Monday, February 6, 2023

Agave Week begins...

I discovered this "agave decoration" in the shade pavilion greenhouse last week when I went to shut the doors and turn on the heat before our most recent cold snap. 

I'd have thought a crow had dropped its snack, but there's no way a crow could get inside the greenhouse, so it must have been a squirrel?

Some of you may recognize my Agave victoriae-reginae that bloomed last summer. It remained standing tall throughout winter's harsh wind, but wasn't looking so good anymore. 

I did a little wiggle and discovered it was ready to be composted, the ease with which it came out of the container was surprising.

I hauled it to the driveway and laid it down to inspect the seeds that had been forming along the bloom spike.

Several fell during the windstorm, those that remained appear to have desiccated, or maybe frozen during the deep freeze. Maybe I should have harvested them before the storm?

The plant itself was interesting to see. I replanted this a couple of years ago and it was so heavy I could barely lift it. Now it was extremely light.

So long, farewell, Auf Wiedersehen, goodnight. Into the yard waste bin you go...

Here's my Agave ovatifolia by the front steps. I was finally able to peel back the leaf with the rotting spot. 

The before...

The after...

I have concerns about the next leaf and thus the center "cone"—as there appears to be discoloration there too. 

I decided the best thing I could do would be to cut off the bad leaf to increase air circulation. It's not pretty, but here's the after. My main goal was to not damage any of the surrounding tissue on the good leaves. Hence I didn't get as much of the gooey bits as I would have liked. I did give it a good spray of copper fungicide, for whatever that's worth.

I've also removed the pair of rotting agaves in the tall metal containers in the front garden, next to the house, as they were almost ready to slide right off the containers. Better to do it now before they turned into an even slimier mess. 

So that's the latest agave goings on in my garden. This week I'm taking a look at how some of the agaves I know around Portland are doing post December storm. I've had damage (sometimes fatal) on many agaves this year that have sailed through other cold, snow and ice events. I've also heard the same from many friends around the PNW. I'm curious and want to see more. Hopefully you'll find this agave-centric week of posts as interesting as I do.

These open-air containers are at McMenamins Cornelius Pass Roadhouse.

I first discovered them in March of 2021. Andrew and I dined here last month (early January) and I was surprised to see they were still in place, looking a little worse for the wear, though not bad overall.

Amazingly the agaves were still solid. 'Blue Glow' isn't the hardiest of agaves and this location is generally colder than Portland proper.

Of course some of my agaves that looked fine a few weeks ago have taken a turn for the worse, so who knows what these are looking like now.

Fingers crossed they're okay, because I really like them.

The last part of this post is a look at a new-to-me garden I drove by last week, en-route to check in on Minh's agaves.

I've driven this street many times before but don't remember seeing the agaves. They all looked fantastic. Here an Agave parryi with a cylindropuntia and maybe a Dasylirion wheeleri.

Flawless Agave ocahui (I think?).

It's so good!

Moss on opuntia, "you know you're in Portland when..."

What I wouldn't give for a nice brick planter like that against the house and under the eaves. I was glad to see they were taking full advantage with spiky plants.

House hugging yucca, cordylines, and a pruned camellia?

Opuntia doing that thing that it does when it's cold. It must be pretty darn tall when it's upright.

I am very curious what's going on here. It's obviously a planting in progress. Are they using the plastic to keep the ground around the yucca dry?

Melting cordylines on the left, fabulous yucca (Yucca aloifolia?) on the right. Wowsa!

So sad though with these tall cordylines, maybe they'll resprout along the trunk? They'll definitely regrow from the ground.

Wrapping it up with the tall Trachycarpus street-side. I know the color and quality of these photos isn't the best, but it was a grey drizzly day and I didn't want to pull out my camera, so I was relying on the phone. 

I'll continue this agave-centric week of posts with a walk around my 'hood on Wednesday and then a stop at a collection of "greatest hits" gardens on Friday. Spikes all week!

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All material © 2009-2023 by Loree L Bohl for danger garden. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited and just plain rude.


  1. The first thing we did when we moved into this house in 1994 was remove the long planter built against the house. Our inspector pointed out that it was channeling water right down the cement block garage wall that was below it, as the house is built into a slope. The water seepage had stated to crack the wall that had a room over it. Even with eaves I don't. think a container built against the house is wise.

    1. Well that's interesting, makes sense I suppose. It's the kind of thing I would never think of, but Andrew would be all over.

  2. I'm adding "agave surveyor" to your resume list! I hope the Agave ovatifolia survives. If it does, "agave doctor" may go on the resume too.

  3. The corn husk is so peculiar... I didn't realize critters can enter the greenhouse in winter.
    I was hoping there'll be viable seeds from Agave queen Victoria. It's one of my favorite agaves, and starting them from seed could have been a fun adventure to follow.
    Looking at McMenamins' hanging planters reminded me of those hanging by your garage; you were concerned about them surviving the ice event. How are they doing?

    1. If I have the doors open (which I do for air circulation) then critters are free to come and go. I think maybe you're remembering the container that hangs off our front door overhang. It's a mixed bag at this point. A couple things look remarkably okay, others, not so much.

  4. When I saw the corn husk, I thought "squirrel" right away. We have squirrels and corn husks around the garden in all seasons. Those open-air planters are awesome! And I really like that front planting area in the last photo. You've been busy!

    1. Does someone leave the corn for the squirrels? Or are they harvesting?

  5. An entire corncob? That must have been one buff squirrel :-)

    My Agave ovatifolia 'Killer' has a similar rot pattern, maybe even worse. Removing the affected leaves to improve air circulation is a great idea.

    I think the 'Blue Glow' at McMenamin's will be fine. I had a variegated 'Blue Glow' rot in the center once, and it outgrew the damage in one season.

    It was great to see that Agave ocahui doing so well. That's another agave species that's criminally underused.

    1. I've found two other corn cobs since that one. I wish I could catch them in the act. I think it would be hilarious. I'm seeing several other 'Blue Glow' that aren't looking so good. Our growing conditions (Davis and Portland) are very different. With all due respect your experiences may not transfer here.

  6. I struggle with what to do with my own spiky/spiny plant corpses. We have our own compost, but they aren't going in there! We don't really have enough garden waste to warrant pick up by Republic services. I've had to either put it in the garbage or put it in our woody brush pile for long-term decomposition.

    Moss + Opuntia = Epic!

  7. For the 2nd year in a row I've rigged up a 'tent' for my Agaves based on the Ruth Bancroft boxes she made to protect tender plants. I just checked today and even my tender Variegated Agave Americana is happy under the protection -most importantly, it is very dry underneath. We live at 500 elevation, west of Portland. It may not be pretty, but it beats the heartbreak of losing beloved Agaves. Donna


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