Tuesday, February 4, 2014

The agave report, February 2014

Little did I know, back when I decided it was time to do a mid-winter agave report, that this week would bring a second round of chilling temperatures to the Pacific Northwest. It’s predicted to get just as cold (13F for the lowest low) but only last 3-4 days rather than the last one’s week+. But during the last go-round we went into the event straight off a nice long stretch of cold days to harden things off and send them dormant. The days leading up to this event have been downright spring-like, there are buds on shrubs and little leaves pushing up out of the ground. This is not going to be good. So on that note let’s look at the agaves and how they’ve fared thus far…

From the shot above it hardly looks like there's been any damage right? Thankfully most all the spikes in this area are hanging in there quite well. My big happy bright green Puya coerulea is now crispy brown, but that was (sadly) expected. I’m really not looking forward to digging it out, or the creeping grevillea meandering all through this area which is slowing dying from the center outward.

I cut off a few leaves from this agave (bottom center) just this morning, they were soft at the base and I didn’t want it to spread.

Last spring I had so many assorted small agave pups I planted them out, around the garden. Most of them are mush now. This one appears to be holding its form but a nudge with a feather would send it sideways. It’s since been removed; I think it may have been A. scabra.

There are four Agave parryi 'JC Raulston' in the front garden. The first was visible in the photo at the top. This is #2…

#3…

And #4, as you can see they keep on being a vision of spiky perfection.

Most of the A. bracteosas look good too…

Four or five  A. americana pups I had spread around the garden turned to mush, however the large ones have all survived. Of course they were covered during the cold, the lone pups were not.

However there is leaf damage. I removed the lower leaves today, no sense heading into sub-freezing weather with mushy appendages.

Ditto for this one.

The assorted Echinocereus and Maihuenia poeppigii are still solid.

This A. bracteosa has some damage on its tips and where you see cracks some rot has begun, I need to remember to cut below the rotten bits asap.

I think this is an Agave americana var. protoamericana, one of the bunch that came to me via the agave rescue mission. I cut off a bad arm recently but all in all he’s hanging in there quite well.

One of several A. ovatifolia, they’re all doing great.

Although this one lost a couple of arms.

The healing wound.

This is the second one of these variegated Agave americana ‘No Po’ that I’ve killed. Gifts from Sean Hogan they were pups from a legendary agave that’s survived years in North Portland. Not to be in my garden.

Here’s another example of those little pups I planted throughout the garden. This one (perhaps A. havardiana) couldn’t be happier . I should also mention none of my many opuntia pads have turned to mush, no doubt due to our drier than normal conditions.

This was a no-name purchase at the 2013 Cistus tough-love parking lot sale. Whatever it is it’s a survivor.

The big potted A. weberi was moved into the (unheated) garage for the last go-round. I wonder if I can talk Andrew into wrestling it in there again?

These guys went into the basement, which they will do again.

A close-up of a mashed together planting in a container, so many things in there I need to rescue when I have time! It also went into the garage and most everything is happy…including the not hardy Sedum rubrotinctum.

Because it was so easy to do these Agave parryi went into the shade pavilion greenhouse during the cold, other than that week they’ve been outside all winter and look great.

So many spikes! Most of them are okay.

The blue one at the bottom is the only small Agave americana to have survived.

Happy Agave neomexicana (I think, there was tag damage during the rescue)…

Ditto on the Agave americana “something” and the spiky Agave striata var. striata on it's right.

Mushy A. americana 'marginata' has since been removed.

Opuntia santa-rita is doing well.

Isn’t that yellow dyckia remarkable? Ya, it’s dead (and it used to be purple).

Thankfully the Cylindropuntia whipplei 'Snow Leopard' I paid a pretty penny for is still looking good.

I thought maybe this small Agave americana stood a chance tucked up next to Sammy (the large Yucca rostrata). Nope…

Everything here looks pretty good.

Except the A. bracteosa the neighbor’s cat sat on.

Oh and this poor little Echinocactus is obviously not happy.

Things over here are a mixed-bag. That thin leafed plant in the upper center is a pup from an Agave striata I bought at Cistus years ago. Mom finally died in the winter of 2009/10 but it's progeny is doing quite well. There's another mushy (and since removed) variegated A. americana on the upper left.

Mush on the A. gentryi ‘Jaws,’ which has all been cut away resulting in an ugly plant. We shall see what happens next.

