This and that, December 2023

I constantly take photos for the blog, but not all of them make it into regular posts. Here’s a selection of outtakes, if you will, from the last few weeks. They may not tell any particular story, but taken together, they present another look at what’s been happening in the garden.


At this time of year, leaves are the big story – and the bane of my gardening life. Yesterday, I spent the better part of the day picking leaves out of the sidewalk bed and raking them into neat piles for yard waste pickup. I complained about the leaves in this recent post; I don’t want to repeat myself, so here are a couple of “pretty” leaf photos:

Stella likes leaves – lots of interesting smells

Big leaf and tiny leaf on wet asphalt


Many aloes are pushing inflorescences, but there aren’t a lot of “traditional” flowers at this time of year. Here are just couple:

Even though Farfugium japonicum is native to moist meadows and stream banks in Japan, it’s held its own in our dry-summer climate. This clump is 15+ years old and has done well, even with very little water. The flowers are simple, but they provide a nice pop of yellow in what is a dark corner in the backyard.

I don’t think I’ve ever met an abutilon I didn’t like, but Abutilon ‘Victor Reiter’ is my favorite. The orange flowers are among the largest in the genus and practically glow. This is a vigorous shrub; to tame it, I give it a severe haircut several times a year.

Abutilon ‘Victor Reiter’

The Improved Meyer lemon I rescued from the Lowe’s clearance rack years ago (at $1.99 the very definition of a bargain) is thriving in the front yard. It’s loaded with fruit and has begun to flower again. A welcome sight indeed.


Speaking of citrus, our lime tree (located at the sidewalk end of the recently renovated driveway bed) has more fruit than ever. As the limes ripen, they fall off the tree and many of them roll into the gutter or the street – we rescue a handful every day. We’ve given away a bunch, but there are always more...

Many people think these are lemons. They’re not, they’re Bearss (or Persian) limes – the kind of limes you find in the supermarket. They’re great for anything from margaritas to lime bars.

This is what happens when a lime rolls into the middle of the street and gets run over by a car


The few fall-blooming aloes we have are almost done flowering:

Aloe lukeana #1 earlier in November

Aloe lukeana #2, with lighter orange flowers. It was the first time flowering for both plants.

Aloe wilsonii, like Aloe lukeana native to Uganda, and also flowering for the first time in our garden

Most winter-blooming aloes are still in the early stages, like this one:

Variegated Aloe arborescens

I’m hoping for quite a show later in the winter, January and February.


But who needs flowers, which are typically short-lived anyway, when you can enjoy the fierce beauty of spiky, toothy, and spiny plants all year!

Agave chazaroi and Ferocactus herrerae

Agave titanota ‘Lion’s Mane’

Agave ‘ShawParr’ (A. shawii × parrasana), a Jeremy ‘Hidden Agave‘ Spath hybrid

Agave potatorum from habitat seed

Agave parrasana catching falling limes

The flower stalk of this Agave parrasana has paused for the winter. In the spring, it will complete its development, pushing to its final height and producing flowers.

Agave utahensis var. nevadensis always looking impressive

Hechtia ‘Silver Star’ (H. argentea × H. marnier-lapostollei), a hybrid made by Randy Baldwin of San Marcos Growers and Jeff Chemnick of Aloes in Wonderland

My oldest and largest ×Mangave ‘Praying Hands’, looking very much like its Agave ocahui parent

×Mangave ‘Queen for a Day’, a sport of ‘Mayan Queen’

×Mangave ‘Foxy Lady’, a sport of ‘Silver Fox’

Agave schidigera ‘Royal Flush’


While I'm usually drawn to succulents with a harder edge, I have quite a few that are on the softer side. For some reason, many visitors seem to prefer them...

×Mangave ‘Lavender Lady’ looking more greenish than purple because it’s getting very little direct sun at this time of year. The tiny teeth are soft and barely noticeable.

