Thursday, October 19, 2017

Too much of a good thing? (Foliage Follow-up)

I featured Acacia cognata 'Cousin Itt' in May's Foliage Follow-up post, crowing  a bit about how well these plants were doing in my garden, particularly the cluster of 3 plants underneath an Agonis flexuosa (peppermint willow) in a very dry section of the back garden.  Here's what the area looked like in May:

Acacia in mid-May


Now, if you consider that photo, you'll note that the Acacia was already starting to enroach on the succulents in front of it.  Last week, while trying to find a spot for a new Aeonium nobile, I realized that the Acacia had climbed right over a good many of those succulents when I wasn't paying attention.  By the time I got around to cleaning up the area a few days ago, I'd already partially uncovered 2 of 3 Agave 'Joe Hoak' but these photos give you an idea of the "before" state:

The Aeonium arboreum and ceramic fish had all but disappeared.  The Aloe vanbaelenii x ferox was half-covered.  The smallest 'Joe Hoak', a gift from a fellow blogger, was still nearly invisible and even Agave ovatifolia 'Vanzie' had been engulfed.


I removed a large amount of the encroaching Acacia foliage but I suspect it won't be long before the succulents are swallowed up by 'Cousin Itt' again.

After photo #1: If you look closely, you may notice that the Acacia is still covering up other plants close to the trunk of the peppermint willow.  Those are Agapanthus.  I'm leaving them to their own devices.  The Phlomis in the background seems safe - for now.

After photo #2, showing all 3 "rescued" 'Joe Hoaks'.  I'm not really concerned with the Aeoniums - I have a nearly endless supply.


I haven't decided whether to relocate some or all of the succulents and simply let 'Cousin Itt' do its thing, or to just put the Acacia on a quarterly pruning schedule.  What would you do?

This is my belated Foliage Follow-up post.  For others, visit Pam at Digging.


All material © 2012-2017 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party

37 comments:

  1. Since maintenance is always in my mind, I would relocate. Plus I like swaths of one plant.

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    1. 'Itt's' haircut was a chore! And I only cut the front part!

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  2. "Cousin Itt" it lovely but, I can see that it has a bad habit of taking over. It's (no pun intended!) a really pretty spot and you did a great job of disciplining "Itt"!

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    1. 'Itt' actually has a reputation here of being difficult. However, I've found that while it takes its time to get established, it's quite robust once he's settled in.

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  3. I would let Cousin Itt have that whole space! I love the look of that feathery foliage, and it earns its spot. The ceramic fish look wonderful swimming through it. I wonder if it would be possible to elongate their stakes so that they can stay above the foliage, maybe by securing the existing stake with zip ties to a longer piece of rebar?

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    1. Oh, I'm sure my husband can rig something for me, Pam!

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  4. Since all my Cousin Itt's in the dry shade I assigned to them have shriveled away, I think you know whose side I'm on. Those are incredible, some of the best I've seen -- I say let them they sprawl!

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    1. The other 3 I have are also starting to sprawl - and I haven't given them as much space. I found the plants are somewhat slow to establish but, when they've got their footing, they can go a little crazy.

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  5. That Acacia is really beautiful but is taking over that succulent bed but I would relocate it.¿What plant is the hedge I see behind the tree in these pictures?

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    1. The hedge is made up of Xylosma congestum. I inherited it with the garden but, in contrast to the other hedge materials in the garden (this place is loaded with hedges!), Xylosma is the best performer. It's only down side is that it requires regular (quarterly) pruning to keep it in line.

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  6. Oh dear, this is the horns of a dilemma. The Acacia is gorgeous, and normally I'm in favor of less maintenance and letting plants do what they do, but if you remove the succulents and let it take as much space as it wants, will the area then look a bit monotonous? I like Pam's suggestion to make the fish taller or to somehow make them stand out more. Perhaps in order to combat monotony, you could add more art that wouldn't suffer from death by encroachment.

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    1. I did like the contrast of the reddish succulents and 'Cousin Itt' shown in the May photos, Alison, so allowing 'Itt' to take over without providing that is a concern. I suppose I could order another school of fish in different colors!

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  7. I think I would let Cousin Itt form its own lovely, green drift and move the succulents. The ground cover by the stone path is moving in from the other direction. It seems like when it meets Itt there will be a nice higher / lower effect.

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    1. The creeping thyme is very similar in color though, Barbara - except when it blooms.

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  8. Fish among green waves as a place for the eye to rest.
    And enjoy so much more the next bed with an interesting mix of plants ... I'd move the succulents. Mine are swimming under waves of Californian poppies!

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    1. I'll have to step back and see what I can do with the succulents so they still have a chance to shine too.

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  9. It seems unanimous to let 'Itt' do its thing with fish raised higher to crest the waves. The succulents distract from the effect.

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    1. There does seem to be a consensus. I wonder how long it'll take 'Itt' to spread another foot or so?

