Wednesday, February 3, 2021

My latest succulent bed rehab

Last week I started work cleaning up my street-side succulent bed.  Like many such projects, it started small and grew larger - and even now I suspect I'm not ready to leave it alone.  Let's just call this a progress report.

The only "before" photo I have to offer is one I took in early January when preparing my quarterly wide shots post.

From a distance it's hard to see its flaws

My original intention was to pull out a few dead plants and cut back the ice plant running amok on the south end of the bed (shown in the far right foreground in the photo above) to make room for a few succulent cuttings.  I got carried away, although I'm not sure that's immediately evident in my updated panoramic shot.

I cut back a lot of the ice plant and planted the cuttings I mentioned but it doesn't look all that different from this distance

Nor from this angle

One significant issue remains to be tackled but I'm still unsure how to proceed.

The Chondropetalum tectorum (which is probably actually C. elephantitum) has toppled over the three 'Blue Glow' Agaves in front of it.  Most online sources don't recommend pruning restios but, as the photo on the right shows, it's sticking into the street like a bad comb-over.

Leaving the Chondropetalum aside for further deliberation, I moved on section-by-section.

I only modified this next segment of the bed in minor ways, cutting dried leaves from the base of Agave impressa, moving a small Aloe buried behind the Euphorbia 'Sticks on Fire', and transplanting 2 stems of Aeonium 'Sunburst' after removing a dead clump of Aeonium arboreum

Clockwise from the top left are: Agave impressa, the noID Aloe, Dudleya cymosa, and Puya berteroniana.  I planted the Puya in 2014, only to forget about it when it was covered by the broad leaves of an Agave desmettiana for years.  Since that Agave bloomed out, the Puya finally has a chance to grow up and out.  I'd thought the two Dudleyas were long gone too.  I still need to move them out of the way of Agave impressa.

This photo shows the remaining Agave desmettiana, a pup of one of the 2 Agaves that bloomed out in 2019, and the transplanted Aeonium 'Sunburst'

This next area got a major cleanup.  In addition to removing more dead Aeonium arboreum, I transplanted 2 Aeonium nobile previously buried between other plants.  The blue Agave colorata between Agave attenuata (left) and Agave 'Blue Flame' (right) was transplanted earlier this year.  The most important change was adding the Yucca rostrata 'Sapphire Skies' I've had in a pot for 2 years, now situated behind Agave colorata.  I was told that it needed more root space if it was ever going to grow up and the encircled roots at the bottom of the pot showed evidence of the truth of that.

I pulled more Aeonium arboreum out in this area, sticking a stem of Euphorbia 'Sticks on Fire' in its place.  I also cut back the tall Senecio amaniensis (behind Agave 'Blue Flame') by more than half.  The latter had become extremely gangly.

This is what a better-behaved Senecio amaniensis in another part of my garden looks like.  Apparently, if it gets more water, it tends to develop an erect posture like this rather than decumbent posture it's demonstrated in my street-side bed.

The area beyond the Agave 'Blue Flame' was formerly covered by a thick, tangled mat of ice plant (possibly Drosanthemum floribundum).  I planted pups of Agave 'Blue Flame' and Agave mediopicta 'Alba' here, along with cuttings of 2 varieties of Aeonium.

Another view of the same area

I trimmed back the ice plant climbing underneath the Auranticarpa rhombifolium shrubs that loom over the succulent bed and pulled out a bucket load of grass weeds within it along the property line.  The ice plant could use more trimming, especially as the recent rain is going to prompt another growth spurt.

The street-side bed sits more than 2 feet below the level occupied by my lath (shade) house.  Cleaning up the lower level inevitably led to some tidying up of the area above as well.

I cut back the branches of the Auranticarpa rubbing against the side of the lath house and cleared the area on the ledge next to it of pots and a plant stand that had occupied the area since our home remodel

This is a view of the street-side bed from the lath house.  My hope is that the Yucca rostrata will eventually screen part of the area between our Xylosma hedge (to the right) and the large Auranticarpa shrubs (to the left).

