A few drops of rain courtesy of Hilary

Tropical storm Hillary broke all kinds of records in Southern California and Nevada this past weekend, but it bypassed us by hundreds of miles. Still, we felt some of the effects. Humidity has been much higher than usual for the past four or five days. When I got up this morning (Monday, August 21), it was 79%. Typically, it would be around 30%.

As I was making coffee, I heard the unmistakable pitter-patter of rain drops through the open kitchen window. Could it be? Indeed, it could. While the wet stuff falling from the sky never amounted to what I would call “rain,” every drop of precipitation in mid-summer is welcome. When all was said and done, the street was wet and a bit of water had begun to puddle in the gutter.

Here are some random photos from the garden, taken on Sunday afternoon (overcast, but still fairly hot and muggy) and on Monday morning (warm and humid).

The flagstone walkway hasn’t seen rain since May

Oops, I shouldn’t have left a paper sack out in the open (pumice)

Spiky beauties, looking good in sunshine and rain

Raised planter that replaced Agave vilmoriniana ‘Stained Glass’. This area is still a work in progress. The Corten steel needs more rain to get a rich patina of rust.

Aloe lukeana (front) and Encephalartos (munchii × chimanimaniensis) × eugene-maraisii behind it

Dioon argenteum, a beautiful cycad from northern Oaxaca, Mexico with six new leaves

One of my favorite foliage pairings in the garden: Acacia aphylla and Grevillea ‘Scarlet Sprite’

My largest ×Mangave ‘Praying Hands’ doing its thing

It really is one of the most unique succulents I known

×Mangave ‘Queen for the Day’

Agave ‘Blue Glow’ is large enough to flower. Just a matter of time now...

Agave applanata ‘Cream Spike’

Agave nussavorium, far too rarely seen in cultivation

Agave utahensis var. nevadensis has produced a couple of offsets. Its siblings in the Mojave Desert received tons of rain this weekend.

Aeonium arboreum closed up tight for the summer (like all aeoniums, it’s not fond of temperatures in the high 90s and above)

Ferocactus gracilis subsp. coloratus

Ferocactus rectispinus now occupying the flagstone throne along the sidewalk. It replaced the Agave ‘Blue Glow’ × mitis hybrid I got from Solana Succulents last summer; it simply didn’t like this hot and dry spot. It’s now in a pot in a shady corner. Hopefully it will recover over time.

I bought this small yucca with twisty blue leaves at Annie’s Annuals a few years ago. It was labeled Yucca harrimaniae (syn. Yucca nana), which it definitely isn’t. It may be a hybrid involving Yucca rupicola (twisty green leaves) and Yucca pallida (straight blue leaves). The cactus is Echinocereus × neomexicanus.

And finally a couple of bromeliad photos from the backyard:

The tillandsia that lives in a tree. That’s what I call it. I don’t know what it is exactly, but it’s a fairly big plant with a good three feet of desiccated “tail.” It’s not attached to the branch, it’s simply dangling from it.

One of several Alcantarea imperialis. I never expected them to survive for as long as they have, but I’ve found them to be tough plants, handling both dry conditions and a blast of afternoon sun.

Chances are we won’t see overcast skies and (gasp) rain again until October....

© Gerhard Bock, 2023. All rights reserved. To receive all new posts by email, please subscribe here.


  1. I'm glad you got at least a touch of Tropical Storm Hilary, Gerhard. Despite all the hype leading up to the storm's arrival here on Sunday, I was afraid it'd pass us by so I was VERY happy to get 2 inches of rain. All 3 of my rain collection tanks are now full! In August! That's a minor miracle in itself.

    Your garden is looking great even given the dry conditions. The Ferocactus looks happy in its new spot and all your Agaves and Mangaves look pristine to me. Your photo of 'Praying Hands' reminded me that I should move mine from its small pot to a larger one.

    1. I'm so happy you got 2 inches--and that you were able to capture a good amount of it.

      Praying Hands: Take it out of the pot to see whether it's root-bound. If not, you can leave it in its current pot. It's a fairly slow-growing mangave; it does repond to fertilizer.

  2. Ferocactus gracilis subsp. coloratus: what a specimen! Gorgeous! Last night (early Tuesday morning) we finally got about as much rain as you did. As you say, I am not complaining! Anything helps. I wonder if I could get Alcantarea imperialis to grow here in the shade. I am afraid the low humidity would do it in. I might try though! What the heck!

    1. I got that Ferocactus gracilis from Greg Starr a few years ago. He grew it from habitat seed.

      If you can get your hands on an Alcanterea imperialis, try it. As I said, my expectations were low, and I was pleasantly surprised.

  3. Even a very light shower seems to have benefits for the garden. The soaking we got--the garden looked astounding this morning--in August that is unimaginable.

    Some interesting plants in this--enjoyed seeing them. The A. utahensis ssp looks very happy. Unfamiliar with A. nussavorium, elegant! Dioon artenteum--ooooohhh! Mangave 'Queen For The Day' very cool with the polka dot margins.

    BTW, my Mangave 'Greg Starr' grew a couple of offsets now that it has flowered.

    1. Glad you got a good soaking. It may last into the fall!

      A. nussaviorum is closely related to A. potatorum. Side by side, I'm not sure I could tell them apart.

      Dioon argenteum is *beautiful* but so slow. For sure slower than the common Dioon edule.

  4. I lived in hope and it sure looked threatening off and on yesterday but all we got was about a 3 minute episode of 5 drops. August is always such a hot mess in my garden-but this year at least I have the bloomstock on Blue Glow to distract from the late summer doldrums. Love that Yucca whatever it is !

    1. Agreed, August is the worst month in my garden as well. But fall is within reach!

  5. Usually at this time of year you are reporting on how stressed the plants are. Not this year. Everything looks fantastic. The row of Dyckia look spectacular. I repotted my Dyckia and tried to separate off a pup. Had to cut it off with no roots. Is this the normal way to divide these or are they not meant to be divided at all? Any info/experience welcome.


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