Wednesday, July 5, 2023

Saying yes meant changes…

Sunday September 25th. That morning I received a text about several yucca that needed to be rescued before the homeowner took a saw to them, Yucca rostrata to be specific—trunking Yucca rostrata. Initially I was just acting to save the plants, after all I didn't have room for another large Yucca rostrata. However once the project was underway and my friend Eric asked if I wanted one of the five, as a finders fee... well, how could I say no? 

Obviously I said yes, and that meant changes, a bit of a garden renovation was set in motion. Here's the yucca that became mine—I decided to name it Holman, in honor of the street he used to live on.

These next seven photos are from my year end "state of the garden" post that went up last October. That Fatsia japonica was one of the first things I planted when we moved here in 2005. 

Here it is seen from the driveway, it's legs mirroring those of the Arctostaphylos x 'Austin Griffiths' further out in the front garden. This was my favorite view of the plant.

The view from other side. Behind it is a large edgeworthia; E. chrysantha 'Nanjing Gold'. Growing between the two (from this angle) are Leucothoe fontanesiana 'Rainbow' and Indigofera amblyantha.

At its feet, a pair of Woodwardia unigemmata.

From the same post last October, here's a view of the front garden from the public sidewalk. You can see the fatsia up against the house.

Of interest here though is the annually pollarded Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple'. That's a long loop of it's foliage laying on the Yucca rostrata.

Here it is seen from the sidewalk to the front door (RIP that fabulous agave—a winter loss). 

Fast forward to ugly, photos from the end of January. I'd decided the fatsia had to go, in it's place would go Holman. I'd fallen out of love with the fatsia several years ago, it was time. There was a bit of sentimentality mixed in with losing this 18 year old shrub, as I mentioned it was one of the first things I planted here. However, once the decision was made I was excited to get started.

The Woodwardia unigemmata were moved to the back garden, and one of the two Leucothoe fontanesiana 'Rainbow' was removed to the yard waste bin.

Can you make out the stump of the Cotinus ‘Royal Purple'? It's just to the right of the Agave 'Sharkskin'. Yep, it's going too. I loved the dark foliage in the spring and the colorful autumn version. But I'd grown to hate the imbalance of having a huge space dedicated to a shrub that became a void for half the year—sunny space at that! Since I was at it a long suffering Dasylirion wheeleri and a Callistemon viridiflorus 'Xera Compact' also came out.

I took this photo the day I started to cut back the Fatsia japonica branches. It was going be a long process as that's a lot of material to work out in weekly yard waste pick ups (along with all the other garden debris) so I wanted to pace myself—aiming for a spring planting for Holman.

The remarkable thing about this image (taken at the end of January) is just how good both of those large-ish agaves still look. Things took a very drastic turn in the coming weeks. 

Anyway, here we are, April 26th. It's hard to grasp how many fatsia branches had already been removed!

It's about 1/3 the size it used to be. Oh and one of the agaves is gone (the sharkskin agave would eventually come out too, potted up in an attempt to rehabilitate it).

April 28th, I'd got the fatsia back to this state and it was time for Andrew to get involved. Digging out a 18 year old shrub requires more muscle than I've got.

Gone! The house is visible again, well, from this angle.

Holman spent winter in a container in the driveway. Before the December storm I considered trying to move him into the garage, but realized he was too tall to fit through the door. Since his roots were all broken during the move there was no sense in trying to tip him on a side either, that would have been a disaster. Thankfully he's a trooper and handled the cold well. 

Here I'm giving him a trim before planting day.

Hole dug...

And he's in! He looked so much larger in the pot in the driveway...

Those sticks on the far left under the corner window, that's a pineapple guava, Feijoa sellowiana. It was defoliated with the winter storms and still hadn't leaved out at the end of April. We cut it back to the ground. There are just now (beginning of July) a few little starts growing out of the stump. I am undecided on whether or not I'll let them grow.

Andrew also made quick work of the cotinus stump. Funny I thought I'd do that one myself. Seeing how hard he worked to get it out I was laughing at that idea.

For the spot where the cotinus used to be I planned to relocate a Yucca linearifolia I had growing in a hidden spot in the front garden. I dug it out...

And cleaned it up, including exposing the trunk...before I replanted it. 

I tried to take a couple "before and after" photos showing where it had been so you could laugh at the fact this great plant was completely hidden in my small garden, but I couldn't even get a decent shot of it, that's how well it was hidden.

I also went agave shopping to fill the new sunny empty spots with a couple proven winners, based on which agaves made it through last winter. Sadly, finding some of them proved very difficult. I couldn't believe it when a couple of the exact agaves I was looking for came to me via friends. Alison—yes, the Bonny Lassie—sent me this Agave montana 'Baccarat'...

And this amazing haul came home with me from our Portland garden bloggers swap. In the middle is a large Agave 'Baccarat' from Dale (exactly what I had been hunting for!), on the left a Yucca aloifolia which I fell in love with in Dale's garden and he shared an extra he had on hand (on the right a Syneilesis aconitifolia from Jane that went in the back garden).