Baby A. parryi 'JC Raulston' and I believe pups from A. neomexicana, with some mushy arms.

Finally bigger A. neomexicana with little to no damage to end this report. If you’re curious about how everything looked at its zenith check out the last agave report, filed in August of 2013, when life was good and winter was just a far away dream nightmare.

All material © 2009-2014 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.

30 comments:

  1. I hope my little 'JC Raulston' has made it through so far. I've been afraid to look at my three Agaves too closely yet. Look on the bright side: you'll be doing lots of planting this spring!

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    1. I hope so too, it's such a good plant!

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  2. All in all your collection looks good considering December's frigid temps. I had the same reaction when I saw the weather this morning - dread. Of course in my garden the first blast took most of what was tender.
    May I ask what or how you amend your soil when you put your agaves in the ground?
    Jim, NE Portland

    Jim

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    1. I mix in chicken grit and small rocks (I save them when I dig around the garden, seems I can't dig a hole without finding 4 or 5) and most importantly I mound up the amended soil so the agave sits above the surrounding soil. Just digging the hole and back-filling with amended soil would essentially create a bathtub for the roots to sit in - not good. (since the surrounding clay soil won't absorb the moisture as quickly) You could use pumice instead of chicken grit but in my experience it works its way to the surface and I HATE the look of it. Dandruff on dark soil, ugh. Of course it's not such an issue with the gravel in the front garden.

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    2. i live on the opposite side of the country but have similar cold/wet winters. When planting an agave in the ground I dig a big ol hole and back fill it with pure red lava rocks. (we dont seem to get pumice on this coast) Ill mix in some organic slow release fertilizer pellets and a little bone, blood, kelp, and alfalfa meals. I top it off with some river pebbles for looks. most are in slightly raised beds too. they seem to love it and i havnt lost one yet to rot. Although the cold got several of them (see below)

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  3. Seeing mushy plants and brown spots is heart-breaking so I'll focus on the positive. Your post proves that Agave parryi 'JC Raulston', Agave ovatifolia, Agave parryi var. neomexicana and Agave havardiana are great for colder climates. Do you have any Agave montana (I think I spotted one in one of your photos)? It should do well too.

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    1. I did have an Agave montana. It's now joined the other mushy agaves in agave heaven. I didn't protect it (it was small, I forgot about it). Years back I had a beautiful big 'montana' that made it through a couple of bad winters only to eventually give in.

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  4. Agave parryi, ovatifolia, bracteosa are proving to be the succulent winter stars of your garden Loree! Your report serves as reference too, which agaves are potentially hardier than others. Oh and not to forget the well performing Opuntias!

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    1. I noticed yesterday that one of the spineless opunita had an odd color to it. I think I might have spoke too soon and it's a gonner. Oh well, one ain't bad!

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  5. fifi lafontaineFebruary 04, 2014

    Yes, my favorite agave jr looks to be a goner but the small A Parryi and A Bracteosa look good. Your agaves have been dealt a blow but I will cross my fingers that the survivors make it through the next round!

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    1. Oh no! Poor Jr. Thanks for the "fingers"...I do the same for yours.

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  6. So much for overcrowding...at least until the buying season begins. You have a pretty good success rate, all things considered. I was counting on our front deck being haven enough, but not with what's come our way this winter...and no end in sight.

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    1. It's just nasty out there! My manzanita leaves look gorgeous in the morning sunlight, I want to go through a coat on them though...

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  7. I live on the coast of VA and had remarkable similar results from our super freeze. My bracteosa faired the best. havardiana probably came in second. My bigger americana and montana baccarat took some damage on older leaves but are more or less fine. The pups of those two arent quite mush but took damage all over and will probably die. my two victoria's took a little damage but are ok. all my Agave celsii died. Jaws is alive but is gonna super messed up. the top third of its new leaf spike turned white. im not sure what i should do about that. thats the one im most upset about. its a good sized Jaws. my little agave toumeyana bella's were fine and my agave parryi truncata took only minor damage. We got down into the mid-low teens a bunch of times

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    1. Wow you grow Agave victoria in the ground!? They're relatively hard to come by around here so I've kept mine in containers where I can protect them. Same for Agave celsii.

      I can't say I've seen a white spike on any of the 'Jaws' of grown/killed. That's a new one. Good luck...sounds like you've got quite the collection. Do you keep any in containers or are they all in the ground?

