapshots of various areas in the garden, both in the front and in the back. The flowering aloes continue to take center stage although most of them are fading quickly. Fortunately, a few late bloomers are still waiting in the wings.

This is the view you see as you enter the front garden from the driveway:

Aloe × spinosissima seen through the trunks of the ponytail palms (Beaucarnea recurvata)

The selection and placement of plants in this spot is the result of rigorous, disciplined design. NOT! It's complete coincidence—serendipity. After all, fortune favors the foolish.

Front view of the ponytail palms in the bed next to the front door

The three ponytail palms (Beaucarnea recurvata) originally came in one 2-gallon pot. When I planted them out in early 2009, people thought I was crazy because they're not supposed to be hardy in our climate. But here we are, 13 years later, and the tallest one is now 12 ft. tall. None of them has ever sustained any winter damage. Being close to the house helps, I'm sure, as does the wall of bamboo nearby.

This spot has never looked this good. The flowering aloe is Aloe × spinosissima. The pink flowers to the left are from Oscularia caulescens, a member of the ice plant family. The yellow-orange leaves belong to Sedum nussbaumerianum.

A few more scenes of the front garden inside the fence:

The mangave in the middle is 'Espresso', a variegated sport of 'Macho Mocha'. On the right is a Tylecodon paniculatus hybrid now in full leaf; in the summer, it sheds its leaves and goes dormant.

Backlit vignette inside the front yard fence. The flowering shrub is Grevillea 'Kings Celebration'.

Agave vilmoriniana 'Stained Glass', Ferocactus herrerae, Agave 'Snow Glow', and Moroccan daisy (Rhodanthemum hosmariense 'Casablanca')

Sophora prostrata 'Little Baby', a small New Zealand shrub with tiny leaves and yellow pea-like flowers

Yucca queretaroensis, Agave 'Blue Glow', Agave nickelsiae, Dudleya arizonica

Late winter/early spring is when many members of the ice plant family (Aizoaceae) start to bloom. Here are some in our garden:

In a pot on the fence: Aloinopsis spathulata (pink), Aloinopsis luckhoffii (orange)

Ebracteola wilmaniae

Cephalophyllum 'Red Spike' next to ×Mangave 'Lavender Lady'

Some highlights from the L-shaped sidewalk bed outside the fence:

Aloe 'Tangerine' almost done flowering, Agave potatorum (right), ×Mangave 'Queen for a Day' (front left)

Aloe peglerae × mawii, one of the plants I brought back from San Diego last month. I have no idea what the flowers will look like, but who needs flowers when you have leaves this pretty.

Euphorbia characias 'Tasmanian Tiger' behind vigorously flowering Sparaxis tricolor. After setting seed, they'll go dormant and disappear completely until next winter.

Sparaxis tricolor engulfing a horned poppy (Glaucium flavum)

Sparaxis tricolor, ×Graptoveria 'Fred Ives', and Banksia petiolaris

Aloe 'Moonglow', clump #1 of 3. This aloe hybrid is one of the showiest in the garden, and its flowers last the longest.

View toward the far end of the sidewalk bed

Aloe hereroensis flowers, so different from most other aloe species

Many of my favorite plants in one spot

Aloe wickensii in front of Agave americana 'Mediopicta Alba', Yucca rostrata 'Sapphire Skies', and Aloe 'Moonglow'

Aloe wickensii, the tops were nipped by the late frost in February, giving the flower heads a rakish pompom look they don't usually have.

Flowers of Aloe capitata var. quartziticola

Aloe capitata var. quartziticola

Aloe humilis × white-flowering ferox, another great hybrid from Nick Deinhart

The blooming aloes in this photo include Aloe 'Moonglow, Aloe wickensii, Aloe capitata var. quartziticola, and Aloe 'Erik the Red'

Aloe 'Erik the Red', sporting deep red flowers. This is another winner from Leo Thamm/Sunbird Aloes, the creator of Aloe 'Moonglow'. In its native South Africa, Sunbird Aloes sells well over 100 different hybrids. Unfortunately, only a handful of them are available in the U.S. ('Moonglow', 'Erik the Red', 'Scarlet Rockets', and 'Topaz'). I still don't understand why U.S. growers don't license and import more of them, considering how commercially successful they promise to be.