One last photo to share today. Once I was home with that Agave 'Baccarat' and giving it a light clean up I pulled out a dead leaf and got a very big surprise, a frog! See him up against the pot? How often do you bring home an agave with a bonus frog? I put him in the garden but haven't seen him since. Fingers crossed he's out there somewhere having a good life.

On Friday I'll share photos of the new areas all planted up!

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  1. Wow, what a difference! I like all the plants you had there before, but I like the area even better now because it's more open.

    Looking at the first photo of Holman (before he was Holman), I had no idea how big he is!

    1. Ya, it's hard to tell how tall Holman was since his skirts were still in place, plus his neighbors were taller so he was naturally dwarfed.

  2. AnonymousJuly 05, 2023

    When you see just before and after shots you quite often do not appreciate the amount of work that goes into such a big change, so thanks for sharing these and the commentary.

    Had Holman managed to start producing any new roots by the time he was put in the ground?

    I will have been living in my current house for 20 years this September and there are some plants that I have started to get a bit bored with. It would take a lot of digging to get them out though and there is the risk of collateral damage to the surrounding plants whilst carrying out the digging. Hmmm, I think it is something that I need to think about some more.

    1. No unfortunately there were no new roots, which had me concerned. In talking with other folks they didn't seem to think I should be, so I'm trying to not be! It's a trade off isn't it? Making changes that could damage plants you want to keep... yikes.

  3. Given the climate changes we’re experiencing, I think it’s time to be hard core. We’re not going to be able to save all our favorites. Time to figure out what works and enjoy them.

    1. That's definitely true, although the plants I removed were doing fine. I'm sure they would have enjoyed more water but they were established and dealing with their summer dry world.

  4. BIG changes! Holman looks great and I'm glad you found a spot for him. My one and only Yucca rostrata is still relatively dinky and shows no sign of a trunk but it appears healthy and, if El Nino brings another good rain year, maybe it'll get a real growth spurt next year. Meanwhile, I'm envisioning a couple of large removals downstream myself but first I need to do something with the 3 bloomed-out agaves that are looking increasingly ugly.

    1. Ah yes, nothing like a large dying agave (or 3) to call for your attention!

  5. I love the garden and all the set up. And how awesome you saved that yucca.

  6. Huge improvement taking out the Fatsia and putting in the Y. rostrata. Y. linearfolia is a beauty and deserves a prime location, too. Great improvements that will only get more beautiful as the Yuccas grow.

    Little froggie--hope it survives and thrives like the Yuccas.

    1. Ya, that fatsia was of another time and never was in a great spot—too much sun. A beginners mistake.

  7. AnonymousJuly 05, 2023

    Photo #2 from last October was so lush, I thought it'd be heart wrenching to take out the Fatsia, but then came the January #9 photo that showed the misery winter left behind. That view easily explained why the change was necessary.
    (I have one of those rather heavy crowbar... very useful).
    Amazing how all those Agaves showed up just in time. Looking forward to the Friday reveal.

    1. Seriously, I felt so fortunate that the agave stars aligned like that. I know good people! The crowbar is actually a rock bar, it's so heavy I can barely lift it, but it does great work in Andrew's hands.

  8. AnonymousJuly 05, 2023

    Agree with comments above, great changes. Holman looks great after such a rough winter in a pot. I bought one of those yuccas from One Green World a couple months ago, need to take out an overgrown rosemary and pop the yucca in, but my wife demands a replacement rosemary. Just need to go get one and pot it up.
    Jim N. Tabor

    1. Rosemary is a vital ingredient in so many recipes, I understand! My rosemary is about half the size it used to be after last winter. Good luck with the yucca planting!

  9. AnonymousJuly 05, 2023

    Forced Changes were a hallmark of this past spring for sure! After two snowfalls and a late freeze I lost two three small agaves, a ten foot cordyline (wah!), three sick rhodies, a witch hazel and a mature calla lilly, along with several dahlias I left in ground. Also had three old filbert (hazelnut) trees trimmed back, allowing more sun into the back fence area. Sad losses, but new stuff looking good.

    1. Oh gosh yes. The forced changes elsewhere kept me from completing this project in a timely fashion. Your list is long!

  10. A big decision and an even bigger job but I really like how much more open the space is. The Fatsia had gotten so large it kind of dwarfed the front of the house. Holman fits in the space nicely and will look great with all his new friends too. Aren't gardening friends great too supplying you with all those extra plants. Gotta love it.

    1. Indeed, this project benefited greatly from the kindness of gardening friends.

  11. Holman is one Big handsome dude! He really is splendid and is perfectly situated in his new home. I envy your ability to be planting now, I'm just sitting inside with the A/C making lists of replacement plants and additions to my low desert gardens once the monsoons finally arrive. Enjoy all of your 'green' for me!

  12. Love, love, love what you and hubby have done! I included him because it must have been VERY hard work. I agree with Gerhard that it looks more open now.


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