Winter Walk-Off To A Whole Lot Of Agaves


 Above:  it's not a real walk without the pups!

It's Winter Walk-Off time, hosted by A Tidewater Gardener.  A walk near home, or somewhere, before winter ends, to ponder what's out there in our corner of the world.  This year we'll take a quick walk to look at a neighbor's new front yard landscape.  We'll include a few sights seen along our walk there.  
 Walking has been more difficult lately.  Our generous winter rains undermined the road that runs to our house.  The county closed it to vehicle traffic and it will take several weeks to repair the damage.  

The effect of that in regards to driving means taking a longer, twisting, narrow, circuitous route to leave the neighborhood.  On the plus side, there's no vehicle traffic by our home because of the closure, so it's much much quieter now.  We can still walk through the roadblock at this moment, but once they dig a 10' (3 m) deep trench to repair the drainage pipe that runs under the road and the road itself,  we won't be walking that way until the repairs are completed.  
 They've started digging...
 Rain over time undermined this section of road.  Our five year drought gave it five extra years of service.  When this winter brought generous rain, the slope adjacent to the road collapsed. 
 Speaking of winter rains, everything is so green again.
 We walk downhill.  Here were four or five Eucalyptus and an Acacia.  The substantial rains softened the soil and a strong wind storm knocked the trees down.  This is not a bad thing.  The Eucs were in poor shape before the drought began, and they are serious fire hazards.  The Acacia was a half-dead mess. 
 So green!  It continues to shock--we had gotten to expect grey-brown hills.  Our hills haven't looked this verdant since the beginning of 2011.  The yellow flowers are Oxalis pes-caprae, a rampant and hard-to-get-rid-of invasive weed.  It makes for a lovely scene, but imagine instead native California poppies, Salvias, and Lupines...
There was a California quail sounding the alarm, the bird completely hidden in the shrubby plant at the right of the screen.  This area is a major quail hangout.  That is why Natasha is looking so intent. 
 This area contains Eriogonum, Artemisia, Rhus,  Malosma, Lotus (deerweed), Salvias, Toyon, and other native plants.  If only they could crowd out the Oxalis.  


 Now we have to walk up a hill to our destination.  This scene is something I always ponder: rock mulch and two Azaleas planted under Liquidambar trees.  We gardeners have our distinctive landmarks.  Unlike the auto enthusiast who remembers where all the cool cars are parked, we navigate neighborhoods via really good and really sad landscapes...
 Another landmark is a beautiful mature Agonis flexuosa tree.  About three years ago the owners had it thinned and reduced, but their arborist knew what he was doing.  The tree looks gorgeous again--actually better than it appeared pre-cut-back.   
 Finally, we arrive at our goal.  A homeowner had the front of his property updated, with the lawn-landscape replaced by more climate appropriate plants.  

The "before" was a big lawn, several Liquidambar trees, a trio of European white birch that died of thirst, and some standard common shrubs.  This landscape probably dates to the early 1980s, when the home was built. 
The "after":
 Agaves! 
 The lawn is gone and the space is broken up with walkways, a low wall...
 ...a wide pathway to the front door...
 ...two colors of gravel mulch, and a whole heck of a lot of Agaves.  I spy the species multifilifera, montana x mitis (supposedly), tequiliana, desmetiana marginata, bracteosa and the oddity 'Cornelius'.    A whole lot of each type! 
 There are just a few other plants besides Agaves:  variegated Dianella tasmanica, tufts of blue fescue, a row of narrow-grown Ligustrum japonicum to screen out a neighboring home, and three multi-trunked Pittosporum undulatum.  I believe the Phoenix roblenii are saved and replanted from the old landscape
Asparagus densiflorus 'Myers' and a few petite succulents in the pots flanking the entry path.
 Not a single Agave americana, which is so weedy here.  Excellent!

