Tuesday, March 8, 2011

There are still surprises to be found at Kennedy School

The rain actually stopped for about an hour last week and although it was still terribly cold I felt like a little walking adventure, you know what that means right? A visit to McMenamin’s Kennedy School. I love to cut up into the garden the back way, which means passing the giant Cardoons. Not quite so giant at the moment but just give them a couple of months… The next stop is my favorite little desert corner. It’s about time to tally up the winter losses and see how everyone is doing. Some look just fine… And others a little soggy… At least around the edges (you might not be able to see in this picture but there are brown mushy leaves on the bottom)… This Agave bracteosa looks great... While just inches away this one is not so good. Some of their Yuccas have the same issue as a couple of mine do. Last year mine snapped out of it as soon as the weather warmed up. This planting area is new; it used to just be lawn. I love that they are incorporating even more planting areas! More of their Euphorbia starting to bloom…a nice combination with the catkins from an unknown shrub. And look! A tree removed…and the Tetrapanax stand by, ready to take over. Color! So that surprise I mentioned in the title of this post? Guess what I found, hiding right under my nose? A Schefflera taiwaniana! At Kennedy School! And guess how long it’s been there? Since last May…that only took me 10 months to discover… looks pretty good considering it just came through a wet cold winter with no protection! Back home I thought I would check up on a few things. The massive amounts of rain we got in late February, combined with a few days of record cold turned parts of this cute little Agave Parryi truncata to mush. So sad. Just inches away this Agave parryi var. parryi (from Rare Plant Research) is just fine. Same for this Agave striata, fine other than a couple of bent spikes from the protective covers it received when the temps dipped below 20. Here’s my most irritatingly injured agave, this poor little Agave bracteosa was laid on by the neighbor’s cat. Evidently the cat thought the frost cloth and burlap that I had put over the agave was a nice warm place to snuggle up. How do I know? The fur left behind as evidence. And I thought that using my planting beds as a toilet was bad…this took my anti-cat sentiments to an entirely new level.

One of my sick Yucca…(as I mentioned experience tells me not to worry, it will be fine when the weather warms up, although the leaves will have to be removed). The agaves that I dug up and put in the better draining (and warmer) stock tanks for winter are all doing fabulous. Since these are my veggie tanks they are usually empty in the winter. Good to know I can over-winter agaves here with success…maybe this means more agave filled stock tanks elsewhere in the garden? Uhm….now that’s an interesting idea!!!


  1. Those catkins are spectacular. Any chance of finding out what they are? You just made a good case for redoubling my effort to procure a stock tank. What? you say: just one? Well, we all have to start somewhere.

    1. It is likely Garrya fremontii which is native.

  2. Ahhh...you're so lucky to live near Kennedy School...they have such nice gardens. I love those Cardoon...wish I had room for them...maybe in the parking strips next year! I think the mystery shrub MAY be a Corylus...but I'm no shrub expert. I know how you feel about neighbors' cats...ours seem to think my various Nepeta are there simply to be used as scented, cushy sleeping spots...grrrr.

  3. garrya elliptica.

    they grow into small trees here if you prune them that way. excellent evergreen shrub tree.

  4. What spa treatment your agaves had had in the stock tanks. They look gorgeous! I just pulled a desmettiana out of the ground today that was ruined by snails. That counts for winter damage, doesn't it?

  5. I have GOT to find one of those scheffleras, or my name isn't the Rainforest Gardener! Those gardens look beautiful by the way. It's always nice to see how plants do locally.

  6. We had cardoons for several years in our tiny garden. They are so tasty! My husband and I jokingly still refer to them at Cardoonicus Maximus as if they were some kind of extra in Spartacus.

  7. I believe the beautiful catkins belong to Garrya elliptica.


  8. Very nice; too bad Oregon is showing up Abq and even Las Cruces on nicer-looking agaves. Not fair, I tell ya!

  9. Some great-looking plants, and some sad ones - glad to hear your yucca will perk up with warmer weather.

  10. So funny...Mickey and I were just walking through the Kennedy School garden, quite by accident, last Sunday! I noticed all of the plants, plus some incredible Lagerstroemia, that you refer to in this post! I'm relieved to hear that the brown spots on my Yuccas may not be a bad thing afterall! Hey, do you have experience transplanting Yucca? Is it possible to transplant a yucca and bury it below its 'crown'? Will it form roots along the exposed stem? I absolutely LOVE Garrya! Its a good plant for espalier too!

  11. ricki, lots of people in the know came through for you: Garrya elliptica. I completely understand about starting with one tank...but watch out they are addictive! (and you've got lots of space to fill).

    scott, oh Cardoon would be fabulous in a parking strip! Sculpture from all sides.

    eeldip, you're killing me. So much knowledge and a secret identity...who are you? :)

    Denise, definitely counts. I should have also taken a pic of the blue agave that I left in the ground (front garden)...it looks as good as the ones in the tank. Now I know.

    RFG, some are saying they will be "widely" available this summer. Others say not until 2012.

    Ficurinia, Cardoonicus Maximus...that's good. I've got two that I picked up on sale at Garden Fever...I hadn't planned to eat them but you're tempting me!

    laura, thank you! Great link.

    DD, but they are so small! No big ones like in NM, and size matters! (sorry) BTW the blue ones are from NM, via the in-laws.

    VW, I hope I didn't speak too soon.

    Lauren, I have a lot of Yucca transplanting experience. Basically you can just lay them on the ground and do nothing and they will grow, weeds they are! Seriously though I don't recall ever burying one beneath it's crown (I'd be afraid of rot), but then again they are pretty tough and I imagine your soil probably drains pretty well?

  12. Some people have fish tanks, you have agave tanks. Seems perfectly natural to me and a great use of vacant space.

    I love the look of cardoons but they're locally invasive. Fortunately artichokes do just as well here, and they're about as delicious in my book.

  13. Don't pull up any agave that are showing any sign of green. I have plants that are losing the top portion of the growing tip, but pushing out from the bottom with the next leaf!

    Not something I would have expected.

    I'm looking at the photo of the Agave Parryi truncata. Give it time to die completely, or see if it will do a Lazarus.


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