Wednesday, October 12, 2022

A garden is more than the sum of its plants, it's all about the relationships (Front Garden Tour 2022, Ch 2)

Here we are, back where we left off on Monday. Of course I hope your eyes rest on the Agave ovatifolia, Euphorbia rigida, Yucca rostrata, maybe even the Fatsia japonica in the distance. But my eyes see nothing but the neighbor's recycling and yard waste bins in the distance. Why do I always take photos on trash day!?!

We've walked out to the northeast corner of the front garden now—at the street-end of our neighbor's driveway. This Ceanothus gloriosus 'Pt. Reyes' was killed back to almost nothing by one of our cold winters, several years ago. In my mind it's still just barely recovering—ha! Nope, it turns out it is all the way down to the public side walk now.

 One of the dry ferns, maybe Cheilanthes lanosa? (I can't keep track)

Berkheya purpurea recovering from rabbit munching.

This little guy! A rooted cutting from a well known plant here in Portland. I'm not sure when it flopped, but I'm very excited to see the new sprouts!

Erica arborea var. alpina in the foreground, hiding an Agave parryi 'JC Raulston'.

The agave (and pup) revealed!

The juniper (Juniperus conferta 'Blue Pacific') has been pretty good about growing around—rather than over—the agave pup.

We'll see this corner again in a bit, from the other side—but I thought it would be a good shot to help establish place. That's the neighbor's driveway seen over the Ceanothus gloriosus, juniper, and through the trunks of both Tetrapanx papyrifer and Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Harmony'. 

Arctostaphylos 'Monica'—another plant that I am considering removing. Three large arctostaphylos might be just one too many in my small front garden, and this is my least favorite.

What I would really like to draw your attention to in the photo above, as well as the next few below, is the ground plane. This is a section of my front garden that I haven't actually been able to set foot in for a couple years now.

Ground cover, spikes, dense planting. I just look in and hope that everything is doing okay, cause I can't get too close! I lean in from the edges and try to keep things from getting to out of hand. Yes, that's another dryland fern in the mix.

It does kind of thrill me though, to know that there are "wilds" even in my small urban front garden.

Moving just slightly to the left (south), things are still quite cramscaped. And to think Agave parryi 'JC Raulston' is supposed to be solitary! The shrubs are Loropetalum chinense var. rubrum 'Hindwarf' and Corokia cotoneaster,

Corokia cotoneaster berry.

Pulled back...

Another angle...

My oldest Erica arborea var. alpina. This one and the one you saw previously started out as tiny 5 or 6" tall plants in a 4" container. It still kind of shocks me to see them now, as plants of size.

Their texture can't be beat, especially against an arctostaphylos branch.
The top three plants below (Agave parryi 'JC Raulston', NOID opuntia and 'JC Raulston' pup) have been here for awhile, the bottom two (Agave 'Sharkskin' and Echium wildpretii) were planted this spring—oh and they don't really look like they're planted in a line if you're standing in the garden! The fallen leaves here (and throughout the front garden) belong to the arctostaphylos. 

We were about 3/4 of the way along the public sidewalk as it borders our lot, headed south, when I took the above photo. Now I've backed up and I'm standing at the end of the neighbors driveway (on our property's northside) looking up at the Tetrapanax papyrifer. I guess I took the concept of following my watering pathway quite literally when I snapped these photos—working in each direction as far as the hose will reach—and I didn't really feel like taking the time to re-order them for this post. Apologies for any resulting confusion.

Here's the base of the tetrapanax, Arctostaphylos densiflora 'Harmony', more the ceanothus ground-cover you saw earlier, and Podocarpus alpinus ‘Orangeade.

I've now gone back around with the imaginary hose in tow (if you didn't read Monday's post this tour was inspired by time spent hand watering the garden) via the upper sidewalk and I'm back down on the public sidewalk, very near where the Agave 'Sharkskin' and Echium wildpretii shot was taken, just three photos up. Here we're looking at the hellstrip yuccas, along with a sedum that came from my house in Spokane and has planted itself all around the garden.
It's always amazing to me how the sedum can look so bad and then spring to life with the winter rains. As evidence of just how bad it looks, one of my brothers and two of his kids (ages 18 and 16) visited a couple of weeks ago. As they were leaving one of them was pouring some soda out of a bottle and the other said "just pour it there in the weeds". Ha! It was an interesting moment. Weeds. How differently those without plant eyes see my garden!

Turning back towards the garden proper now; Agave parryi 'JC Raulston' (I have several) at the base of Arctostaphylos x ‘Austin Griffiths’ with a Juniperus conferta 'Blue Pacific' carpet.

