Even in sunny Southern California, winter tends to tamp down activity in the garden. The good news is that succulents provide interest year-round. In fact, washed clean of accumulated dust and dirt by even a light amount of rain and facing less competition from flashy flowers, they shine in winter, at least in my frost-free climate.
The weather generally permits daily walks around the neighborhood and I recently took notice of a couple of interesting developments.
|Walking with a neighbor, we stopped in front of the long border at the front of her house and I noticed that the flowers of her variegated Aloe arborescens had a crested form, which I've never seen before|
|Two Agave attenuata (foxtail agaves) in another neighbor's street-side garden have developed hefty bloom stalks|
Back on my home turf, as I was cleaning up leaves in my front garden, I noticed that one of my own agaves is also preparing to bloom.
|This is Agave 'Multicolor' (syn Agave mitis 'Multicolor', formerly classified as Agave celsii). I purchased this one in 2017 and acquired 2 more somewhat later.|
I was startled to find that Agave 'Multicolor' is going to bloom - and that its bloom stalk was already about six feet tall by the time I noticed that fact. On the other hand, two agaves I check regularly for signs of a bloom event are maintaining the status quo.
|The Agave ovatifolia (whale's tongue agave) shown here has been in this spot for over 10 years. It and its companion, Agave vilmoriniana (octopus agave), planted in 2014, are both larger than this photo makes them appear.|
Aloe blooms don't present the concerns that agave blooms do as aloes don't die after flowering. I don't have many aloes that bloom this early in the season but I noticed a few this week.
|This is one of the smaller hybrids, Aloe 'Safari Sunrise'|
|The centerpiece in the middle of this collection of agaves and yuccas is a hybrid Aloe vanbalenii x ferox. This will be the second time it's bloomed in my garden since it was planted in 2016.|
|The bed in the foreground was replanted with a variety of succulents in late 2021 and the bed in the background was replanted with succulents this year|
|The succulents and bromeliads in this bed along the front property line were replanted in September following our water pipe replacement project|
|This is one of my oldest succulent beds, first planted in January 2016 in the front garden next to the garage after we removed the last of our lawn. The only succulent that was in place here when we bought the property was that multi-trunked clump of Agave attenuata in the background on the left. Despite adding and subtracting succulents for years, I'm still dissatisfied with the area overall. I think my original error, which I repeated again and again, was relying too much on small plants. Rather than continue to tweak it, I think a wholesale replanting may be in order.|
After scrutinizing those succulent beds I decided to stop procrastinating about tweaking the bed adjacent to the back of the house.
|This week, I added 3 cuttings of Aeonium 'Sunburst' and 7 pups of Agave bracteosa (squid agave), all relatively small. You may not even be able to make them out in this wide shot.|
|These photos taken from inside the house show the additions more clearly. The Aeonium cuttings should grow quickly but the squids may take their time.|
There are other succulent beds I haven't shown in this post of course. Can you believe that, when we moved in over ten years ago, the only succulent in my garden was that multi-trunked Agave attenuata in the front garden? Not only have I propagated that particular foxtail agave many times over, I've added too many other succulents to count since then. With every passing year, more and more of my garden has been given over to succulents and, due to the pressures of climate change, I fully expect that trend to continue.
Best wishes for a wonderful start to December! Rain is in our forecast for the weekend but the prospects are literally shifting hour-to-hour - and not in a positive direction. One system is expected to pass through in the early morning hours, to be followed by another system on Sunday but, even if the rain materializes, it's no longer expected to amount to much here along the coast. Fingers are crossed that we'll do better than the forecasters are currently projecting.
All material © 2012-2022 by Kris Peterson for Late to the Garden Party
I hope you get some rain down there Kris-I got almost an inch yesterday and more is on the way tomorrow. There is the frugality factor when relying on small plants, but it's easy for impatience to override frugality ! I always try to include something that grows fast-for me when it comes to succulents that usually means Graptoveria Fred Ives and Colyledon orbiculata. I revise beds so often neither one ever gets the chance to take over.ReplyDelete
While we're socked in this morning and can't even see the closest houses across the canyon, we've only had 0.11/inch of rain so far with current projections suggesting we won't get any more until Sunday, and not much then. Ventura and the northern part of LA Counties may get more.Delete
Nothing other than the Agave attenuata and Aeonium arboreum have done well in that succulent bed in front of our garage. I'm wondering if I didn't do enough to build up the soil. All the Mangaves I placed there have failed or struggled (which isn't the case elsewhere) and a large fan aloe a friend gave me years ago as a division still looks like it's struggling to hold on. The Echeveria agavoides I added this year are doing okay but I think I'd be happier if I pulled everything up, added more succulent mix, and planted a few good-sized agaves :)
The Aloe next to the vanbalenii hybrid might be vanbalenii. Time and a flower will tell. :) The beds look really nice. I agree the "oldest" bed could use a few big plants. Bigger area, bigger plants.ReplyDelete
We got only 0.01", so you outdid our area this time. Disappointing, but way better than a heat wave, right?
I definitely need bigger plants in that bed. I threw in the Agave colorata I had to move from my street-side bed when a drip line underneath it split but everything is out of proportion. I few good-sized agaves and general improvements on the haphazard layout is called for. In fact, the bed is calling out for that (loudly).Delete
Rain in any amount is welcome. Maybe you'll get more as the system continues to move south. We just picked up another 0.01/inch so there's some energy still left in it - and then there's a second system due on Sunday.
