Monday, July 12, 2021

Reworking a problem area...

There are areas in a garden that just seem come together and always look fantastic, with little to no effort. Then there are the areas that you work, rework, and still feel are not quite right. Today's post is about one of those problem areas. This photo was part of my annual garden tour last fall. I hated it, and made plans to address it ASAP.

It's worth noting the yellowing lower leaves of the Euphorbia rigida (on the right) were a reaction to our intense wildfire-smoke layer that hung around for a week last September, blocking out the sun and turning the sky dark, the yellowing happened on E. rigida all over town. 

So, reworking this spot was the first thing on my list of projects for spring 2021. I targeted these things for removal... 

#1 was an overgrown Cordyline 'Cha Cha' that I never expected to live long enough to become that large, #2 was a lovely Agave desmetiana 'Variegata' in a container, mealybugs had been an ongoing issue and when it came time to take the plant inside last winter (it's not hardy here) I just decided I was done with the mealy-battle and the entire plant went into the yard waste bin. #3, a Cordyline 'Electric Flash', looked great for a couple of months but then started to flop, it's coloration was splotchy, and the biggest issue of all was that it distracted from the two beautiful agaves. It was outta there! Numbers 4 and 5 were little Agave bracteosa pups I stuck in the ground and promptly hated.

Here's the scene in late February. Less is more. 

Of course the large 'Cha Cha' was still there, time to dispatch it! Those Agave bracteosa pups still needed to be pulled (and potted up to grow on), and that silly looking patch of Scleranthus uniflorus (at the bottom of the photo) also had to go away. The circle/slash on the tall metal pot is noting the fact the mangaves I'd shoe-horned in there a couple of years earlier also needed to be pulled. 

It's also not your imagination that the large pot with a pineapple guava (Acca sellowiana) and Loropetalum 'Jazz Hands' appears to be tipping to one side. That thing drove me crazy!!!

And here is this area now, photo taken just last week... 

With the arching cordyline leaves removed the Agave baccarat can once again be the superstar it is supposed to be (do not worry, those sneaky tetrapanax babies popping up behind it have been pulled)...

The Agave americana var. protoamericana can better show off it's dark leaf margins.

And fabulous spine imprints...

It's so hard to get good photos of this area with contrasting lighting conditions, but I really like this image, kinda moody...

That callistemon seedling popped up a few years ago. Since there are both C. 'Woodlander's Hardy Red' and C. viridiflorus nearby I was hoping maybe it might be an interesting cross. Unfortunately I'm probably going to have to remove it before it gets large enough to bloom. I doubt I'll be able to get enough roots for it to live, but I'll try.

Another agave shot, and you can see some of the calluna I tucked in. 

The one next to the agaves (above) will probably have to be cut back hard every now and then, but hopefully these will be able to meet their full potential.

Another Echium wildpretti went in, because you can never have enough wildpretii. A couple Trachelospermum asiaticum ‘Red Top’ also joined the mix, so they can weave around and add another layer of color and texture.

These pale Sempervivum 'Lilac Time'...

Along with several dark wine-colored NOID sempervivum, add more color—the red picking up the colorful spines on my Agave parryi 'Notorious RBG'.

I can't forget to mention the other Agave parryi in this planting area, this a pup a gift from Bryon Jones at the Pt Defiance Zoo.

The tall pot at the back is looking better with the struggling mangaves removed. Replacing the mealybug infested agave is a new container filled with an agave I had hanging around, one that frankly I've forgotten where it came from. Oh well. Another few containers gather around to complete the ensemble.

One of the containers contains a Microcachrys tetragona, the creeping strawberry pine from Tasmania (yes, it's a conifer). You may also notice the Cordyline 'Cha Cha' is making a return, I didn't dig it out after all, but rather just cut it back for a refresh.

My other (tiny) Microcachrys tetragona is creeping over a rock...

Another perspective...

Although it's hard to see in these photos the pineapple guava got a good trim too and is looking much healthier.

And thanks to a strong husband with a rock bar it's container is straight again! 

I like the changes and appreciate I no longer wince every time I look at this part of the garden, plus the two sides of the front steps seem to relate to each other a little better.

All material © 2009-2021 by Loree Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. Although I couldn't quite see why you hated the scene in the first photo, I came to agree that in the end, that area is much improved and more cohesive. Love those wine-colored sempervivum. I think I have that one as well.
    How did you manage all this work with a cast is beyond me.

    1. Oh gosh no! This was all done prior to the ankle break, there's no way I could have done anything like this in my current state. Watering it and taking photos is all I'm capable of!

  2. Looks really good. The places in highly traveled areas are the most important to get just right.

    Crooked pots drive me crazy, too. Why is there always a root or a rock exactly where it shouldn't be? Then you get rid of the root or the rock, and the silly pot goes crooked again where you removed the root or rock.

    Don't count out the Callistemon seedling. They are incredibly tough.

    1. I think there may have been a large root of the pineapple guava that was to blame for the tilt, one that had worked out of the pot and was pulling it to the side. Andrew said he felt a "pop" as he lifted it and I shoved gravel under it. I've been trying to keep up on the watering in case we caused the poor thing stress.

  3. The revised version has a rhythm the old assemblage was missing. I love the Sempervivums in the mix. I wish they grew better in my climate.

    1. You can't have everything! Aeonium and sempervivum.... no!

  4. Nice job. I am trying to rethink/rework a couple of areas in my garden. It is not all that easy to figure out solutions sometimes. But I love your after images. Had to laugh at how those two Agaves went from being nobodies to stars in the transformation.

    1. Yay! I'm glad that's what stood out to you. They're too good not to be stars.

  5. That's much better now, growing together nicely and enhancing the agaves which are the most architectural of the lot.

    1. What's that oft repeated line from Dirty Dancing? "Nobody puts baby in the corner"? Well around here nobody takes the spotlight away from the agaves!

  6. I love the end product! Your 'Baccarat' has always been a star, and now it has the perfect supporting cast.

    As is the case so often with your posts, I come across plants that are new to me. Where did you get those Microcachrys tetragona? I must have one!

  7. Thanks for taking us through your artistic process - I kinda feel like I just took a masterclass in design composition that could be applied to any artistic field, not just gardening!


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