Thursday, February 23, 2012

The Agave report, February edition: Slugs on Agaves!

Sends a shudder up your spine doesn’t it?
Since my last Agave report was dated January 13th I decided it was time to give you the sad update. Things started going downhill the week of January 18th. We received 4.84” of rain that week, the first .99” of which fell as wet snow. The month of January started out quite dry, but ended with a total of 6.82” of rain.

The average annual precipitation in Truth or Consequences, NM, (where these blue Agave Americana are from) is 10.63 Inches, just 3.81" more than we got in one month! Add the fact that most of theirs (1.99”) falls in August, when it’s warm, and it’s not surprising that my plants look like this is it? Poor agaves! If there was a PETA for succulents they’d be picketing in front of my house for sure.
Okay, you’ve seen the worst of it (there’s no more slugs at least). Look this one is much happier! It’s only about 3 ft away from the slug buffet.
This is the third, it will lose an arm (or seven) but the center is still solid. If we’re blessed with a warm (and dry? Is that too much to hope for?) Spring it should be fine.
Agave americana 'Opal' - this poor little plant fell victim to the rain as well. I chopped off a couple of soggy arms and this is what remains.

Agave Montana
This Agave ovatifolia also lost an appendage.

This one just has a few cancerous lesions.
And just when you thought my agave experiment was going down in a soggy mess I give you this…

Agave parryi 'J.C. Raulston' looking as pristine as the day it went in the ground. Guess what I’ll be buying more of?
Agave bracteosa comes through relatively unscathed as well.
In the back garden I’m very happy with how the Agave parryi var. parryi is looking.
And the Agave neomexicana pup as well…
You might be wondering how I’m feeling about my decision to plant Agaves in the ground. Do I regret it? No, not at all, I knew it was risky, but nothing ventured nothing gained. The Americanas were looking pretty unhappy in containers anyway, and I’ve still got a couple more as back up. I am curious, are the “successes” due to the plant, or did I perhaps get better drainage worked in that spot? With the A. parryi and A. bracteosa those are supposed to be tough, so it makes sense that they would look good. But it's interesting that the A. americana so close together in the garden have such different reactions to the weather...

I have a few new victims lined up for this summer’s trials and I’m considering perhaps planting a few others with the intention of pulling them come Fall. Low maintenance gardening that’s not…but it might be a way to keep me and my Agaves happy!

31 comments:

  1. I think your successes are a combination of both but most of it is due to the plant, some are more suitable (or rather more tolerant) of winter wet. Despite the damages it's amazing how quickly some of these agaves recover when planted on the ground, they 'enjoy' having a free root run :)

    Which reminds me I must buy a bigger Parryi this year!

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    1. Yes! By all means buy a bigger Parryi! And you're right of course, both about the plant being more suitable...and having a free root run keeping them happy.

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  2. My heart goes out to you! As a fellow agave lover, I know how disheartening this must be.

    From what I've read, Agave parryi 'J.C. Raulston' tolerates cold, wet winters much better than other agave species so it's a great choice for your climate (although in my experience most parryi appear to be OK with extra water).

    I have three Agave montana: The regular green one and 'Baccarat' are doing great, but the variegated one I got from High Country Gardens shows some signs of rot. Go figure!

    Your rain fall is amazing. We've had just over 5" since July 1, 2011. I just spent 30 minutes this morning hand-watering the dozens of pots cluttering up our front yard because everything is bone dry.

    Gerhard
    :: Bamboo and More ::

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    1. I am kicking myself for only buying on of that 'J.C. Raulston'...my A. montana 'Baccarat' was so gorgeous for a couple of years...and then it succumbed. Ah well...I bet a variegated one would be gorgeous!

      I know the rain really is amazing, I try to be thankful for it. I know how much other parts of the country could use it!

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    2. That Agave parryi 'J.C. Raulston' is still quite uncommon, at least around here. I got mine mail-order. Do you have a local source?

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    3. Correction: I don't have a variegated A. montana. What I have is a variegated A. neomexicana selection called 'Sunspot'.

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    4. I got the 'J.C. Raulston' at Bauman’s Farm booth at the YGP Show last year. I was praying they would have them again this year but with no luck. I might just have to call/drive to their retail shop about an hour south of Portland.

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  3. I'm glad that the Agave parryi 'JC Raulston' is doing well because I want some in my garden!

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    1. Then you should have some! (glad to hear it)

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  4. The slugs are only eating the already-rotten leaves, right?

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    1. Yes, they stuck to the slimy stuff.