I do have a few reservations.  Most of the Agave species chosen will eventually form untidy clumps that lacks the beauty of a solitary rosette.  Montana x mitis is very short-lived (although it will produce a few offsets that would be replacements).  The Dianella get ratty with burnt leaves in too much sun (and ratty in shade, too).  Pittosporum undulatum, slim and elegant in youth,  loses its beauty as it matures, reseeds, and the roots eventually become aggressive.  One is planted very close to the house.  I am unsure, too, how the two colors of gravel mulch will remain cleanly divided.  
 There's the narrow-trained Ligustrum that will be an excellent screening hedge fairly quickly--a year or two.  Variegated Dianella in the foreground. 
Overall, though, I like it a lot.  Knowledgeable maintenance would keep this looking good. 
 I hope it will be skillfully maintained!  Plant knowledge makes such a difference. 
 After admiring the project, we walked back home to our own not-as-artfully-designed, but still Agave-rich garden.  I'm not supposed to show our garden in a winter walk-off post, but how else do I end this walk-off, if not back at home?
 Just the very front...and is it really still winter? 
 Click on to A Tidewater Gardener for more winter walk-offs. 

Comments

  1. The hills around you are so pretty! But then I love yellow and green combinations (at least when I don't have to worry about Oxalis moving into my own garden). The neighbor's garden is well-done but I don't get the mixed gravel mulch either - maybe the intent was to add some interim interest while the agaves and other plants flesh out?

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    1. Yes I think that was the intent of two gravel colors.

      So green here. I continue to marvel. The same area was brown, then grey for so long and then it started to blacken things were so dry.

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  2. Yours looks a heck of a lot better than the rigid spiky gravely-ness of the other. You have color, softness, seasonality ... such excitement

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    1. We always think our own garden could be better, don't we?

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  3. So nice and green! I'm shocked every time i see the hills too. Thanks for taking us along on your walk-off. I would so tempted to replace your neighbors massed agaves with one of each type... Probably not very designer-y!

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    1. Now that I've grown a number of Agaves, favorites are more and more obvious. I think after a while I can reduce the number of types. Isn't it that way with most plants, over time? But then we try new genera...and it begins again.

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  4. You know I love an agave or 12, or 53... but your garden is so much more beautiful!

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    1. Well, that's just a good bit. I like formality and a limited plant palette so much, but it's never going to happen at home. Still have that "Oooh! Cool! Want!" thing going on with new plants.

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  5. Agree with the comments above. Your garden has diversity and is so much more interesting for it. I'm still struggling to find the balance between cramming in an example of everything I love and allowing drifts of mass planting for impact. You have the balance just right.

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    1. Well, I tend not to blog the bad bits of my garden!

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  6. Want to see what it looks like in two years -- probably fantastic before it starts seeing the problems you mention. I applaud those who make big changes though.

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    1. We walk by there often so I will be watching to see how it does. One thing about gravel mulch is litter than settles in after a windy day...it looks very good in person; perhaps the photos do not show that.

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  7. It will be interesting to see what this garden looks like in a few years, when it starts to mature. I hope I'm still reading and you're still blogging then, and some technological wonder hasn't supplanted both.

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    1. Yes, indeed.

      Blogging is fading away. There may end up being just be Facebook, Amazon, and Fake News. Resist!

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  8. Thank you for taking us along on your walk. My pups were very intrigued by the quail call; kept looking around the desk for the source. I am glad that you have gotten some rain, and also sorry it is coming in such great quantities all at once, but it is nice that the landscape is responding. I am wary of using 2 or more kinds of rock/gravel in patterns; it seems to not want to stay in place and the gets blurry. Here I recommend people stay away from using rock as mulch, as there is always too much stuff falling on it to stay clean. Happy spring to you!

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    1. In a couple of places they had an edging separating the two colors of gravel, but in other places nothing. Installer error? The gravel works best as mulch in treeless areas here, with plants that need extreme heat.

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  9. How knowledgeable are you when it comes to Agaves. I 'try' and grow them in the UK! But could do with a bit more sun and warmth lol!!!

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    1. They are so easy here. Many are from higher altitudes in Mexico, so mild temperatures are fine, but most prefer dry, dry, dry air, which might be a challenge in the UK!

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  10. These posts are so much fun. It is so nice that you have green again. I am pretty clueless when it comes to agaves and succulents. How fast do they grow? How long will it take your neighborsf new plantings to fill in?