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  10. I wonder how much further Itt is going to creep? I love the way it looks and I am envisioning a backdrop in red tones. No idea how much real estate is back there with the Phlomis. I just feel like I want to see a color contrast. And maybe a dense edging up to the path with the lower profile succulents-a tapestry effect. Might be time for me to try my hand at Cousin Itt, I have a few possible spots.

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    1. I like the contrast with the red too, Kathy. The existing edging around the flagstones is creeping thyme, which doesn't provide much in the way of contrast, except when its in bloom. However, I planted Lotus berthelotii 'Amazon Sunset' as a groundcover on the other side of the path so, provided I can find more of that cultivar, using it on both sides of the path might work!

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  11. Even before I'd read your question I was thinking I would let the Acacia fill the space if that is what it wants to do. I know other commentators have said much the same; your planting is always very well considered so I know you'll make the right decision.

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    1. Prompted by Kathy's comment above, Christina, I'm leaning toward moving the succulents and picking up another low-profile groundcover like the Lotus 'Amazon Sunset' I've used on the other side of the path to fill in the area while the Acacia continues to fill out. These particular plants are stretching the limits of the girth estimated by growers.

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  12. Trying to answer your question but reason seems to be clouded by jealousy as my measly potted specimen of 'Cousin Itt' grows very slowly in the greenhouse. Seems like there's usually a Beetles song to guide one through tough decisions. As Paul McCartney wrote, "Let 'Itt' Be." https://youtu.be/ih-8K1a_SsA

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    1. Ha! Even answering comments on this post, I found myself repeatedly tripping over references to 'Itt'.

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  13. I vote for moving the still-manageable succulents and giving Itt the chance to show what it can do. Sweeps of one magnificent plant are restful and inspiring, not boring. The fish are perfect for it/Itt.

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    1. The tide of responses in favor of moving the succulents has me making plans to do just that, although I may wait a bit until I can find Lotus 'Amazon Sunset' to cover the bare area while 'Itt' does his thing. I don't want to invite the raccoons and the skunks to dig by leaving bare earth!

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  14. So glad you haven't been affected by any of the fires! I was worried about you. :o) I like Cousin Itt. I'd let it go wild!

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    1. I remembered our conversation on the Fling bus when you said you wouldn't consider living in California because of the persistent wildfires, Tammy. We got them in spades this year! My sister-in-law's home was threatened up north but she came through unscathed in the end. Regrettably, the red flag warnings came out again here this evening as the Santa Ana winds start blowing again.

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  15. Your dilemma sounds a bit too familiar Kris! I'm having to figure out when and how much to control Eremophila Outback Sunrise, but I don't have the option of letting it drift. :/ I do like your idea of accenting the edges with the Lotus, and I understand it's vigorous enough to hold its own (or should that be Itt's own!) so maybe they can battle it out without too much refereeing from the gardener!

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    1. I wish my Eremophila were half as robust as yours, Amy!

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  16. Hmmmm..I agree with others. I would move the succulents and let Cousin Itt have the area. But I still would give him a haircut now and then! So very, very glad you were not affected by the recent fires. I thought of you. My son south of San Francisco had to wear a protective mask for several days.

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    1. I hope your son is breathing better now. All we got was smoke from the last SoCal fire; however, my sister-in-law was in readiness to evacuate in response to a fire less than a mile from her home for several days. SoCal is under yet another fire watch through Wednesday and we got word this morning that there's a brush fire across the street from our city hall. We need to see the end of wind and heat!

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  17. Grrr. You're just bragging about Itt, while I've just killed yet another one.

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    1. I am pleased at how well 'Itt's' done! But I did underestimate exactly how big the plants would get. I'm going to move most of the succulents in front of 'Itt' and plant more Lotus 'Amazon Sunset' there - one thug should be able to stand up to another! And I can't leave bare earth - the raccoon gang of 3 is back making nightly visits.

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  19. Hey I caught wind of your blog from a random comment on another webpage about the Cousin Itt. I'm in the same area as you(pasadena), and I have 5 of these. Well, I killed one. The remaining four seem like they have barely grown at all in the 6+ months I have had them. I have them planted in a mostly shade spot, and I'm thinking that might be the issue. Do you have any tips on how you got yours to grow so well? Thank you.

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    1. Hi Ted. I lost one 'Cousin Itt' too if that's any comfort. All of mine get partial shade, although the level varies. The 3 most robust specimens are those shown in this post, planted in morning shade/afternoon sun under a peppermint willow (Agonis flexuosa), which is another Australian native. I've speculated that the plants may have a symbiotic relationship of some kind because I don't remember having the trouble getting these established as I experienced with my other 3 remaining plants. However, these were also the very first CIs I bought. I got them before they became hugely popular and I've heard that some growers have been pushing their plants to market faster than they should. The tip there is, if you buy any new specimens in the future, you may want to tip them out of their pots to check the health and breadth of their root systems. That said, the plants I acquired later all seemed to take much longer to become established. My records show I planted all 3 just over 3 years ago and, if memory serves, I'd say they didn't gain significant size until a year or maybe 18 months ago. So my second tip is patience. Best wishes with them - they're worth the struggle.

      Your landscape imagery is impressive!

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