And finally a few vignettes from the backyard:

Morning light in the backyard

Fern-leaf lavender (Lavandula multifida) is going gangbusters right now. On the left with Agave desmetiana 'Variegata', on the right with a variegated elderberry (Sambucus nigra 'Instant Karma') just leafing out.

Fern-leaf lavender (Lavandula multifida)

Dudleya pachyphytum bowl

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


  1. Gorgeous photos of happy plants. That little pot of flowering ice plants is especially sweet.

    I have also been surprised at the cold hardiness of Beaucarnea recurvata. I’ve seen it growing quite happily out in the open in frosty high rainfall areas of the Adelaide Hills.

    We are lucky here in Aus to have lots of wonderful hybrid aloes available, marketed under the ‘Aloe Aloe’ range. I’ve been slowly building up a potted collection in anticipation of buying our first home. Can’t wait to get them in the ground!

    1. You're so lucky to have so many Aloe Aloe varieties to choose from. I think South Africa and Australia are the only two countries that do.

  2. Everything looks great, Gerhard. I was particularly struck by the framing of the first photo with the ponytail palms highlighting the aloe blooms and what looks like a bromeliad glowing alongside. I'm guessing you have people coming to a sudden stop to take photos of the display along the street too.

    Re the rain situation, I read that NorCal may get "moderate" rain within the next 2-3 weeks while SoCal is unlikely to be as lucky. No "March Miracle" for either of us in any case according to weatherwest dot com.

    1. Actually people do stop and talk to me when I'm out working in the sidewalk bed. I do my best to share my excitement.

      We had 0.1" of rain on Tuesday. In a "normal" year, that would be hardly worth mentioning, but this year it's a big deal.

  3. "fortune favors the foolish"... hahaha. You had me laughing with that nugget of truth.

    Everything has grown so much since I was last there—proving I am over due for a trip south (your Mangave 'Espresso' is ginormous!). Great photo of the Sophora prostrata 'Little Baby', I'm sure mind are behind yours but I need to remember to check mine for flowers.

    Regarding your question about the up-flowering hellebores. The only plant in my "collection" that was bred for such a thing is Helleborus x ballardiae Pink Frost, which was swag from the grower. I would have never purchased it as the pink flowers are a little "sweet" for my taste, but that thing is the best performing hellebore I've got.

    1. My Sophora prostrata 'Little Baby' all came from Portland, one from Cistus and the other from Portland Nursery. You're so lucky to have so many great nurseries.

      I'll do a bit more research on the latest hellebore introductions to see what might appeal to me.

  4. Happy collector's cramscape. Looks wonderful!

    Guessing the market for landscape-sized Aloes is pretty small--mainly CA and parts of AZ--is probably the reason there are not more available here. I so wish 'Moonglow' was a repeat bloomer because it is soooooooooo pretty.

    1. You're probably right about landscape-sized aloes. Just because *I* like a plant doesn't mean the buying public would.

      A repeat-blooming Aloe 'Moonglow', that would be a dream!

  5. You opened this post with my favorite vignette in your garden! Where do you go after you start with the best? Apparently, this time of year, just about anywhere in your garden has a winning, blooming, happily growing treasures, on either side of the fence.

  6. Nice specimen of Euphorb 'Tasmanian Tiger' too! I'm intrigued. by your comment of many of your fav plants in one spot, if you include the medio-picta agave as one of your favs. That is a beautiful specimen of that agave, no mistake, but I've stopped growing it because of its offsetting ways. Looks like you've been successful in keeping it to one striking rosette!

    1. That 'Tasmanian Tiger' is getting bigger every year. I do prune it gently, and I remove the stems that revert to green.

      My Agave americana 'Mediopicta Alba' does offset. I used to be better about removing the pups, but I've fallen behind a bit. I'm actually thinking of taking the entire clump out because it does intrude too far into the sidewalk. But I do love how it complements the other plants in that spot.


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