Friday, February 10, 2023

Agaves around town, the final chapter of Agave Week

Here we are again, more agaves! My completely random and unscientific survey of how Portland agaves are doing post-December storm begins again at this building in SE Portland, home to the "Attitude of Gratitude" mural.

I'd forgotten all about these agaves until I randomly drove near and caught sight of the mural. This planting is in inner SE, Portland's "banana belt". I'm not going to try and guess the species here, but they're looking remarkably good considering how exposed they are people who couldn't really give a rat's ass about plants.

People who would probably destroy them just for the "fun" of it.

This one looked pretty solid even tough it was being swallowed by surrounding ceanothus.

I appreciate that whoever abandoned this electric scooter didn't just lay it on the agaves.

Can you say agave cramscaping? Ya, all FOUR plants look pretty good. Minus the sidewalk damage.

Agave 'Sharkskin' with some spotting.

But in this whole row only that one showed damage.

Yes that's a piece of PVC pipe dropped on this beautiful agave.

But it looks strong enough to shrug it off—it also looks to not be the first time it had to suffer such indignities.

Rounding the corner these all look great, the ceanothus looks much worse than the agaves! (the leaves are awfully brown)

My next stop was at Minh's garden (first visit here)...

Everything looked fabulous, here the left-hand side of the front garden...

Looking at the hellstrip now. I think this bowl had been placed to protect the top of the Agave victoriae-reginae.

That empty pot, filled with rocks? Ya, someone stole a palm right out of this hellstrip. Looking closer I'd say the palm on the right is perhaps suffering from spear pull. Unless of course it's just passersby doing bad things.

This second Agave victoriae-reginae looks good, even while it's protection is not doing it's job.

I don't think whatever is doing damage to this palm is winter weather related, this looks like an older problem.

Hellstrip view...

Front garden view...

Close-ups of the agaves on the right hand side of the front sidewalk.

Minh wasn't home, so I was trying to get as many close-ups as possible, without actually walking into the garden. Here I was aiming at the planting area under the front window.

Same area focus, but from the other side.

A couple final hellstrip shots from the street-side.

Dreamy palm!

This house and garden changed hands last year. It's good to see the new owners haven't changed anything up, and all the agaves looked damage-free, at least from the public sidewalk.

Heading back towards NE Portland now, and I stopped to check out this trio of Agave ovatifolia.

These were recently-ish corralled in this stone circle.

Thankfully they don't seem to be minding the treatment.

The only damage I saw was that one leaf.

Just down the street a ways...

A NOID that looks like winter never happened.

We've been here before, also in NE Portland, not too far from my house, but along a ridge with a nice south facing rock wall.

The big guy looks good, from a distance at least. Two of his babies in my garden aren't looking so great, one already in the yard waste bin, and one headed that direction. Then again the growing conditions in my garden aren't nearly so favorable.

Ickiness on this one, but is it weather related? I'm not sure.

Pups from the larger plant also looking good.

Okay, one last garden! This one could have been part of Wednesday's post as I've walked by a few times. However since I stopped by in the car I am sharing it here. Interesting too, we're back closer to my garden and seeing more damage. Hmm...

In person I'd pegged this one as a mangave.

It wasn't until looking at the photos on my computer that I decided it could be a 'Blue Glow'. Whatever it is, I'm not sure it's gonna make it. I wonder what would have happened if I'd have pulled on the center?

This bad boy on the left is also looking a little "checked out". Not sure about the 'Blue Glow' on the right.


The cylindropuntia looks great!

Not so much for the opuntia in front of it, or maybe I should say the opuntia stump.

Walking around to the front of the garden...

The Agave parrasana 'Meat Claw' looks solid. It's green friend has seen better days.

One final sad shot from this garden.

And I'll wrap up with news of an agave further afield than any I've shared on these blog posts. I've been watching this Agave 'Blue Glow' in the garden of former HPSO President Jim Rondone for years now. It's planted on a southern exposure rock wall and has weathered many a winter storm. I took this photo last November...

Last week I asked Jim how it was looking and I got this photo. A couple of days later I got an email: "I came out to the garden this morning, and ‘Blue Glow’ had collapsed onto the steps that lead from the driveway to the back deck. The leaves were scattered as if it had been hit like a piñata."

