Thursday, August 8, 2013

The state of the agaves, summer 2013…


I started this series to document how my agaves, and other succulents, planted in the ground (as opposed to those in containers) were doing here in “wet” Portland, Oregon. “Wet” is in quotes because we are anything but right now, having only seen a trace of rain since June 27th. For those of you who don’t know this is typical for us, summer’s are warm and dry (some would say hot, some would laugh) and winters are cool and wet.

My last “agave report” was made December 27th and things were looking good. The rest of the winter was unremarkable for the most part, and I kind of forgot to do a spring follow-up. Now it’s August! My dad was right when he said time goes faster the older you get. Shown above and below is my oldest "in ground" agave, Agave americana. It was planted the summer of 2010, are those of you in the desert laughing? Can you imagine how big this guy would be if it had been in the ground in in the SW United States for 3 years?

Agave ovatifolia, also smaller than you would think after a couple of years in the ground. I believe the stunted growth can be blamed on a lack of water during the summer months, when these plants are actively growing. What can I say, I'm kinda stingy with the water!

This one has been identified by an reader as A. lechuguilla. I'm still not 100% on board with that ID but whatever it is, it's looking good. The Opuntia engelmannii var. linguiformis (Cow’s Tongue Prickly Pear) behind it finally grew a new pad this year too.

Here's the southeast corner of the front garden, next to the driveway. These Agave americana have been in the ground since spring of 2011. The smaller one on the right almost died the winter of 2011/12, it's making a slow recovery.

While I would be thrilled to see these explode with growth I'm also happy they're not out-growing their space and poking people walking down the sidewalk.

They certainly aren't lacking drama...

This Echinocereus triglochidiatus v. gonacanthus hybrid sailed through last winter. I thought the babies at it's base  would be bigger by now though.

Maihuenia poeppigii

A pair of Echinocereus triglochidiatus new this spring.

Opuntia x rutila in the front with Opunita basilaris ‘Sara’s Compact’ behind.

Agve bracteosa

The new (this year) Puya chilensis backed by an NOID (full of buds!) opuntia.

Agave americana var. protoamericana, part of the agave rescue this one just went in the ground this spring.

More A. bracteosa (there are several)...

My oldest A. parryi 'JC Raulston' (planted spring 2011) which has produced several pups I've been able to share with friends. You can see another on the right.

I kept meaning to take a picture of the curling bark on my Arctostaphylos x ‘Austin Griffiths' but never did. Earlier in the summer every branch had curls.

I added 2 more 'JC Raulston' this year, thanks to a "buy one get one" sale. Here's one...

And the other...

This one is older, having been in the ground since spring 2012.

I wanted to empty a couple containers of less than stellar agaves so another trio of A. americana went in the ground this year too, so far so good.

A. ovatifolia twins with another A. americana in the front.

This little Agave montana has got to be the runt of the bunch, barely haven grown at all.

I think every bit of water it should get is sucked up by the tetrapanax behind it, of course it shades the poor guy too.

This is one of the newly planted (when the rhody came out) Agave ovatifolia along with it's friend the Manfreda ‘Macho Mocha.'

The second A. ovatifolia

Unknown Cylindropuntia from my visit to Hillside Botanical Garden.

It had a little issue last January with rotting on the tip, but the new growth seems to say everything is okay now.

This one also came from Hillside Botanical Garden, doesn't it look like one of those ridiculous parking lot blow-up guys with the waving arms?

This was supposed to be a photo of multiple agave and aloe pups, you'll have to look close.

Agave americana 'NoPo'

This one came from the Cistus Nursery tough love sale last fall, no tag. Any guesses?

This photo is deceiving as the A. weberi is about 3ft accross. It's being over-taken by ginger mint which I thought I'd eradicated from the container before the agave went in. Oh and the reason this one is included in the report is because this container is too big to move so he stays right here, in the driveway veggie garden year round.

Aren't those the most amazing spikes?

Now we're in the back yard. These guys have been dug in prior winters but I think I might leave them this year. We'll see.

Here's the newest agave planting which just went in last June. Everything seems pretty happy so far.

The group next to the patio stairs is being overtaken by zealous Dragon's Blood Stonecrop.

