Showing posts from July, 2023

RIP, cow horn agave (2015-2023)

Last September , the cow horn agave ( Agave bovicornuta ) in the front yard started to send up a flower stalk: September 4, 2022 It took until May for the flowers to fully open. This is what the flower stalk looked like on June 23, 2023 (excuse the poor quality; these photos were taken through a window screen): June 23, 2023 As you can see, the flower stalk had a precarious lean to it. I had visions of it toppling over, crushing everything in its path.  On June 28, 2023, my wife and I took down the flower stalk. It was heavy, and I had a hard time holding it steady as my wife sliced through it with a reciprocating saw. Here it is in the driveway, all 12 ft. of it: 12 ft. flower stalk in the driveway Rosette right after we cut down the flower stalk Like most agave species,  Agave bovicornuta  is monocarpic, i.e., it dies after flowering. In the weeks after we’d removed the flower stalk, the rosette was losing more and more of its color as it was shutting down: The lower leaves began to

(M)A(n)gave flower spikes, cycad cones

With their towering flower stalks, blooming agaves are a big spectacle. The fact that most of them die after flowering makes it bittersweet. You do become attached to a plant that you’ve had for a number of years, and seeing it go can be sad. This summer we’ve had two rather prominent agaves flower: a cow horn agave ( Agave bovicornuta ), on the left in the photo below, and an unusual hybrid I originally got from Greg Starr ( Agave shrevei var. matapensis × Agave guadalajarana ), on the left in the photo: May 31, 2023 The photo above was taken on May 31. Since then, we’ve cut off the flower stalk on Agave bovicornuta ; it was leaning too far forward, and I wanted to make sure it doesn’t fall and crush everything in its path. The rosette is slowly dying, and I will remove it as soon as the temperatures drop a few degrees and working outside becomes a little more pleasant. Dying Agave bovicornuta  rosette, minus flower stalk In the photo from May 31 above, the flowers on  Agave shrevei

My podcast and YouTube debut

Last week, the crew behind the Green Acres Garden Podcast  – host Kevin Jordan, sound engineer Austin Blank, photographer Lauren Henley, and producer and all-around nice guy Greg Gayton – came to our house to film our garden and talk to me about using succulents in the landscape.  Even though I write about our garden all the time and have hosted various groups over the years, being in front of the camera (and mic’d up) was an entirely new experience: bizarre, nerve-racking, and exciting in equal measure. However, any anxiety I might have felt beforehand dissipated quickly as I began to talk about the garden and succulents in general. Host Kevin Jordan is a true pro at his job and kept me focused on the topics he wanted to cover.  Watching the video made me a cringe a bit because I do talk too much and too fast. But the video makes the garden look fairly decent (minus the clutter along the edge of the driveway). You can watch the video below or  on YouTube . We also recorded a separate

Goodbye, Yucca ‘Bright Star’, and hello

Our Yucca ‘Bright Star’ (or, more correctly,  Yucca gloriosa var. tristis ‘Bright Star’, formerly known as Yucca recurvifolia ) lit up the sidewalk bed for five years before it flowered last November. And the flowers were truly glorious: Unlike agaves, for which blooming is a terminal event, yuccas are perennial and don’t die after flowering. However, our Yucca ‘Bright Star’ did exactly what I had feared it would do: It started to produce new shoots from the center. Take a look: Closer: Over time, what once was a single rosette will become a tangled clump. Many gardeners don’t mind that look, but I much prefer one solitary rosette. In addition to producing multiple new heads, our ‘Bright Star’ began to sucker from rhizomes ––another trait that ruined the symmetry of the rosette. And finally, as ‘Bright Star’ was maturing, it began to extend into the sidewalk, inconveniencing passers-by. All these things taken together made a compelling case for removal. Which is exactly what I did. Us

Gargoyles, fairies, and succulents: a collector's garden in Sacramento

Last weekend I had the opportunity to revisit the garden of Mariel Dennis, the president of the Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society (SCSS) . Mariel is a collector of many things, ranging from Halloween decorations and nut crackers to talavera pots and head planters to cacti and other succulents. Her garden is bursting with plants, pots, figurines, and garden art of every description: maximalism at its most exuberant.  Admittedly, not everybody wants fairies and gargoyles in their garden, but Mariel does. Her garden expresses who she is and what she likes, and she is rightfully unapologetic about it. It’s quirky, bold, and joyful and could teach timid gardeners a thing or two about letting go and embracing what makes you unique. Stop worrying about what others might think; the only person you need to please is yourself. This may sound like an obvious thing to say, but it bears repeating. Mariel in front of her house One of several gargoyles keeping watch As you can see in the aerial