×Mangave ‘Pineapple Punch’, a sport of ‘Pineapple Express’, is completely unarmed

Echeveria agavoides is my favorite echeveria, not only because of its species name (meaning “agave-like”), but also because it can handle our hot summer sun. This is a cultivar called ‘Christmas’.


I featured Massonia pustulata in this post last month. It’s flowering now:

I moved two clumps of Haemanthus albiflos from the backyard to the newly renovated driveway bed:

This amaryllis relative from South Africa produces shaving brush-like flowers in the fall:

Haemanthus albiflos in flower at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden

Haemanthus albiflos in flower at the UC Berkeley Botanical Garden

I also put some seedlings of Haemanthus coccineus in the ground. They were a gift from my landscaper friend Mat McGrath, likely offspring of these plants in his former garden in the Berkeley Hills:

Haemanthus coccineus


Late fall through spring is the prime growing season for dudleyas. I did a comprehensive survey of my dudleyas in this 2021 post and am working on a 2023 update to come in late December or early January. In the meantime, here’s a Dudleya brittonii hybrid in the front yard working on flowers:

Dudleya brittonii hybrid


Finally, a shout-out to my faithful little helper, our Formosan mountain dog Stella. She’s curious about everything I do, even when it’s just writing a blog post on my laptop:

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


  1. Stella is darling, what a great helper! I just noticed my Massonia pustulata pushing out of the ground (forgot I planted them). I'm going to have to check for bloom, I think yours are quite ahead of mine. Your Agave ShawParr is picture perfect, I can't ever seem to catch those when he has them available. The Haemanthus are both wonderful.

    1. Once I have enough Massonia pustulata, I'll put some in the ground. I bet they'll spread faster in the ground.

  2. AH! I just checked Hidden Agave and he has them now, thanks!

  3. The teeth on your Agave 'ShawParr' are magnificent! All your succulents look healthy and happy. We both have little helpers it seems, although Stella looks better behaved - mine insists on walking right in front of the computer screen and tapping her paw on my shoulder when I'm trying to type.

    1. Stella loves to put her front paws on the couch or chair to get a closer look at what I'm doing.

  4. I'm a little jealous of M. 'Foxy Lady' and 'Queen for a Day' I must admit. I had 'Silver Fox' but it hated it here so I imagine 'Foxy Lady; would not care for it either. I've really been enjoying making my own compost so that's where all my leaves go-along with some of my neighbors and the leaves at the park around the corner. I always wish I had more !

    1. What happened with 'Silver Fox'? If anything, it grows like a weed here. I can give you some!

      Would love to have room to keep a pile of leaves, but we simply don't.

  5. Love the Mangaves. Mine are very happy now that they made it through the horrid heat this summer. Well, I love all your photos and just your sweet Stella!

    1. I bet! I find that the more agave-like mangaves are OK with our summer heat, but the softer leaved varieties prefer cooler temps.

  6. Now that is 1 delightful Garden Helper. Hoover used to follow me all over the garden and stare at me. He was more of a supervisor than a helper.

    Great Massonias there! And Agaves, Dudleyas... I collect and compost the leaves--no better stuff--but I have the room for it. Not every garden does.

    Rain looks likely soon--hooray!

    1. Stella stares at me, too. As if to say, what are you up to NOW? Humans are weird.

  7. ×Mangave ‘Queen for a Day’ is perfection!
    Is the large cycad growing in a pot in the back of "Aloe lukeana #2" photo?

    1. That cycad is a weird hybrid I picked up years ago: (Encephalartos munchii × E. chimanimaniensis) × E. eugene-maraisii. Fortunately, I kept the tag, otherwise I would never be able to remember. It's been a good grower!

  8. Must be hard to have Stella staring at you while you work. Is she sitting in judgement? lol. So many beautiful shots of your various plants. I wish I lived close to have some of your limes. We only get green ones which I assume aren't quite ripe.

    1. LOL, not sitting in judgment, just eternally curious.

      The green limes you buy in the supermarket would turn yellow if they were left on the tree. Virtually no difference in taste, just a different color.


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