The dry rock wall; 2017

We are rapidly approaching the last few weeks where the xeriscape in my front yard will look good. We have already been experiencing serious rainfall, but true cold temperatures are still to come. The combination could be fatal to a few of the more tender plants, but with any luck they’ll pull through. Or I’ll see them start to drown in the icy rain and pull them out to stick them in the greenhouse somewhere.

Anyway, I thought I should take a few pictures. Today has been warm and sunny, so the plants are looking good.

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Aloe ‘Blue Elf’
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Trichocereus grandiflorus hybrid
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Agave ‘Sharkskin’

These three have always been in pots, and will probably continue to live in pots forever. The aloe and the cactus are marginally hardy here anyway, so I wouldn’t want to plant them in the ground. As for the rest of the plants, hopefully excellent drainage will afford them the protection they need.

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Agave montana. Supposedly extremely hardy.
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I like how agave spines catch the fading light.

I do appreciate a good agave, but they don’t always cope well with our winters. I am still exploring my options, and doing a bit of experimenting. I’m hoping that I’ll have a winner with Agave montana, especially with excellent drainage on a rocky slope. If it survives the winter, you can bet that I’ll be getting more of them in the future. This one received no water this year from me, and it looks great.

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More sunlight on spines…
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This time on Agave x protamericana ‘Silver Surfer’

Silver Surfer is another supposedly hardy agave. I hope it is! It looks great, and the pale silver color of it’s leaves looks incredible in person. It did have a damaged leaf this summer, from a deer running over it. I bet it received a nasty stab, though. Other than that, it seems fairly bulletproof. We shall see what happens this winter.

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Agave parryi var. huachucensis on the right, and a small Agave vilmoriniana on the left
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After not growing at all since 2015, this summer the “huach” decided to start up again, albeit slowly. I’m sure it had something to do with being in the ground.
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This Agave vilmoriniana is one of a dozen that I got this spring as bulbils. They have actually grown pretty fast.
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If these little agaves don’t survive the winter (very possible) I have several growing in the greenhouse as insurance.
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The roots on these agaves are very cool.
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I have planted several in some really small spaces, with extremely sharp drainage. We’ll see if that does anything for them over the winter.

The one agave that I know will take our wet winters with ease is what I assume is Agave americana. I have had it for several years, and even though my original plant is still growing in Vancouver, I cut a pup off of it before I left. It has now become 6 plants.

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Those terminal spines are deadly in form and function. I’ve picked (large) ants off the ends of them after somehow skewering themselves!
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One of several tiny pups that I stuck in the crevices of the rock wall. They have all grown considerably this year, doubling in size.

Even though the driest portion of my garden features heavily in Agavaceae, I do have other plants. Agaves just have incredible leaves, so it’s hard not to like them!

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Yucca filamentosa ‘Color Guard’ is fairly common in commercial landscapes around here, and rightfully so. They look great and are a no-maintenance plant. I did have some trouble with something (I think slugs) eating huge holes in the central spike of new leaves this spring. After I put down some slug bait, it stopped. Funny how that works…
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Opuntia ellisiana has grown more this summer than it ever has. I’ve had it for quite a while, and the first couple of years it would put out a pad a year. Then I nearly lost it to poor drainage, but I saved a single pad. It sat in a one gallon pot, in limbo and not growing, for over a year. Just like some of the other plants nearby, this summer was good to it.
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Opuntia phaeacantha with ripe fruit. I tasted one, and wasn’t impressed with texture or flavor in the slightest. I’ve had O subarmata in the past, and that was much better all around. At least this one looks good.
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Cylindropuntia imbricata will hopefully develop into a formidable wall of spines. Once again, drainage will be important for this one’s long term survival. It will take much colder temperatures than we get, but if it ends up sitting in water over the winter it may just rot.

This may be a farewell to some of these plants, but I hope not. I’m not expecting the octopus agaves to do well over the winter, especially if we have another winter like last year. I’ve had them come back a few times, but what kind of life is it if they have to resprout from the roots?

I have one more plant that I wanted to include in this farewell to summer. Another kiwi native (yes, I have a lot of them), Cordyline australis ‘Red Sensation’ is a fast grower here. If you can protect them from the worst of our freezes, they can get pretty big. There is a pair of large cordys just down the road from me, and they survived last winter without any troubles. The are about 6 feet tall currently. Hopefully being up against the house will play in their favor this winter!

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One of two cordys near my front door. I think I only have half a dozen or so of these currently. There are so many kinds, and so little space.
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