A large branch of the arctostaphylos just finishing up it's annual peel. It's amazing to watch the bark crack and peel away, the smooth green skin under the dark curls looks so vulnerable, but soon it's dark too. Yes, the feathery texture belongs to Erica arborea var. alpina, which I showered my compliments on above.

Glancing north, across a bit of the front garden we just visited.

And now at the southeast corner, where the public sidewalk meets our driveway. Yucca rostrata standing proud, surrounded by Agave ovatifolia, A. protamericana 'Silver Surfer' and an A. bracteosa just above a small Artemisia versicolor 'Sea Foam'.

Agave 'Sharkskin' in front of a floppy Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'. I pollard the cotinus to encourage big colorful foliage, but this spring was so cool and wet that it grew a little crazy and flopped all over the place.

Another look at the corner plantings, with 'Austin Griffiths' showing off his legs. You can see the cotinus curling and laying on the left Yucca rostrata for support.

Slightly wider angle.

This Agave ovatifolia 'Frosty Blue' really illustrates how dependent agaves are on summer water for growth. The two up by the front door (at the start of this post) get a lot more water than this one does, and it shows! They're older (2011 vs 2017) but still, this guy is somewhat stunted by a lack of water. 

Not that he's any less handsome, just smaller.

I cut back so many renegade cotinus branches, this one was so extreme it got to stay.

Itty bitty lil agave in the juniper! Not for long though, it's Agave ovatifolia 'Giant Form' (seed grown by Maggie Soderstrom) and planted where I can be sure to give it enough summer water to move it along in size.

We're nearing the end of this post now, back up on the sidewalk heading to the front door.

Artemisia ludoviciana 'Valerie Finnis', seedpods and foliage of Callistemon 'Woodlanders Hardy Red', and an agave arm (Agave salmiana).

The much mentioned cotinus, with Pittosporum anomalum.

Woodwardia unigemmata at the base of the Fatsia japonica. It was a toss up whether I planted this fern here, or tried an agave. I know, who would have thought!? One getting slightly more shade than it wanted, one getting a little more sun. The woodwardia has done great. If I take the fatsia out (as I discussed doing in Chapter 1 of this post) then maybe it's time for an agave to step in?

The last picture from the Front Garden Tour 2022—my Hover Dish planter with assorted agaves and opunita. It's doing pretty good... there was a blooming dandelion in the mix earlier in the summer!

I hope to have the back garden tour up next week, come back and see the private and much more spoiled part of my garden!
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All material © 2009-2022 by Loree L Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. How many Agave ovatifolia do you have?! And where did they all come from? Finding them, at least in relatively small, affordable sizes, seems to be nearly impossible here - or I'm just not shopping in the right places. I got 3 of the 4 I have by mail order, which seems a little ridiculous in the land of succulents.

    I never cease to be impressed by the range of plants you've acquired. I'm a little in love with the the Podocarpus alpinus 'Orangeade', a species I've never heard of much less seen but then I see that Plant Lust has it classified as zone 7-9 and Sunset doesn't weigh in in that species.

    1. Hmmm... I have six. They're from Cistus, Blooming Junction, and a friend. I'm not sure you come back and read my replies so I am going to email this to you too. Order from these people, their plants were lovely:

      As for the podocarpus I think the name was changed after I bought mine. It colors up so good in the cold weather, a feature that would be lost in SoCal I am afraid.

    2. Kris, I have an Agave ovatifolia 'Frosty Blue' I'm happy to give to you. I also have a batch of ovatifolia seedlings that should be ready for planting next year.

  2. Beautiful plants; beautiful views. I didn't even notice the recycling bins. No biggy--it's real life...but I know what you mean. LOL. Happy autumn!

    1. Thanks Beth, they stick out like sore thumbs to me. So big, so plastic!

  3. I actually like the fact that agaves stay smaller longer when they don't get much water.

    Speaking of water, nothing in your front yard looks like it's being starved of water.

    1. Here's hoping it doesn't feel like it either!

  4. I also have Agave 'Swordfish' and mine is about 3 feet tall and 3 feet wide! Such a great plant!

    1. Ah, I had to look that one up as I am not familiar with that name. Gorgeous plant! Sadly not hardy here.

  5. I found this while trying to decide what manzanitas to plant in a few areas in my very hot south facing yard. I had been considering Monica, and seeing your full grown photos (and that it's your least favorite!) is very helpful. Might do an Austin Griffiths or Howard McMinn instead. I also have an agave parryi put in by a landscape designer this year, and the outside leaves are starting to turn yellow. It's in full sun and I haven't been giving it supplemental water, but starting to wonder if I should, or if another succulent would be happier there. I love how many you've incorporated into the landscape!


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