How old are agaves in general when they bloom, or does it vary from species to species? I can imagine the demise of such a large plant would throw your garden design off for a few years. I guess that is true of all gardens with plants that don't always make it. Such are the vagaries of gardening! ElizaReplyDelete
Despite the collective common name of "century plant," none last nearly that long and the lifespans by species vary a lot. One source says that agaves generally live 8-40 years. 'Blue Glow' is said to have a lifespan of 7-15 years and ovatifolia (whale's tongue) 10-20 years. Growing conditions, such as the amount of water they receive, as well as the stresses they experience, are factors. My 2 original Agave desmettiana flowered about 5 years after I planted them. As many, if not most are slow-growing, one purchased in a 1-gallon container (as I recall was the case with my original ovatifolia) is probably 2-3 years old it's planted. Purchased in 4-6 inch pots before their popularity exploded, most of my 'Blue Glows' were probably only 1-2 years old when I got them. Most agaves produce pups and many also produce bulbils (plantlets on the bloom stalk) when they die so that's some consolation for their loss but it takes years before those, especially the tiny bulbils, grow to a garden-worthy size.Delete
The proportions of plant to rock in the old bed put me in mind of Coleson's Austin crevice garden; I love the way the reddish stone echoes the Arbutus trunk. Can't wait to see what you come up with, your before/afters are always great. Fingers crossed for rain!ReplyDelete
One of my central questions with that bed is: do I need more rock? I'm generally of the opinion that the more rock the better a succulent bed will be. The chances for additional rain on Sunday have dropped dramatically (to 24%) but we got 0.17/inch yesterday so the irrigation system is off for now.Delete
Looking at the photo of your neighbour's garden I was struck by that gorgeous mass of of magenta behind the aloes. What is it? Here's a suggestion for the one succulent bed you are dissatisfied with: it needs either a large focal point plant such as a Yucca 'Brightstar' or a large variegated agave. That would make the smaller plants into a bigger mass. Is there something large and grassy that would go there? It would also work.ReplyDelete
That mass of magenta is a huge Bougainvillea. It's a great plant in a spot like that but it can be hard to manage - and my husband detests the plant (long story).Delete
I'd love to have another good-sized Yucca 'Bright Star' but the last ones I saw were priced over $100. I've got 2 pups but it'll be years before they reach a significant size. I did plant a small Agave 'Stained Glass' in that area 3 years ago but it's also a slow grower. An Agave desmettiana 'Variegata' would meet your spec - I haven't seen one recently in local garden centers but digging up one of the mid-sized ones elsewhere in my garden is an interesting idea. I like your grass recommendation too - the only downside is that most, like my Pennisetums, need to be cut back hard in late winter, which would leave a temporary bare spot each spring. Thought-provoking input, Elaine!
Your succulents are looking great, Kris and I love your neighbours’ display too. I continue to lust over the illusive Agave ovatifolia, which does not appear to be available here. Your specimen is superb.ReplyDelete
Have you considered a gravel top dressing for your oldest succulent bed? I wonder if that would help the soil in that area to retain more moisture and perhaps help some of the struggling plants you mentioned to grow faster?
I have thought about adding gravel to that bed and, assuming I move ahead and tear the area apart, that'd be the time to do it, Horticat. I originally hesitated to do that in fear it would create a lot of reflected heat during the hot summer months but, with partial tree coverage, I think that concern may be misplaced. The leaf litter is my one remaining concern but I've managed with the gravel in my cutting garden so I imagine I could do so there as well.Delete
Your garden isn't a *succulent garden* per se, but it demonstrates beautifully how you can combine succulents with just about any type of plant imaginable. It's the ultimate example of a fusion garden, isn't it?ReplyDelete
Hopefully, it'll remain a fusion garden, Gerhard, even as the proportions of trees, shrubs and perennials versus succulents continues to shift in the latter's favor ;)Delete
I couldn't help but laugh, the bloom stalk on you Agave 'Multicolor' being 6ft tall by the time you noticed it. That's how you know you've got a large garden!ReplyDelete
Sneaky Agave 'Multicolor' took advantage of the very large Leucadendron 'Safari Goldstrike' looming above it to "hide" its bloom stalk, Loree ;) I had to prune the Leucadendron to make the bloom stalk more visible when I photographed it. I noticed the change in color in the Agave's lower leaves before a closer look revealed the stalk.Delete
I have always had a fondness for succulents and that Agave is amazing! I can never get enough of your posts!ReplyDelete
Thanks Lee. Blooming agaves are always a mixed bag because they're monocarpic - it's fun to watch their slow flowering but sad to lose them in the process.Delete
May 2023 bring you enough rain. We wait hopefully.ReplyDelete
Thanks Diana. Our "water year" is measured from October 1st through September 30th of the following year. Thus far, the present 2023 water year doesn't look especially favorable for Southern California, although Northern California is currently doing better. There's some hope that the 2024 water year, starting October 1, 2023, may be an El Nino year, which often brings more rain to SoCal.Delete
In the meantime, I try to capture and store every drop possible.