Since winter seems to be the best time to cut back the stonecrop, when it looses it's leaves, I think I'll let them battle it out until then.

And here's the other planting next to the patio, at the north end.

The A. gentryi ‘Jaws’ is going crazy! (that's a good thing).

Finally here's my A. attenuata 'Ray of Light' getting to vacation in the ground for the summer. It was down to just 3 leaves and not looking good this spring, I figured it would enjoy a stretch in the soil. Since it's very much not hardy (melting in the low 30's) it will have to be dug before winter (which thankfully still seems so far away!).

Oh wait one more! Check out this tiny seedling, the smallest cactus in my garden...

Those rocks are 3/4-1" across so that gives you an idea just how tiny he is. I'm guessing it might be an Opuntia humifusa since they've bloomed and set fruit fairly close. It makes me very happy to think my garden is worthy of cactus seedlings!

All material © 2009-2013 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

34 comments:

  1. It's a testament to your nurturing ways that the plants feel secure enough to produce offspring. High summer is truly "your time", isn't it?

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    1. It is...I am in heaven. Well except for when I notice something I forgot to water is fallen over and turning yellow (forest grass transplanted earlier in the spring, a hosta...)

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  2. Your plants do look good considering the weather issues they face. Another positive note is that you can have more of them closer together than would work in my garden. The attention you give them is impressive.
    The A. bracteosa and manfreda look way better in your garden because mine are fried from the heat. I like the JC Raulston a lot.

    Since there's not a lot going on in my garden I'll see if I can go back and show how much my agaves have grown.




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    1. Indeed, I fail miserably at proper plant spacing so it's nice the spikes don't get as big as they "should"...

      Can't wait to see your agave growth post!

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  3. Fantastic post with beautiful photos. Just what my sore eyes and overworked brain needed. I know what you mean about the ID of Agave lechuguilla. Maybe a hybrid?

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    1. You're probably right about the hybrid...glad to provide a little respite for your brain and eyes (are you playing vacation catch up at work?). Oh and thanks for the "beautiful photos" comment. I wanted to tidy things up before taking close-ups but realized there was just no way I had time. I cringed a little at some of them.

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    2. Yep, immersed to my eyeballs in work. Not fun after the great vacation I had.

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  4. This review of your Agaves and cactuses that are in the ground was very instructional. I'm thinking maybe I'll put one of my A. bracteosas in the ground. I planted too many lamb's ears in my gravel garden, and I'm going to rip a couple out, because they are smothering so many plants near them. That should give me room for a couple of Agaves, as well as the Beschnorneria that you gave me at the swap. It is doing well still in its pot. I didn't realize that Agaves would grow better if given some water during the warm months. I've only watered mine once this summer. I've watered the ones in pots more often. I'm going to be interested in seeing if digging that A. attenuata sets it back.

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    1. Yay, I'm glad it was helpful for you Alison. In my experience (and in my garden viewing around town) A. bracteosa is a sure winner in the ground.

      As for the summer water thing that's just a theory since they come from a climate that is winter dry and summer wet (as if the desert could ever actually be called wet). Of course they also like it a little warmer and sunnier. I've vacationed a couple of other A. attenuata in the ground in past summers and all have kept the healthy glow once dug.

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  5. Wonderful!!!! It's such a happy thing to see agaves doing so well up here in the PNW. It was all your agave pictures over the years that got me addicted. So thank you! I always appreciate the State of the Agaves updates.

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    1. Thank you Louis, always good to know the agave-love is catching!

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  6. what kind of canna is that...is has a gorgeous color

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    1. The label reads Canna x generalis 'Tropical Bronze Scarlet' - of course I bought it for the foliage, not caring to ever see the scarlet flower.

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  7. So many awesome plants together!

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  8. They are all looking great. Slower growth is a mixed blessing as it allows you to fit more in!

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  9. I think the JC Raulston ones are my faves...but you buried the lead...your 'Austin Griffiths' stole the show!!!

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    1. You should have seen it in it's full curly glory!

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  10. Right after read this article, I want to get more agave "the fabulous plant"...they really need no flower to be great outdoor plant.

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    1. Indeed, especially since the flower means death to the plant.