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    2. Victoria is not really rare around here. They are at the garden centers often and are not uncommon to see at the big box stores too. They are super hardy and would probably do fine in the ground in your garden. My winters are wet and cold but usually not cold enough for much snow.
      Celsii is rare around here. In fact, i bought the only ones ive seen for sale. They were at home depot for 5 bucks so i bought several. After the first one sailed through two winters ago, and then another one looked great through last winter, i put the rest in the ground. oops!! that was a mistake.
      I cant decide if i should cut off the dead/white part of Jaws or not because, like i said, it's about the top third of the center spike. Either way its gonna look real bad for a long, long time. It wasnt exactly a fast grower before.
      All but the havardiana and one of the celsii were in the ground. The celsii was in one of those tower of pots so couldnt easily be moved. Although most of them have only been in the ground 1-2 seasons. I started turning most of my front yard into rock gardens about three years ago. Largely inspired by your garden. I also have a bunch of non hardy agaves in my house.
      Looks like i really need to get a some ovatifolia to replace some of the casualties. i wanted one before but after seeing how yours did i really need some.
      I also had what im pretty sure was a Agave schidigera 'Shira ito no Ohi' that didnt come close to making it. That one hurt too cause it looked so nice before. It was a walmart find i think.

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  8. It is always worrying with winters like you are having. Have you tried the trick of throwing a bit of fleece over them before it snows? I found it made a massive difference to my dry bed.

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    1. Oh gosh definitely! I'm certain these wouldn't look as good as they do if I hadn't. They get a frost cloth tucked over them with an over turned terra cotta pot over that to keep it in place and protect a bit when the inevitable snow/ice show up. If that's not possible - size can be an issue - a bit of burlap and maybe some bubble wrap.

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  9. It's so hard to predict and this winter could have just as easily been a mild one. Much of your report is to be expected with the cold. I'm a bit surprised by the neomexicana. You have quite a few nice ones left in the garden too.

    While much of the report is to be expected with your winter I did learn a few things such as I can leave the A. bracteosa and stricta outside in the future and I should add A. havardiana soon.

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    1. Oh how wonderful that would have been! (a mild one) Especially with dozens of camera toting bloggers touring my garden this summer. I'm glad there were some nuggets of agave knowledge in there for you Shirley. While I do this primarily for my own education it certainly is a bonus that it might help others as well.

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  10. I hope the survivors make it through your next freeze!

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    1. They're tucked in tight so all I can do now is pray...

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  11. So sorry for your losses and damage. My A. weberi is gone forever this time I fear as it didn't get a cover like last year and the whole business pulled away from the soil easily. Plants are odd. I had two A. gentryi ‘Jaws' growing in pots side by side on the back porch, sheltered from the rain but not cold. One, in a one gallon pot and the other in a two gallon pot and much larger. The small one did the dying from the inside out, looking pristine until I moved the pot and the top fell off. The larger one is happy as can be. Go figure. I hate that we're getting another visit from Father Winter, Jack Frost, or whatever you want to call the abusive bastard.

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    1. I told Andrew he set a dangerous precedent by moving that A. weberi last time, I didn't expect it (it's in there again...). Sorry about yours! Your A. 'Jaws' experience/experiment is interesting and what I've always suspected. So much of this plant growing thing is just crazy genetics and luck...

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  12. So sorry to see all your dead Agaves. Mine that I put in bins with heating pads are doing ok. My A. bracteosa is in good shape too, just sitting in its pot. A few other dead ones. I discovered last winter that A. parryi babies turned to mush, while Mom sailed through. I am really hoping that this is it for the winter.

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    1. Me too! (it for the winter) I should have mentioned in my post this report is only meant to be those that stay in the ground/outside for the winter. All the ones I can easily move and protect are doing fine. Glad yours are too!

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  13. You are taking it quite well. It would leave me in tears. I think you are well rid of the americanas--they are so weedy here, and Puyas are a danger to life and limb. But that's here...

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    1. I know it's crazy to have so many agaves in the ground here in Portland, so I am thrilled with any success! Of course I am not taking well my other losses, plants that should have been okay but are dying. That's a whole different subject. As for the weedy Americana's not the case here. My biggest has been in the ground for years and is not even 2 ft across. It's pups aren't hardy enough to even grow more than a leaf or two. Nothing like in your neck of the woods.

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  14. I think you have come off pretty well and we wouldn't be gardeners if we weren't able to cope with such losses.

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    1. So true Jennifer! Hey...are you coming to the Portland Fling?

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