Wednesday, July 22, 2015

Wednesday Vignettes: Spiky & Soft

Two garden vignettes struck my fancy this week so I'm sharing both as part of the Wednesday Vignette theme hosted by Anna at Flutter & Hum.

The first is a photo taken of an Agave vilmoriniana (Octopus Agave) in my dry garden.  The shot was taken in the late afternoon from the slope side of my dry garden looking back toward the house, an angle not usually viewed by visitors.  I like the way the sun and shadows emphasize the curves of the agave's twisted leaves, as well as the way the colors of the surrounding plants play off one another.

The Agave is backed by trailing Lantana and a Gauva tree.  Coprosma 'Plum Hussey' is on the left and a water-stressed Limonium perezii and pink-flowered Cistus 'Sunset' are on the right.  (My 160-gallon rain tank, now full, can be seen in the distance alongside the house.)


The second vignette features Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' (aka purple fountain grass).  In the first photo, the sun picked up the soft fuzzy qualities of the flower plumes.  It's a gorgeous plant this time of year, when other plants are usually in full retreat from the sun and heat.  Like Stipa tenuissima (Mexican feather grass), this plant has a reputation for being invasive in California but, unlike the former, I've seen absolutely no sign of re-seeding by this species in my own garden.

The Pennisetum is surrounded by silver Jacobaeus martima, currently sporting yellow flowers, with a Ceanothus hedge behind it and the foliage of Agonis flexuosa (peppermint willow) dangling down from above

In my second photo, the sun was fading on the horizon so the plumes don't shine as brightly but the plant in the foreground is nicely echoed by a second Pennisetum in the distance.  I cut the plant in the driveway back hard in winter and it still hasn't fully regained its former dimensions.



For other vignettes, from the garden and otherwise, visit Anna at Flutter and Hum.


All material © 2012-2015 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

30 comments:

  1. I love the Agave Kris. It looks so 'solid' amongst the surrounding plants. The Pennisetum being the complete opposite is rather fetching too.

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    1. The Agave is finally taking on some bulk, Angie. It's been in the ground well over one year now.

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  2. Beautiful vignettes, and that agave vilmoriana is going to look even more amazing as time passes by!

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    1. I hope so. However, between it and the Agave ovatifolia planted nearby, I may not be able to walk through that area much longer.

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  3. They're all stunning. I imagine everything is a little happier after the rain?

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    1. Both the garden and the gardener are much happier, Deb. I'm SO pleased to have that renewed store of rainwater to help me get me through the worst bits of summer.

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  4. I love both vignettes and wish I could grow either plant as a perennial in my climate. I like the big, sculptural agaves like vilmoriniana and have always wished purple fountain grass was just a bit hardier.

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    1. I'm lucky, Evan - I don't have to dig things up and haul them under cover every winter. The likelihood of frost is slim to none.

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  5. Both are beautiful vignettes. I have a variegated Agave vilmoriniana that I hope to plant this fall as we give our front yard a makeover.

    I've never seen a single purple fountain grass seedling either. I think when they talk about it being invasive, they refer to the regular Pennisetum setaceum.

    According to San Marcos Growers:

    "Dr. Joseph K. Wipff, previously with Texas A&M and now a turfgrass breeder, wrote the section on Pennisetum in the Flora of North America and has indicated that Red Fountain Grass is most likely a cross between Pennisetum setaceum and P. macrostachys and as a hybrid the name most appropriately be Pennisetum x advena 'Rubrum' and this is how we have listed this plant. The Latin word 'advena' means "newly arrived" or "stranger". Pennisetum 'Rubrum', nor selections made from it such as the variegated clone 'Fireworks', should really not be listed as a cultivar of Pennisetum setaceum as this is not only incorrect, but it would also confuses these plant with Pennisetum setaceum, a known noxious weed. In California and several other states where Pennisetum setaceum is a declared noxious weed it is actually not legal for nurseries to grow this species. In California it currently it has a C rating with the California Department of Food and Agriculture, meaning it must be controlled in nurseries. Organizations such as PlantRight and many others are rightfully advocating that it not be grown at all so it is an important distinction that the non-weedy hybrid cultivars not be mistaken for this species."

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    1. Thanks for the information, Gerhard! It's very helpful. The LA Times published a list of invasive plants to be avoided a couple of weeks ago and, not only was Stipa tenuissima at the top but Pennisetum setaceum was up there too, which distressed me as the Sunset Western Garden Book classifies 'Rubrum' as a P. setaceum. I've never had a shred of an issue with it.

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  6. I love these vignettes - the pennisetum is especially beautiful and it's really striking against the silver foliage. Just a lovely shot!

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    1. The grass looks particularly good this time of year, Matt. I'm hoping the other specimen along the driveway regains its vigor before the summer is out as, in summer, it's usually the most dramatic plant in my front yard border.

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  7. Both really pretty vignettes! A. vilmoriniana isn't hardy here, but A. bracteosa supposedly is, and it has similar sort of wavy arms. I have one planted in the ground that did well over the winter here, and I'd like to plant lots more.

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    1. Agave bracteosa is on my wish list too. I haven't found one at the right price point yet.

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  8. I love the pennisetum! The combination of purple and silver is a wonderful vignette :)

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    1. The silver Jacobaeus was pure serendipity (again). I'd put the dusty miller from a 6-pack in a winter-themed pot and when I dismantled the pot, just stuck a small leftover plant in the ground nearby and it took off.

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  9. Wonderful and how lovely to be able to grow these plants outside. I love this Pennisetum but it is not hardy here.

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    1. I inherited these clumps of Pennisetum with the house, Chloris. The size of the plant had always intimidated me (and wasn't in keeping with my former, tiny garden anyway) but the scale fits this property.

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  10. I'm not a big fan of agaves but yours is pretty cool! It looks great surrounded by softer plants. I have pennisetum in my garden but only some of it is hardy here. The really cool 'Fireworks' dies the minute it gets cold. Wimp!

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    1. I have several Pennisetum 'Fireworks' too. They're nowhere near as vigorous as 'Rubrum', although they are hardy here - however, if they don't bulk up by next year, I'm going to be tossing them out on their pretty leaves.

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  11. Good vignettes. How does it feel to have filled up water tanks? Pretty nice, eh?

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    1. I'm ecstatic about my water storage and wondering where I could put another tank along the house without it standing out like a sore thumb. Of course, if El Nino comes on with a roar this winter as some forecasters are predicting, another tank may be superfluous.

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  12. I used to buy a couple of those Pennisetums each year, I love them so much. Expensive annuals! Tempted to try one in a pot so I can overwinter it under cover.

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    1. The clumps get VERY big, Jessica. Still, I suppose they wouldn't get as large in a pot and they can get cut back hard.

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  13. your vignettes are gorgeous, we are told here ( in Western Australia) that purple fountain grass is sterile, the other variety is also banned from being sold here due to invasive nature.

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    1. It's good to hear that what you've been told is consistent with the input from Gerhard, Bec. Thanks for passing that information along.

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  14. Dynamic combinations! I especially like the last picture showing that gorgeous blue foliage in the foreground of the purple Pennisetum!

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    1. That Jacobaeus folliage (and the similar Centaurea foliage alongside it) does look very blue in that photo, doesn't it?

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  15. An invasion of Pennisetum setaceum 'Rubrum' seedlings would be an unbelievable pleasure in my garden; it isn't hardy here and plants don't grow quickly enough in one season to be worth growing them as annuals, even if I could find plants in spring. Love both your vignettes, both are testament to your planting skills.

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    1. The Pennisetum would be a perfect fit on your slope, Christina. It's too bad it can't hold up to your winters.

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