Winter Walk-Off To A Whole Lot Of Agaves
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 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?
Click on to A Tidewater Gardener for more winter walk-offs.