Front yard walkthrough, September 30, 2023

Last Saturday I had an open garden for members for the Sacramento Cactus and Succulent Society. It was well attended – the weather was perfect for an outdoor event – and I even met some people who had joined the club only recently.

Since the garden was nice and tidy, I decided to document it in this post. There are lots of photos so let’s get started.

This is what you see as you walk from the driveway into the front garden

These three ponytail palms (Beaucarnea recurvata) were tiny when I planted them. In hindsight, I wish I’d separated them (they were all the same pot) and planted only one. Still, it provides an element of surprise as you step into the garden.

Bed next to the front door, anchored by Aloe vaombe

Smaller agaves and cacti (and even a xeric fern, Astrolepis cochisensis) in the front

This trio of containers planted with echeverias is new. I’m not totally sold yet, but I’ll let the echeverias get bigger before I decide whether to keep this arrangement.

I’m even experimenting with a carunculated echeveria from the clearance table at OASIS Water Efficient Gardens in Escondido, CA

View from the front patio

Rack with potted cacti; Agave ‘Desert Love’ on the right

View from the opposite direction

Off to the side of the patio

Potted Bromelia pinguin ‘Que Será’ on the left, with volunteer Mexican tulip poppies (Hunnemannia fumariifolia) encroaching into the path

Hechtias and other bromeliads on the left, sago palm (Cycas revoluta) in the back

The larger of the two succulent mounds in the center of the front garden

Looking west

Looking south

Yucca queretaroensis (or, more likely, a natural hybrid between Y. queretaroensis and Y. filifera) and Agave ‘Blue Glow’

This Corten raised bed is one of the newest additions to the garden. It’s a raised-bed kit from Edge Right.

Potted mangaves

The oldest and largest ferocactus in the garden, Ferocactus herrerae. The low-growing yellow-flowering plant you see in multiple places is called dogweed (Thymophylla pentachaeta).

The largest mangave in the garden, ×Mangave ‘Iron Man’. It looks a lot like its agave parent, Agave montana.

I have no recollection of ever planting these purple asters, but I like them. They’ve been flowering for weeks. If I planted them, they’re most likely Symphyotrichum novae-angliae ‘Purple Dome’ from a UC Davis Arboretum plant sale.

Aloidendron ramosissimum on the right

This spot used to be occupied by Agave shrevei var. matapensis × Agave guadalajarana. I removed it after it had flowered.

The new plants are much more compact and better suited for such a small space

More dogweed

Agave × leopoldii, supposedly a cross between Agave filifera and the closely related Agave schidigera, but significantly smaller than either parent

The red-flowering plant is a total surprise. It’s Gomphrena haageana ‘Strawberry Fields’. I planted one here years ago and it died after flowering (it’s a tender perennial often grown as an annual), but it clearly reseeded.

The agave is one of Jeremy Spath’s hybrids, Agave (potatorum ‘Spawn’ × isthmensis) × shawii

The white rain lilies (Zephyranthes candida) have naturalized in several spots. They flower often, but at unpredictable intervals.

The oldest of my two Aloe lukeana is flowering for the first time

Potted Fouquieria macdougalii, with Acacia aphylla behind it

Similar colors, but different textures

The larger succulent mound

Dudleyas, mangaves, agaves, ferocactus, hechtias, even a cycad – a crazy mish-mash of plants, but that’s just how I like it

Two hechtias and a (purple) deuterocohnia hybrid

Hechtia argentea

The area on the right is where the massive Agave bovicornuta used to be before it flowered and died (watch a video of me removing the carcass here)

I brought in a ton of well-draining soil and 1,400 pounds of rocks

It’s become my favorite area in the garden

The plants are still small, especially the many Echinopsis hybrids

Same area, late-afternoon sun (I wasn’t able to choose which of these two photos to include)

On the left, a variegated Agave bovicornuta. It should stay significantly smaller than its green sibling was. In the pot, a young Dioon merolae.

Outside the fence, the replanted “Bamboo Hill”

Alternate view

The tall aloe on the top right is Aloe Excelsa that had rotted out on me. I removed the rotted section and re-rooted it in pure pumice.

Only one bamboo left now, Bambusa chungii ‘Barbellata’

Damianita daisy (Chrysactinia mexicana) at the top, Yucca angustissima at the bottom

My favorite texture contrast

Acacia aphylla (top), Grevillea rosmarinifolia ‘Red Sprite’ (bottom)

×Mangave ‘Mission to Mars’

Lots of aloes here

Corten planter with ×Mangave ‘Queen for the Day’

×Mangave ‘Queen for the Day’

×Mangave ‘Queen for the Day’

The yellow flowers on the left are actually the spent flowers of ‘Harmony’ kangaroo paws, the only properly tall kangaroo paws I’ve had any luck with. They contrast beautifully with Senecio ficoides ‘Skyscraper’ (aka ‘Mount Everest’) along the fence.

