Friday, May 26, 2023

An epic agave rescue

It began with an email from a lady named Grace: "Hi, Loree: I got your name from Paul at Xera Plants because I need to GET RID OF a 20-year-old large Agave macroculmis* in a public church garden that I planted and now the church property trustees want it GONE because a volunteer weeder called it a "Chain Saw Plant" after scratching her leg on its spines. Question: Would you happen to know anyone in the Portland-metro area who would or could dig & remove one or actually two agave's -- they are free since I have no other place to put them.

Do I know someone? Oh yes, actually I do know someone. Remember my friend Eric from the Yucca rostrata rescue last September? (blog post here) I forwarded Grace's email to Eric, to see if he wanted the agaves. Yes he did, challenge on!

I stopped by the property in early March, to see what the agaves looked like. This is the large one, measuring 6ft wide and 4 ft tall.

This is the "small" one, which is still over 3ft wide. I assumed it was a pup of the larger plant that had been moved, but Grace informed me that both plants were purchased at the same time. The smaller one was moved a around a few times though and didn't have the prime sun and heat-soak location that the larger one did (location is everything!).

Fast forward to last Sunday the 21st, aka moving day! When I arrived, Eric (kneeling in the lawn) and his friends Erik (L) and Greg (behind the agave) had already dug around large agave and were getting ready to hook up the tow rope and pull the plant free.

It was pretty firmly attached but rotated with each tug.

Once the base was loose Eric built a framework to help in moving it.

Proof that agaves hurt the ones who love them. This bloody arm belongs to Grace, the lady who bought and planted the agaves and emailed me in an attempt to find them a new home, rather than just letting them be cut up and disposed of.

There was a small pup that broke off the large agave, Grace will have a memento to grow on—check out that hook on one of the spines, she'd better be careful!

Ready for more pulling...

And it's free!

Not much of a hole where it used to be...

Now the hard part. How to get that plant into the back of that truck...

Things were progressing (slowly) when a neighbor showed up. He helped a bit, he had ideas, in the end he left wishing us luck.

Part way in and it became obvious the front part of the wooden structure needed to be cut down if the plant was going to be pushed in any further.


Baby steps. We'd first moved the cement blocks under the flat way (baby lift), then the tall way (another baby lift), now it was time for the final push.

And it's in!

The drive to its new home was slow. I only saw one guy look at Eric's truck (and the agave) with surprise. Most people didn't even seem to notice.

A few photos of Eric's garden to set the scene...

Rescued Yucca rostrata...

And the masterpiece, Eric's custom built greenhouse—can you even believe this? Design—his own creation. Glass windows, made by his own hands. Copper shingles, cut, patinaed and attached by his own hands. Every single bit of this he did himself. I fully intend to invite myself over later in the summer and take many more photos of everything, these will have to suffice for now.


And back outside. Orange arrow points to the hole Eric pre-dug for the agave. It's covered so his pups didn't fall in.

How many folks have a vintage telephone box in their garden? This was another rescue of Eric's, it involved a crane (which really would have made the agave rescue easier, maybe with a helicopter too).

Sadly I had to leave just after the agave had been backed into the drive (check out its homecoming here), before it had been moved into it's final home—but Eric sent me a couple of photos. It looks like it's always been there doesn't it? It's also nearly impossible to tell just how big it is!

BTW, the second (smaller) agave rescue will be undertaken soon (No doubt Eric will be able to do that one on his own, with one hand tied behind his back) and it will be planted up in a large container, insurance in case this big boy decides he didn't like the move, or it triggers a bloom. Eric—you are amazing!

* Agave macroculmis was sold by Plant Delights Nursery: "This large, fast-growing agave features wide blue-green foliage that develops into a spectacularly large clump to 4' wide. This durable agave seems more tolerant of adverse conditions than many that we have grown, perhaps partially due to its quick growth rate. The spiny teeth along the edges of the leaves are reminiscent of the mouth of a shark...for those that have seen one close up! Our seeds for this offering come from the famed Peckerwood Gardens of Yucca Do founder John Fairey." However that name is no longer considered valid and it now goes by Agave gentryi. Read more about the name change on the San Marcos Growers website
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Wednesday, May 24, 2023

Dirty Diggers and garden spying

After loading up the car at Rare Plant Research, Peter and I made a swing by The Dirty Diggers of Lovewood's plant sale. There were lots of folks from our Portland Garden Blogger's community selling plants there including; Anna, Tamara, Evan and Gina.

