Filling vacancies, or at least thinking about it

My previous post documented the removal of a massive clump of timber bamboo (Bambusa oldhamii) along the sidewalk. It was a strenuous job, even for a tree service employee equipped with a stump grinder. But it opened up a large blank canvas of almost 100 sq.ft. For a small garden like ours, that’s a significant amount of new planting space.

➦ Vacancy 1

About 100 sq.ft. previously occupied by Bambusa oldhamii

But that’s just one of several “vacancies” that currently exist in the front yard. There are three more.

➦ Vacancy 2

Vacancy 2 is where I removed a blooming ×Mangave ‘Spotty Dotty’. I was going to wait until it was done flowering to see if there might be any seeds, but the ratty leaves drove me nuts.

×Mangave ‘Spotty Dotty’

The resulting opening is actually larger than you might have expected:

I’m toying with the idea of removing the Aloe marlothii, too. This particular specimen is just a bit too plain for me. I have another Aloe marlothii with bluer leaves and far more prickles on the underside—to me, one of the most desirable features of a marlothii—so it would be a 1:1 replacement.

➦ Vacancy 3

The next vacancy is maybe 30 feet away. I removed two shrubs that were simply too big for the space, one of them being Senna phyllodinea. I loved everything about it, the silver leaves and the yellow flowers (see photo below), but it really wanted to be a 6×6 ft. shrub and constantly shaded out the aloes around it.

Senna phyllodinea

I also removed a Salvia leucantha ‘Danielle’s Dream’ to the right of Senna phyllodinea and one of the two heads of the Aloe ‘Tangerine’ you see on the right. The two heads were pushing in opposite directions—one into the fence and the other into the tall Corten planter on the right. I’m hoping the remaining head will reorient itself and grow more or less straight up.

This spot is perfect for background perennials. I already have a few salvias ready to be planted.

There’ll also be room for at least one larger aloe or agave.

To my delight, I discovered that the Grevillea lavandulacea ‘Tanunda’ that had been swallowed up by the Salvia leucantha was still alive and doing surprisingly well. It’s one my favorite smaller grevilleas (see this post about the Australian Garden at the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum for photos in flower), and I hope it will bloom again next year.

The removed head of Aloe ‘Tangerine’ is waiting for a new home. Maybe where the bamboo used to be...

Removed Aloe ‘Tangerine’ head

➦ Vacancy 4

Vacancy 4 is inside the front yard fence. I had to remove my beloved Aloe hoffmannii × ericetorum because I found signs of aloe mite. Grrrrr. Fortunately, it’s the only evidence of aloe mite I’ve ever seen in our garden, and I hope that by removing this aloe, I prevented any spread.

Aloe hoffmannii × ericetorum

The spot that’s opened up is only about 2×2 ft. but that’s enough for a few smaller plants. I’m thinking of grounding some of the Echinopsis hybrids I bought recently, like this one or this one.

There’s another option, though, and I’m considering it quite seriously. Remove the Agave xylonacantha altogether. I do like it for its fierce teeth, but it’s a bit too large for its space. I haven’t made a decision yet, but it would give me even more room for flowering cacti and some rocks.

Agave xylonacantha

As you can see, a lot is in flux right now. I’m waiting for temperatures to drop a bit (we’re still in the low- to mid-90s during the day) before I finalize my decisions and get stuck in, as they say in the U.K.

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


  1. Fun to have so much newly vacated space to play with! Sounds like you’ve spent lots of time pondering already - and it’s the perfect time of year for your new plants to get established.
    It’s funny to hear you refer to Grevillea’Tanunda’ in a blog from the other side of the world. Tanunda is the hometown of my Mum’s family - Prussian immigrants who started some of the vineyards and wineries in that area. I hope your plant gains a new lease of life with abundant air and light. Horticat

    1. What a great coincidence about Tanunda! I bet it's a beautiful place, seeing how it's in the Barossa Valley. Lots of great wineries!

  2. Agave xylonacantha might work out front in one of the vacancies there. Gosh, I have an inground Aloe ‘Tangerine’. I had no idea they get that big!

    1. Moving Agave xylonacantha outside the fence is a great idea!

      There's an Aloe 'Tangerine' at the Ruth Bancroft Garden that's got to be 8 ft. tall. The Aloe ferox genes definitely assert themselves!

  3. That is a LOT of bare space! Given all the options you're considering I know that you'll find a mix you'll be happy with. Thanks for sharing the link to your 2021 post on UCSC's Australian Garden too. Even though I saw it when it was originally posted, it was great to review all those wonderful plants again. I can't help wishing some would appear in local garden centers. Grevillea 'Tanunda' is one I'd love to have.

    1. I haven't be to the UC Santa Cruz Arboretum in a while, but it's definitely one of my favorite plant destinations in California. I love the whole Santa Cruz area.

  4. I can see that spot without A. xylonacantha -- that is a big specimen! Can't wait to see the update report. I know you'll be wearing gloves, long sleeves, updated tetatus shot, etc...

    1. Haha, knowing me, I'll probably wear shorts and a short-sleeved T-shirt and get all scratched up!

  5. Great spaces to play with, and you probably have a few plants in pots waiting. I would absolutely remove the plain marlothii for a more striking version--often think of doing that, after seeing an incredible blue version studded with tubercules--they are like a whole different even better species. The xylonocatha--there are smaller species with the same impressive teeth, no? Aloe mite....grrrr!!!!!!!

    1. Thank you for giving me the nudge I needed. Both Aloe marlothii and Agave xylonacantha will come out.


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