Since publishing this series of posts I've heard from agave-growing friends all over the Portland area and a few up in Seattle. Damage is everywhere. It's pretty heartbreaking. Just yesterday I easily pulled the center out of another large agave in my garden, one that had been thru years with no damage. Yet there are other agaves that are fine. A mix of species, soil, sun, location, it all plays into what works and what does not. As I've said before, gardening is not for the weak! 

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


  1. Winter wet was the undoing of a few agaves in my zone 10 garden too. Even though the drought has been a theme for years, occasionally a wet winter rolls around, and I still vividly remember the shock of losing a large, established A. schidigera 'Shira ito no Ohi' and a gorgeous A. parrasana 'Fireball' -- it really hurts to watch living sculpture collapse like that! FWIW my phormium here at the coast looks fine so far...

    1. I remember making trips to the beach after the the first couple of PKW's and seeing the car-size phormium still standing, and blooming!

  2. So sad, Loree. I am so sorry. It seems like a mix of post-bad-weather results. Do you attribute the death of so many formerly beautiful agaves to the wind, the ice or drainage? So many of these seem to be in perfect conditions. An interesting if informal study to try to figure it out. Oddly mine are in pretty good shape as I've not had the terrible freezing east winds too much out here, but lots of freezing temps and moisture. A few damaged leaves but they'll pull through. Again, I'm so sorry :(

    1. All the things factor in; the wet cold, the plant species, the way it was planted. Though of course there are some general things of note, like the fact many parts of Portland thawed earlier than others. I am glad that yours are looking okay!

  3. Gardening is not for the weak - so true. I'm sorry about all the agave damage you're seeing in your city and in your garden. It's hard to lose beloved - and large - plants.

    1. Thanks Pam. What's even larger than an agave? Ya, trees. So sorry you're dealing with that.

  4. I was looking for clues in your "data" as to the factors that support survival among your sightings but, on the whole, the damage seems so random (except for carnage probably inflicted by malicious or heedless people). But trying to root out the magic combination that yields protection of individual plants may be like trying to predict the weather - there are too many competing factors to treat it like a math problem.

    1. Your last sentence sums it all up beautifully!

  5. Thanks for the report, Loree! At least those poor agaves, at the base of the "Gratitude" mural got their revenge. Bite ME and I will bite you back! Jim's poor A. 'Blue Glow' looks so sad! My baby agaves, A. 'Sharkskin' and A. JC Ralston (in the ground with a gravel mulch) are looking good! Lost the lower leaves on the A.americana 'Varigata' in the ground, but the center is solid. The A. americana 'Varigata' that I got from Susan Langenes, which is in a pot, under cover of a porch, also is loosing lower leaves but with a solid center. SE Portland.

    1. Jeanne DeBenedetti KeyesFebruary 10, 2023

      Sorry, that post above was me!

    2. I thought it might have been Jeanne, thanks for the confirmation. I can't believe you have an Agave americana 'Varigata' in the ground that's still alive!? Wow. Nice work!

  6. Very sad to see so many beautiful plants damaged, even those that were on slopes with perfect drainage. Nature can be so cruel. Your photos show how slight differences in microclimates can make all the difference.

    1. Aren't microclimates interesting? Small distances, big differences.

  7. You know, all things considered, there's a lot of good news here. That's what I'll focus on :-)

    1. So true! My death count is currently at five, four of which were in containers and unprotected, the fifth a 'Blue Glow' doomed from the get-go. But I have many others looking good...

  8. Okay, yay! It's not just me and our microclimate down here in the foothills of the Coastal Range. But, boo! Whatever those conditions were that caused things to melt. It really didn't seem that bad down here compared to what you all were having up in Portland. I agree with Kris. I can't see a pattern in what made some plants shrug it off and what made others keel over.

  9. And here they got a lift because of rain. As anonymous said, there are many survivors, all things considered.

    Was reading about resilience (human). Those who view hardship as a challenge rather than a trauma survive to eventually thrive.

    Minh's garden is delightfully spike-y.


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