Ferocactus rectispinus with 8" spines

Leucadendron ‘Ebony’ on the left, lotsa aloes on the right

Agave zebra, ×Mangave ‘Sponge Paint’...

... now flowering

Agave mitis ‘Chocolate Edge’ from Brian Kemble

This area is fairly new. Mostly aloes, but also a few cacti.

Agave gentryi ‘Jaws’ in the middle. Something’s wrong with it; the leaves have started to curl up, and the whole plant seems loose. I’ll remove it soon.

Yucca linearifolia, ×Mangave ‘Aztec King’, ×Mangave ‘Night Owl’ (flowering), ×Mangave ‘Pineapple Punch’, Aloe marlothii × ortholopha

‘Ruth Bancroft’ manzanita on the right

Agave parrasana × colorata, Aloe bulbillifera hybrid, Agave ‘Ripple Effect’, Aloe zubb × marlothii

This poor Aloidendron ‘Hercules’ has been swallowed up by our massive vitex tree (Vitex agnus-castus)

Lots of blue foliage here

Aloe ‘Moonglow’, Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies’, Agave parryi var. truncata, Agave ovatifolia

Aloe ‘Moonglow’, Yucca rostrata ‘Sapphire Skies’, Agave parryi var. truncata, Agave ovatifolia

This silver shrub/tree...

...was one of the most talked about plant of my open garden. It’s a Eucalyptus macrocarpa.

Aloe ‘Erik the Red’

Aloe spectabilis × vaombe (top), Agave schidigera ‘Durango Delight’ (bottom). If this revision of the Agave schidigera complex holds, its new name is Agave sororum.

And finally, a flowering Agave parrasana in the strip between our driveway and our neighbor’s. The flower stalk will remain like this until spring. When it gets warm again, the inflorescence will continue to develop, and the actually flowers will come out.

Because the video the Green Acres crew filmed in July was so well received, I decided to do a video walkthrough of the same areas you saw in the photos above. It’s over 9 minutes long and entirely lacking in production values or special effects, but it shows you the entire front garden in context.

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


  1. Everything is looking so lovely - I'm off to watch the video!

  2. Fabulous, Gerhard! Such a great garden. Just what I would like to have.

  3. Magazine picture perfect, Gerhard. You have a LOT of pots! I need one or more of those multi-tiered platforms for my pots too ;)

  4. I always mistake that eucalypt for Leucadendron argenteum! Of the two, I just might prefer the eucalypt. Mangave 'Queen for a Day' looks exceptionally flawless. So much here to learn from as far as sizing and distance -- thank you for the tour! All your hard work and expertise has made an incredible garden.

    1. Eucalyptus macrocarpa is a lanky shrub with trunks that grow every which one. But it's eminently trimmable. That's how I've kept mine in check. I would grow Leucadendron argenteum if I could!

      Thank you for your kind words--means a lot, coming from you.

  5. So many special plants--it would take hours to see and ask about them. The bamboo and Beaucarnea make a wonderful dramatic curtained entrance to the front garden, The Encephalartos next to 'Iron Man' really snagged my attention, among many other choice plants. Maybe I "need" that Eucalypt, tho the ones at the LA Arb and the Huntington were huuuuge and scared me off. Is that a Cussonia getting swallowed along with Hercules by the Vitex? Like I sad, so much to see, admire, ask about. :)

    Thanks again for the mangaves by mail!

    1. forget to mention your Y. queretaroensis does look quite different than mine. Mine were seedlings from Yucca Do.

    2. I do have lots of odd plants! Yes, that's a Cussonia paniculata being swalled by the vitex.

      Yucca queretaroensis, I got mine from Greg Starr, who had grown it from habitat seeds. But he agrees that it's likely a hybrid with Y. filifera. The two species do overlap.

  6. Wowsa! You've been busy, I bet your tourers were thrilled to be there. I love that little Astrolepis cochisensis (glad you pointed it out) and the Gomphrena haageana ‘Strawberry Fields’ is a fabulous surprise addition. I'm lusting after ×Mangave ‘Queen for the Day’ and Agave mitis ‘Chocolate Edge’. It's been so long since I've seen your garden!

    1. Fern: I desperately want to add more dryland ferns to our garden, but I have not found a source. They must be very difficult to propagate, because nobody sells them.

  7. I really like the ponytail trio. The long draping foliage is a lovely contrast to spiky things, and having the ponytails all together creates real impact.

  8. Gorgeous, gorgeous garden. Mangave ‘Queen for the Day’ knocked my socks off... it's absolute perfection!
    The pony tail trio turned out to be spectacular and unique, more impressive and impactful than a single plant could ever be.

  9. Soooo many things I want! Absolutely a dream garden. I'm still getting rid of roses from previous owner, but my goal is to come a little closer to your wonderland. Oh, and just FYI, I just treated all my agaves again for agave weevil. Not sure it was actually back, but not taking any chances.


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