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    1. They won't really fill in solidly, but there will be an appropriate amount of plant to negative space in just a year or two. Some grow pretty fast. In a dry climates space between plants is natural...they each stretch out their roots to get what limited rain might fall.

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  11. Are there also a. parryi? What are the blue grey with the more rounded leaves? I really like those. It's funny how likes are so personal. I've been waging war against asparagus fern since I moved to my house 3 years ago (not quite eradicated but close!) and I don't mind so much a. americana although I do understand your classification as weedy. I would also call it generic and overused. Love the pups too! Thanks for the tour! <3

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    1. The blue ones are montana x mitis (or so it has been identified--jury still out). It is a very pretty Agave.

      Some say that form of asparagus ("foxtail fern = common name) is not an aggressive reseeder like the others are, but I'm not sure about that. It looks great with succulents.

      A. americana is very generic here, yes. Well grown and with offsets constantly removed, (which rarely happens) it can be impressive.

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    2. My guess is A. parryi var truncata so please report back with future pictures! Lovely either way. I forgot that I do like a. americana mediopicta alba although with the drought, even that is becoming a bit more common. :)

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  12. I agree with the others that your garden is (by far) the most beautiful. Good that traffic is reduced, because yours is a "slam on the brakes for a better look" garden!

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  13. Boris and Natasha took you on a lovely walk. The verdant hills are delightful and the newly planted garden interesting but your garden is by far the highlight! Nice to know that Dianella gets ratty there too. I thought that our cooler winters were the reason that it looked less than fabulous here. Pity as the foliage is so pretty in pots at the nursery.

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    1. The Dianella gets brown edges and tips except in lots of shade and lots of water, and then it looks rather scanty because it isn't getting enough sun. Been there, done that. I agree, sad, because when it's fresh and grower-grown it's gorgeous.

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  14. I always wondered about gravel designs too. Then Laura Eubanks from Design for Serenity mentioned in a video that she sprays on something called Wetlook that keeps the various colors of gravel in place in her succulent installations. I thought that was interesting, never heard of it, but then I was at my local nursery, and there it was on the price board.

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    1. Interesting! I've never heard of that product either. I wonder if that is the same stuff used in those little big-box succulent arrangements with the gravel on top. I like the idea of edging of some sort myself. The line the edge makes giving a crisp border.

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    2. Since I was thinking about it, last night I went back to check exactly what it was she had said about it. Here's the quote: "Wetlook 2000, xxxxx xxxx! It's a permeable lacquer finish that is applied with a Hudson sprayer. Keeps the rock looking wet and holds everything in place!"

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    3. Huh. That's interesting. Might be useful for small or larger accent boulders, to keep the beauty of the stone showing. Thanks for the info, Geetha!

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  15. Your slope rules! The greenery from the rain, as well as the habitat restoration sign, are great.
    As to the new front yard, I may not understand the patterns in *all* those agaves, but it looks too much from my viewpoint. If only the anti-spiky plant celeb back in ABQ could see that one!
    It does appear to have low voltage lighting included (I spy a Saguaro Petite from FX), which might help that landscape make sense by the night view once it grows in some?

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    1. Most of the Agaves they chose are offsetters, so it will be a mess in a few years, but...I've seen even worse over-planting. At least they avoided A. americana, which is a real weed here. I will have to check how it looks at night lit up. Probably pretty good.

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    2. Hi Hoover Boo, sorry to be so late to visit! I hope your road repairs are complete by now. What a lovely place for a dog walk! You make me want to visit California again.

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    3. Hi Sarah! No problem, anytime. :) They finally finished the road last week, and did a very good job. It should be good for another 50 years now. I hope you get to visit CA again--there's so much to see here.

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  16. I missed this the first time round.

    We NEVER see the yellow Oxalis like that here. Scattered plants and patches, but not a field full.
    On our last hike ... we were weeding lupines along the path ;~) and my front garden has a carpet of volunteer Californian poppies.

    I am fond of Asparagus fern as the tiny white flowers feed bees, particularly in the weeks just after a fire. Our neighbours on both sides have agaves - not a fan of those spikes.

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