Scott and I met via Facebook, but made the real life connection in the summer of 2020 when he visited my garden, that's when I also I learned he's been a long time danger garden blog reader. It turns out we are kindred spirits when it comes to our love for agaves and other spiky plants, however Scott is also very much in touch with his inner flower floozy...
Spikes and flowers get nearly equal space in this street-side planting, the building of which was a COVID lock-down project.
Something else Scott and I have in common; a dislike of white flowers in our gardens. While I make a few exceptions—he does not.
Scott's driveway is flanked by a pair of urbanite-edged raised beds, the one above is to the left, and below you see the one on the right. You've probably already noticed that Scott is a cramscaper of the highest order—yet everything appears to be given just exactly the space it needs to shine.
Scott has gardened here for roughly 17 years, beginning with removing a little lawn, then a little more, and more. Here's his description of what he started with: "The front was a steeply sloped lawn full of dandelions and muscari, with a single sad western azalea struggling in between a bunch of half-buried chunks of concrete. I dug it all up, spent years pulling muscari (final one - I hope - purged some time last year), and started terracing immediately with the unearthed blocks. The east side (now the shade garden and courtyard) and the back were a juggle of overgrown 40' English laurels with a sprinkling of holly, blackberry, and black locust saplings, with probably a ton of household garbage and dead Christmas trees scattered about." Sounds grim, doesn't it? Not anymore.
We'll revisit these street side plantings again at the bottom of this post, but now we're going to walk up the drive...
I think he has more Aloiampelos striatula (formerly Aloe striatula) in his garden than I've previously seen in one space.
Containers are grouped all throughout the garden.
After my visit if you'd have asked me if there were many containers I would have said no, yet as I went through these photos I was surprised at just how many there were, including a Dyckia 'Grape Jelly' grown to perfection.
We're all the way up the drive now and I'm admiring the vines allowed to grow on the back side of the house. I wish I could get away with this. Also—note the BBQ used as plant staging area.
More containers to the side of the door.
And more urbanite walls...so well stacked! These have all been built by Scott himself.
Looky there! A Wollemia nobilis...
This Australian conifer is still rare enough to cause excitement whenever a sighting is made.
Now we're going to pass through that narrow opening between the plants...
...and come out onto a small courtyard bordered by another urbanite wall with a perfect seat (or planter) sized ledge.
I asked Scott for details on all these urbanite walls and the terracing he's built, starting in 2006... "I have built three staircases and 435 linear feet of exposed wall (more if you count burred parts and support structures), with the walls averaging 3' tall, but ranging from just a few inches to over 6'. Some of the concrete was on site in a smaller existing wall out back, and also buried in the ground in the front yard, but most has been harvested off Craigslist or other free listings online, and occasional word of mouth or drive-by sightings. A few times people even paid me to take the concrete, or delivered it to my house just to be rid of it. With concrete weighing about 150lbs per cubic feet, I estimate that I've hauled over 100 tons of concrete pieces in my trusty VW wagon in a few hundred trips!" Because of all the work he's done creating different planting spaces, the garden feels much larger than it's 4500 sq ft.
The beautiful—and unusual—palm is a Chamaedorea microspadix. Climbing up the side of the shed you see Hedera colchica 'Sulphur Heart'.
Scott is the source of my growing collection of this cool ivy.
Look closely at the urbanite wall here and you'll see there are actually steps, steps we'll be climbing into the upper part of the garden.
Mahonia eurybracteata 'Cistus Silvers'
See what I mean about the containers? Maybe because they're all dark clay they blend and don't scream for attention so you don't realize just how many there are?
Scott shares my love of green on green variegation.
I thought this striking foliage might belong to a schefflera I didn't have in my garden, turns out it's a rhododendron!
This containerized agave appears to be doing quite well despite a great deal of shade—note the sit-spot to the left.
Looking back over my shoulder at the agave...
Here's where I admit that I had to ask Scott if this was a Lyonothamnus floribundus or Comptonia peregrina. I never realized how similar their foliage is—or maybe that's just my issue? It's a Lyonothamnus floribundus.
Okay we've popped back out street side for a bit; that's Chamaerops humilis on the extreme left and the agave on the right is 'Silver Surfer'—eleven years old from a 4" pot.
Of course there's another Aloiampelos striatula in the mix too—with big fat seed pods.
And you noticed the flawless Agave ovatifolia, right?
It looks great backed by the Yucca desmetiana 'Blue Boy'.
Before taking this path to the front door of the house. Ha, yep... there's a house in there.
Symphytum × uplandicum ‘Axminster Gold’
And more spikes in pots!
Lest you be worried (I was) Scott does have a pyrrosia, and a healthy clump of Arachniodes simplicior 'Variegata' too.
I'd love to see photos of this garden before Scott started work. There are so many level changes and hidden spots—all which feel so perfect and natural, not forced—and all filled with plants too, of course.
Hmm... the variegation on these leaves (Begonia 'Little Brother Montgomery') is veering awfully close to white...
The hidden front door. I hope Scott's mailman likes plants.
Agave parryi backed by a cycad.
Okay, street-side yet again and I'm guessing you can't help but notice that magnificent loquat (Eriobotrya japonica). Guess how many there are mixed in around the garden? Seven. Yes. Again in his words: "The front specimen is actually a pair of 1-gallon starts planted in 2007 and now grown to enormous size. A few others are person-sized and are sprinkled about the garden, with growth constrained by over-shading by bigger plants. And I get a few seedlings every year, too! So I might have more than seven." (for the record I thought it was crazy that I have two...)
My final few photos are going to focus on this fabulous mix of plants.
Grevillea x gaudichaudii
While my eyes go right to the spikes, even I have to admit this planting wouldn't pack the punch it does without the flowers; Gaillardia x grandiflora 'Goblin' and Berkheya purpurea. And the spikes; Agave filifera subsp. schidigera and Opuntial polyacantha SBH 7505b.
Of course the biggest star is also the smallest. That little Agave Agave parryi ssp. huachucensis 'Excelsior' is hot!
Close-up, with the excellent red sedum (maybe Sedum spurium 'Dragon's Blood') which makes the agave spines POP!
And now I'm wishing my Berkheya purpurea would hurry up and bloom! Maybe next year.
Another angle on the corner planting.
I'll end this visit to Scott's inspiring, cramscaped, foliage filled paradise with this vignette; Agave parryi var. truncata and a sexy Mangave 'Kaleidoscope'. Thank you so much Scott for touring me through your garden... it was even more fantastic that I imagined it would be.
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