Pots sitting on sections cut from a tree removed years ago partially screen the area now

I expect I'll be back tweaking this bed before the week is out but here's another view of what it looks like now.



All material © 2012-2021 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party


30 comments:

  1. It's looking good Kris. I think you might be being over critical. If I can offer my two cents, maybe try taking one or two types of groundcover to weave between all the taller plants. You have lots of great focal plants but some similar looking negative space between would show them off really well.

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    1. I'd previously used the low-growing ice plant as groundcover as it's one of the few things I've found to handle the exceptionally dry conditions of that bed, Elaine. Unfortunately, the new growth of the ice plants covers the dead undergrowth and gets a bit tall, as well as ratty over time. Aeonium 'Kiwi' does a relatively good job at the edges of the bed, until it gets hot and the plants go dormant. I sprinkled in some California poppy seeds but, unless we get a lot more rain, or I start hand-watering that bed daily, I probably can't expect them to do a good job as fillers. Eventually, the larger succulents will expand in size and rub shoulders, especially the 'Blue Flame' Agave cuttings on the south end, but as that'll take 2-3 years, you're right that I need to find something to add pops of color in the interim. My best bets may be Crassula ovata (if I keep it pruned small) and Crassula pubescens radicans. There are some low-growing Sedums and Graptosedums I love but I'm not sure either would hold up long in that spot.

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  2. It’s looking good! It’s amazing how much you end up tweaking and removing when the original estimation would have been a much more prudent set of tasks.

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    1. I find I have to step back sometimes and tell myself I've done enough for now! Otherwise, I'd be chained to a single project for a month at a time!

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  3. I think it is looking great. I love the Euphoria Sticks on fire. I have tried to grow it here. It never makes it through the winter in my house. Not enough sun I think. That glow it makes is what draws me to it. I am surprised that the pots aren't taken being so close to the road. Love the dragon.

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    1. It's a private road, albeit one serving 50+ households, as well as locals from surrounding neighborhoods who walk there. We really haven't had a problem with people carrying off anything without permission - unless you count the coyote that stole our newspaper once or the raccoons that run off with seashells from our backyard fountain! The signs letting people know that we - and many of the neighbors around us - have video surveillance probably helps too...

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  4. Looks good. Loos like it will fill in very well.

    Maybe try a low (1') tall ring of hardware cloth around the Restio? Just to send it upwards a little? Or is it not getting enough sun? I grew mine in a pot for years and years.

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    1. That's a great idea, HB! It may be that the wind and recent rain have beat the restio down some but the bed is also mildly sloped at that end so gravity may be playing a role as well. The Chondropetalum has been there over 7 years and it took quite awhile to reach its current state. I read one source that said restios like this can survive division (after a period of "pouting") but, with the agaves in place, dividing it could be a nightmare.

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  5. It's just beautiful, even before you cleaned it up. I, too, like the Sticks on Fire; however, all of the greens and blues work well together. I don't have a succulent garden, but this makes me wish that I did.

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    1. 'Sticks on Fire' is another succulent that requires some management. It can literally grow house high here and, if you cut it back regularly as I do with some of mine, you have to be very careful of its latex sap, which can be a skin irritant. Even so, it's a beautiful plant that responds well to the stress of heat and drought. I've given away cuttings on several occasions, leaving them in buckets at the corner of our driveway with a "free" sign (as well as a warning about their sap), and they routinely disappear faster than any of my other giveaways, even fresh lemons and other citrus!

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  6. You've been busy! I think it looks great, Kris. The lath house and the willows make a nice backdrop framing the improved bed. I also like the little 'window' that peeks through to the harbor beyond.

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    1. Thanks Eliza. That "window" to the harbor in the last photo could disappear someday if I ever manage to conform the 3 Xylosma congestum shrubs added in 2015 to replace dead and dying Auranticarpas to align with the existing Xylosma hedge starting at the driveway entrance as was originally intended. The succulent bed in front of those additional Xylosma shrubs has made that difficult but I don't want to give up the succulents.