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    2. mark burgessAugust 11, 2013

      Not all Agaves die after flowering, just most of them lol. Some species flower AND survive (the main plant, that is, not just the offsets)

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    3. True, I was generalizing since the majority fall into this category.

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  11. Your report is helpful for us here too. With the similarity of your climate there to us here it gives us clues as to what agaves and opuntias could do well here too. Ray of Light seems to enjoy having a free root run indeed.

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    1. That 'Ray of Light' has never looked better. It's recovery has me feeling a little bad about the torture I subject my container agaves to...

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  12. Your agaves all look quite happy! The babies that you gave me are faring well and I've finally released one of them into the driest sunniest area I have and it's put on more growth this year than it did in a pot! Have you left 'Jaws' outside all year? Beautiful!

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    1. Glad to hear they're doing well Peter! Jaws has been in the ground since spring of last year. Of course last winter hardy counts as a test does it?

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  13. You crazy agave lady! No, really, you know I love them too. I still think it's funny, though, that an Oregon gardener has more agaves than I do in Texas.

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    1. I mentioned that fact to my parents when they were here last week (that I've got more agaves than many desert dwellers) and they looked at me with concern.

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  14. fifi la fontaineAugust 09, 2013

    Ooh,I haven't watered my agaves at all this summer! Do you recommend watering once every other week during dry spells?

    I'm going to try and steal some of your agave bed landscaping ideas for my yard. Love it!

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    1. They would probably appreciate that amount of attention, mine would feel spoiled!

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  15. Best post of the year! Best post of the year! I have pups from this spring that have already outgrown your three year olds. Which reminds me, I should be working on that ...

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  16. mark burgessAugust 11, 2013

    Nice site and photos! One cautionary statement: I've grown desert plants in the Portland area for over 25 years, and have trialed most of the species you have. Don't get too attached to your Agaves, as many (possibly most) of the species you are growing are not truly hardy here long-term: similar to Dracaenas, they are 'transiently' hardy, and may survive for a year, or handful of years...but most will eventually succumb to a very cold and/or wet winter eventually. A few marginal species will technically 'survive' but suffer severe winter damage on a regular basis, perpetually stunting their growth due to repeated die-backs, so they don't truly thrive here. There are actually many more species of Yuccas and cacti which are hardy here than there are hardy Agaves; I have around 200 varieties of hardy cacti in my yard currently. My Agave and cactus species which have proven hardy actually grow considerably faster than in the desert, due to more consistent water availability in the summer (light watering 3 times weekly during hot weather). My planting beds are elevated, with very well drained sandy soil, and over 6 hours of sun daily, and no non-desert plants crowding or shading them (in other words, ideal growing conditions for desert plants, given the climate). I just had 2 Agaves put up 15 foot flower spikes this year...but many varieties simply won't live here perpetually. I tell you this not to 'rain on the desert garden' but simply to warn you not to be too disappointed when plants eventually fail. Only a small handful of Agave species truly thrive and survive here; ironically, there are a couple of species which ARE hardy that you don't appear to be growing. Sadly, most Puya and Manfreda species are also doomed to eventual failure in this climate, regardless of nursery hardiness claims. As a side note: I believe that you are correct in suspecting that your Agave lechuguilla is misidentified. The chollas you pictured appear to be C. imbricata; one is for sure, and the other probably is (or a C. imbricata hybrid). C. imbricata seems to be the only cholla that most northwest nurseries are aware of, though many chollas are hardy here: I have about 20 cholla varieties in my garden, and of course, scores of prickly pear varieties. Keep up the good work, and maybe you'll chance upon a cultivar which is more hardy than typical for that species; I have one plant of A. utahensis which is more wet-tolerant than any others I've seen, so there is room for individual variation in plant hardiness within a given species.

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    1. Thank you for commenting Mark, I have visited your garden and posted photos of it a couple of times...a fabulous desert oasis! I was also lucky to see your agaves in bloom earlier this summer.

      I started this series of agave posts to chronicle how these plants do in my garden, completely expecting them to (as you say) "eventually succumb to a very cold and/or wet winter." It's a grand experiment to see what works and what doesn't. I've lost many in the past and expect that many more will die in the future, I enjoy them while they last.

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