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  5. Always sad to see winter damage. As others have said, certain plants seem more prone to variability in hardiness. One plant may be fine, another from the same source in exactly the same conditions rots at the first sign of cold. Parryi and Bracteosa seem to be two of the most stable plants and seem more reliably cold hardy than many of the other cold hardy varieties. Montanas seem better when bigger, but very variable when the size of yours.

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    1. I should "bite the bullet" and plant another large Montana in the ground. I guess I'm still mourning the loss of the one I loved a couple years back.

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    1. You have no idea how much I would love to...

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  7. Eeesh! The slugs are gross, but I'm glad to hear they're not going for the intact leaves. A. parryi 'JC Raulston' sounds like the one to have for outdoors, along with A. bracteosa. Think I may prepare to plant my A. bracteosa out this coming summer: it seems less than happy in its pot. Thanks for the progress report!

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    1. You are so very welcome! I think I'll be putting another A. bracteosa in the ground too.

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  8. dude. i always try to look at plant death as a shopping opportunity.......you know, the whole positive spin thing..... just think of alol the spiky goodness you can buy when we are in SF.

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    1. I have a feeling you will make quite the dangerous shopping companion!

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  9. This is an interesting report since we have had a wet winter too. The cacti and succulents seem fine so far. We mound them up when planting because we can get too much rain occasionally.

    Good to see how well A. parryi does there, I have a couple to plant soon.

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    1. I mounded...but next time I will be mounding even more!

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  10. So sad for the unhappy Agaves :-( The benefit (for the rest of us) is getting to see which Agaves are suitable for Portland...and 'JC Raulston' definitely seem to be the winner!

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    1. I think I should find a source for 'JC Raulston' and start excepting orders!

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  11. If there's anything to regret, it's not planting more Agaves in the ground! But I guess it's never too late for that. Also, you will find that damage decreases the larger and more established they get. A. americana is not really a great choice around here, IMHO, because cold winters will always make it look unsightly. But there are still so many other options! I'll have to get hold of a 'JC Raulston' sometime. Most forms of A. parryi are prolific offsetters.

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    1. Never too late indeed...as I mentioned there are new victims lining up. I think I'll try a couple other A. parryi too!

      (I agree about the A. americana, but since they were free I figured why not try them)

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  12. Hi from Houston.
    I sometimes get cold, wet winters here in Houston and the same lesions and bacterial rot set in. Amazingly, all of them recover and 'grow out' and replace the lost leaves. It can sometimes take the entire summer and it's not that much fun to watch them struggle back to fullness.
    MY IDEA: If they are relatively small, could you build little plastic and wire domes over them for the wetter months? I know it would look like a weird landscape from planet ZorKan and heaven knows what your neighbors would think, but it's worth a try to save all that damage. Wetness is a far worse enemy to the agaves than cold. Oh well, that's my idea. Stay brave!
    David/:-)

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    1. Hello Houston! I appreciate your idea and have thought about it...on the other hand I'm not sure I want to go there. If this were the back garden maybe, but my intention with the front garden was that it look good throughout the winter. It's what I see as I come and go and I'm not sure the positives of the rain protecting structure would outweigh the negatives.

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  13. My cow horn agave is beloved by slugs and pretty crappy looking right now. Ditto a varieg celsii. Generally, my agaves in pots look better than those in the ground, with the exception of Mr. Ripples who is always amazing. Nothing bothers Blue Glow either. Your Raulston parryi looks perfect, and that's invaluable info.

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    1. So I guess what you're telling me is that the grass isn't always greener in California?

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  14. We can suffer the same sorts of agave damage in wet winters here in Berkeley, fortunately we don't often get a week of heavy rains regularly without sunny days in between. I'd suggest taller mounding with much faster draining mix virtually devoid of organic content, and maybe even planting with a surrounding plastic rainshield apron covered with mulch to retain a dry zone at the roots. Temporary rain umbrellas or portable tents to cover most sensitive agaves is another solution; but I agree that they aren't fun to look at and another maintenance chore. Maybe the idea of plunge pots to pull in the winter is a better way to go. I'd find the idea of half ruined plants each winter more discouraging than ugly temporary structures, but I have a very low tolerance for half dead plants into the spring...

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  15. I've always wanted to live in the Pacific Northwest because it is such a great environment for growing. I'm here in dry, dusty Phoenix ... but I can sure grow Agaves! Mine look great. They love the sun, heat and dry air. We average 7 inches of rain and it suits them just fine!

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