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  7. I think it looks great, Kris! I'm currently tweaking my street side bed too. I almost wish I had left it the way it was, but once I started to remove major players, it became kind of a chain reaction and you end up removing far more than you originally thought you'd have to. You aren't kidding about it becoming far more involved than intended. (When will I ever learn..?)

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    1. 2020 and 2021 seem to be the years to face those projects we've long avoided, Anna. Think of how proud of ourselves we'll be when we're finally done! Of course, there always seems to be new projects waiting in the wings...

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  8. So glad your Yucca rostrata finally has a home!

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    1. I heard what you and others told me recently! The poor Yucca rostrata was VERY root-bound. I moved the Tithonia diversifolia I'd previously put in that spot, which may or may not survive in its new location..

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  9. The rejuvenation of the front bed turned out great (although it was quite fabulous before too...).
    I once grew ice plants but as their vigorous nature became clear, I got rid of all of it. As the succulents get more establish, you may free up more real estate hogged by the ice plant. I can't wait to see the Yucca rostrata bulking up; it will have a great presence at that spot. The scaly dragon pot is fabulous.

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    1. The neighbors had the ice plant growing on their side of the property line and it'd crept over to ours. I took tiny cuttings of it a couple of years ago and spread them around as fillers on my side and they took off with a vengeance.

      That dragon pot was an impulse purchase, discovered when I was shopping for Christmas presents online. The price had been significantly reduced so how could I resist? I'm attracted to dragons and gargoyles for reasons I can't explain even to myself.

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    2. Some things should remain a mystery :-D

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  10. Love the restios too, but they are wayward creatures! And I just brought in four of that chondro and hope to grow them so they can fountain outwards and grow unimpeded (and not squash any neighbors!) As it bulks up I'm going to thin it like I do the phormium -- we'll see how it likes this treatment. All your hard work does show through!

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    1. Sources say it's okay to take out the dead growth of a restio but mine is obnoxiously healthy. I'm going to try HB's suggestion.

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  11. How tall is the Senecio amaniensis in the streetside bed? This is my first encounter and I am obsessed, as often happens with succulents. For some reason the taller they are, the more exciting I find them!?

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    1. I read that, in its native Tanzania, Senecio amaniensis can grow over 4 feet tall. Some of the stalks in that street-side bed, most of which snaked between plants and along the ground, were easily 3+ feet long. They're relatively brittle and often broke as I attempted to weave them in different directions. Cuttings seem to root easily, however. They do have a nice presence in the bed but I was clearing a lot of broken pieces.

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    2. Thanks so much! Now to find a mama plant. Also, I forgot to ask, have you ever tried cramming Dudleyas into your dry-laid walls? Mine just sort of pooted along until I got them vertical :)

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    3. No, I haven't tried that. Most sections of my dry stack wall are in partial to full shade and I've used Aeonium cuttings there but, the next time I pick up a new Dudleya, I'll try to find a sunny spot to stick it in the wall. Thanks for the tip.

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  12. I am wondering about the restio. My sister cut mine back hard (when we were living in Switzerland) and it died. But the common name is thatching reed, and they are harvested in sheaves for thatched roofs. Also popular plants for parking at malls, where they get trimmed back. I wonder what the secret is. Maybe try cutting the streetside flop by half, so there is still some green growth to sustain the plant.

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    1. PS Harvesters would cut the old culms off just above the top of the new culms which push through in the centre of the plant, taking care not to damage the growing tips of the new culms. from http://pza.sanbi.org/elegia-tectorum

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    2. Thanks for your input on restios, Diana! Whatever I do, I'll take it slowly and carefully to see how the plant reacts. I've cut stems before to use in flower arrangements so I know the plant can take at least a wee bit of trimming.

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  13. I mean...it looked great before and after. I'm sure the new littles will soon be large and lush. I see what you mean about the Chondropetalum and the Agaves. Can the comb-over flip to a different direction? Or maybe that's a silly question... I like HB's suggestion, too. And I LOVE your dragon pot!

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    1. Like a hair part, I expect the Chrondropetalum wants to flop in that direction, Beth. The plant's backed by a Xylosma shrub added years ago to extend the hedge so there's little room for it to shift. Wind direction may also be a factor.

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