The driveway planters (a couple of stock tanks, a trio of thick black pottery cast-offs from the ex-office job and a couple other galvanized containers, which are normally our vegetable garden), are pulling double duty this year. For the winter months they are my token bit of the desert, plopped down here in Portland, reminding me of warmer times. I first planted them with a few things I’d dug to keep an eye on over the winter, plants I could give special treatment to on cold days and nights. Then I moved our tree fern (Dicksonia Antarctica) up next to the house too, for extra protection… These agaves had been very happy in the ground, but over the winter months when things get really wet...not so much, since they were in an area without great drainage. Planting them in the better draining "fluffy" soil of the stock tanks will help with that. Then I started filling in with a few more plants, late purchases or gifts, things I hadn’t managed to find a home for in the ground. This Yucca faxoniana was a bargain Cistus parking lot sale find. No time to find it a home before winter though… Then things got really fun after our trip to the desert SW; I had brought back a lot of plants that technically should be hardy here in Portland, with adequate drainage of course. Where better to let them experience their first PNW winter than in this protected area in containers with fast draining soil?
The collecting first began at my in-laws in Truth or Consequences, New Mexico. They had a few unplanted/unwanted Yuccas (elata and glauca, I believe) popping up around their property. These clearly needed to be liberated and brought to a good home in Oregon. There was this little volunteer Cylinderopuntia…clearly needing a little love. And Andrew spotted the world’s tiniest little cactus, or at least the smallest in my collection… Since our last visit in 2008 my in-laws had gotten rid of any and all Agaves on their property (let’s not talk about that) but on a quick walk around the neighborhood I spotted a neighbors plant that was producing a healthy crop of pups…neither mom or the babies appeared to be particular “cared for”…I hatched a plan. My knocks at the door went unanswered, so later the next day my father-in-law went to their door. Before I knew it he was back with permission for me to dig. Wasn’t that the sweetest thing for him to do? I’m sure having a daughter-in-law from Oregon who loves these “weeds” isn’t a point of pride, yet he just went right over there and asked for me. Thank you Daryl! Andrew quickly got to work liberating a few of the pups. The haul... A couple of New Mexican Opuntia pads, acquired in a less than proper manner, also came home with us. There was an overgrown and uninhabited lot near my in-laws that had several unusual (to me) Opuntias almost taking over. I plucked a couple of pads, including a Cows-tongue (Opuntia linguiformis)… …and this rather tough looking one… Now I must point out that these plants were not in someone’s garden, or a public planting. I realize someone owned the lot, and thus the plants, but of the 20,000 pads growing there I don’t think they’ll miss a couple…I would never, ever, pluck a pad from a garden, that would be evil (although of course I do covet them!). Oh and just so you know a little cosmic justice did get me. No matter how careful I thought I was being I still ended up with a handful of glochids, which I was picking out for days.
The next round of scavenging took place in my brother’s garden in Phoenix. Pups from this cluster of Agave macroacantha were offered…in “u-pick” style (dig them and they’re yours). With those handsome black spines how could I say no? This Agave isn’t one of the more cold hardy…only listed as a zone 9, yet they lived through the unusually cold winter Phoenix had last year. Still…20 F degrees in Phoenix is not the same as 20 degrees in Portland…(ya, one’s a little wetter). I should probably pull these guys inside for the winter… I also plucked a couple of pups from an unknown thin leafed blue Agave and two survivors from his wheelbarrow of agave madness. These plants along with a few others purchased along the way were all packed up during the last day of our vacation and shipped home UPS. We beat them home by a few days, when the package finally showed up it was a most welcome opportunity to mentally return to the desert for a few hours while I unpacked and planted. What could be a better treat over the winter than to gaze upon containers full of spiky dangerous plants every time you leave the house?