Did I take any photos of those lovely people, or their plants? No I did not. I was too busy talking. I did take a couple photos of Anna's garden though.

I've always wanted to steal her galvanized hellstrip planter idea.

Since we were nearby I took advantage and did a quick sidewalk photoshoot of this garden just up the street, belonging to a man named Don. (I've visited both Anna and Don's gardens before, here's the fist visit, and here's the second).

This Agave montana was just a tiny thing when I saw it back in 2018, it's grown so much! 

Sadly it also is showing some winter damage.

But nothing it can't grow out of.

I wonder if it's old enough to bloom soon?

Agave parryis looking fabulous.

Ditto for the opuntia.

What I think might be a Yucca schottii is about four times bigger than when I first saw it, but still such a lovely powder blue. 

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Monday, May 22, 2023

Another visit to Rare Plant Research (with the Outlaw)

I'm a sucker for tradition, especially when it evolves nursery/garden visits and good friends. If my calculations are correct then this last weekend was my 18th annual trek to Rare Plant Research in Oregon City, Oregon, and at least my 6th with Peter, aka the Outlaw.

Rare Plant Research is a wholesale nursery that opens to the public for a few events each year, the owner lives on site and has created extensive gardens around the home which are also open.

To avoid the choke point with the crowds at the entry, and of course to put an eye on the bromeliads, I always start at the very last greenhouse and then work my way to the front.

And I always take this photo, because cannas in a group are impressive.

As are opuntia...

Hmmm, speaking of (opuntia) I've got a spot in the garden for a nice spiky version!

Agave montana (I believe, although they still aren't signed as such)

Eucomis comosa, maybe 'Sparkling Burgundy'

Of course I had to go peek at what was "behind the curtain" in the off-limits area.

Didierea trollii

Echium in a greenhouse

Echium outside


Sad looking Platycerium bifurcatum 'Netherlands'.

Blooming Sarracenia x catesbaei.

This glorious white spiked devil appears to have been abandoned by a potential purchaser, as it (and it's offspring in the next pot over) was not where it was originally found. How do I know? Because Peter had picked one up from the original location and was also considering leaving it behind.

Remember this little segment as I'll have a story for you at the end of this post.

Agave ovatifolia! I was hoping to find them here again this year. These are the 3 gallon offerings ($45) but there were also 1 gallon ($19.50).

Spikes and shells, an unexpected combination anywhere but here at RPR. 

Peter and I walked up to the house and garden of the owner Burl, and his wife. It's an interesting area to survey, and pass the time, while the line to pay down at the nursery thins out. Those bromeliads do not spend the winter there in the rocks, lots of plants around the home winter-over in the greenhouses. 

Alcantarea imperialis 

This photo doesn't accurately convey just how large these sarracenia were.

Inside the home's conservatory.

And across just one of several man-made (Burl-made) ponds.

Another, looking back at the house.

And down at the nursery area, thru the winery's vines (Villa Catalana Cellars is another of Burl's endeavors).

So there's our haul (mine is toward the bottom of the photo; the purple bromeliad, the spiky opuntia and a pair of Agave ovatifolia). Peter is replacing the evil cylindropuntia he'd previously decided against. 

I admit to pushing him to buy it, it was such a beautiful plant. During the trip home a segment (like the abandoned one I photographed above, in the plant pot) broke off and attached itself to the rubber floormat in the back of my car. While Peter was loading his plants into his car I tried to pry it free (with a knife) so he could take it home. I ended up getting it—via at least seven of its long white spines with barbs—stuck in my fingers. The weight of the plant segment meant every move pulled on them and the pain increased. Thankfully Andrew was home and cut the spines free from the plant and then pulled out from my fingers. Fun times with spikes!
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