Friday, July 7, 2023

The updated front garden, 2023

Outlining the front garden changes in Wednesday's post I left off just after I'd planted a couple of yuccas at the end of April, but it wasn't until the first week of June that I finally finished planting the reworked front garden areas. Why? A combination of the weather pushing me to finish other tasks first—the things I was planting here wouldn't mind a drier, hotter kick-off to their new life than other plants—and travel, that is a week away backed by jury duty. Today I'm sharing photos from the completed plantings.

First, a nod to what stayed. The Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Nanjing Gold' (the tall slightly misshapen shrub against the house) wasn't going anywhere. I love this plant and I am happy to have it more visible. It's also another reason why I started cutting back the old fatsia early this spring, I wanted the new edgeworthia leaves to emerge in the sun, rather than being shocked by it later. So far they're handing it great, I only hope that in the long run the shrub comes together in the middle, growing to overcome the way it grew around the fatsia. To the right (near the front door) is a happy and healthy Feijoa sellowiana (pineapple guava) that didn't much mind last winter...
We must also acknowledge the mound of Yucca filamentosa in the left hand corner. I thought about trying to remove them, as it's the perfect spot for an agave to thrive, but as we all know if I had, then I would be doing it for the next 30 years, and I have a bit of an emotional attachment to them anyway. They were planted when we first moved in, and they came with me from my garden in Spokane (where they'd been transplanted from my mom's and my brother's gardens). 

I thought I would be removing both of the huge overgrown Leucothoe fontanesiana 'Rainbow'  (behind the Yucca rostrata, at the base of the edgeworthia) but once I took the front one out I discovered the one in the back could remain with just a light pruning.

The photo above made me laugh for how our house and those of the next three neighbor's up the street look. It's a cookie cutter neighborhood! Which it's not really, it's just this section where they're quite similar.

Anyway, on to the new plants! That Yucca desmetiana 'Blue Boy' is new, nestled in with some (NoID) lewisia and Imperata cylindrica (blood grass)—both of which have been growing here for years. That yucca is such a tease. It looks great for a couple of years, then... dead. I fall for it periodically. We'll see how long this one lasts.

Yucca aloifolia

Look at those colors!

Mahonia fremontii, so small! But I am thrilled to have found them (there's a second one in the new plantings). Fingers crossed I found a hot and sunny enough spot to keep them alive.

The Orostachys spinosa I brought back from my early June travels ended up here. They're also a bit of an experiment.

Ozothamnus coralloides from New Zealand; "a slow growing cushion-forming evergreen shrub that can grow to 1 foot tall by 2 to 3 feet wide with thick stems of small diamond-shaped leaves" (source).

Eryngium proteiflorum, this is the one that produces flowers that are vaguely protea-like. I should have bought both of the plants I came across, what was I thinking just getting one?!
This little bugger! Indigofera amblyantha is not a new plant, but rather an old one that I loved, until I decided I didn't, and removed it with this garden change-up. I'm convinced I'll be digging bits for years. Before I put in the new plants I dug out the plant version of a 5ft wide octopus. At the center was the original plant gifted from a friend (you know who you are!) and out from that were thick long arms (roots with sprouts) going off in every direction. I've already dug a half dozen that start out rather unassuming like this one. Grrrr.....

Back when I posted about my agaves that lived thought last winter (here) I mentioned that I'd planted several new agaves, that's seven to be exact. Here's #1, a new Agave ovatifolia which I am pretty sure is 'Frosty Blue'. I hunted and hunted for a larger ovatifolia or two, but this was the biggest I could find. It's a perfect little thing that I'm hoping will grow well.

Another shot of Holman, good looking boy that he is. Most of his roots were severed in the rescue ordeal and since he (obviously) didn't grow any new ones over the winter he was a little unstable when we put him in the ground, that's why the two rebar stakes. 

That's a NoID opuntia I picked up at the Rare Plant Research open house back in May.

I'd been growing these three cloudy cabbages (Bukiniczia cabulica) in a container for too long. It was time for them to sink or swim in the ground. We shall see.

Here's new Agave #2, the adorable Agave montana 'Baccarat' from Alison. Of course that name isn't typically used any longer (I bought at least one agave labeled as such, and she must have too), I believe they're mostly considered Agave 'Baccarat' now.

There must be black mondo grass, always! There's a large expanse on the other side of this new planting, so I figured I needed at least one here to tie the two spaces together.

New Agave #3, labeled as Agave gentryi/montana cross which came from Susan/Secret Garden Growers (it takes a village to round up this many agaves!). That name is again a little outdated, but it's what was on the container so it's what I'm saying here.

The sun is getting brighter! I tried to act quickly on a partly cloudy morning to take photos, but it's been all sun all the time here. While I am not complaining does make it hard to get decent images. Anyway, there was one hellebore here which had done well (on the far left), so I transplanted the other two (Helleborus 'Rio Carnival') which were near the old fatsia. Fingers crossed they don't mind the increased sun.

A Yucca recurvifolia with fantastic coloring (see the faint purple stripe?) that I spotted last winter and quickly purchased. The coloring was stronger in cool weather, but the fact it has remained at all in the warmer temperatures and bright sunshine has me hopeful that it will return again.

New agave #4 is a NoID, and in fact this photo doesn't quite do it justice. It's a perfectly lovely spiky little thing that I bought not knowing what it is (no label). It is my one agave gamble in the new plantings. Fingers crossed it's something hardy. 

Moving down to the lower planting area now.

I am very concerned about the Yucca rostrata on the far left. 

It went in back in 2011 and has always been the better looking of these two (that's an Agave ovatifolia in the corner, planted in 2017).

I noticed late this spring that it was looking a little sickly and it hasn't gotten better. I don't know what the problem is!

It's brother (both Yucca rostrata were planted at the same time) looks great. Behind it is the relocated Yucca linearifolia.

A pulled back shot with Holman.

Up on the house sidewalk now (the last photo was taken from the public sidewalk, visible below) and looking at the area where the Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' came out. The tall exclamation point is a Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Wissel's Saguaro' that I've had for years, but wasn't doing anything in the dumb spot I'd planted it in, so I moved it. Fingers crossed it starts to "saguaro" here soon!

New agave #5 is the large Agave 'Baccarat' I got from Dale. How fabulous is it?!

Here's my longtime 'Baccarat' up near the front door....

It's pretty much always flawless.

A shot of the relocated Yucca linearifolia.

New agave #6, a cluster of Agave 'Silver Surfer'

Nearby are these Opuntia humifusa which had become completely engulfed in the Juniperus conferta 'Blue Pacific' groundcover. I saw one of the pads sticking up through the juniper and cut it away to reveal these two looking pretty darn good, all things considered.

Looky there! It's a previously rabbit-consumed Berkheya purpurea that's come back from the dead! A leaf from a relocated volunteer verbascum is trying to protect it.

Cryptomeria japonica 'Globosa Nana', bought on a whim for a container but I decided to give it a go in the ground.

New agave #7 (and the last) another Agave ovatifolia! Because why the heck not?

I'm gonna end this post of new little plants with a bit of a pulled back shot of the blooming Callistemon 'Woodlander's Hardy Red'. This plant (and the Dasylirion wheeleri behind it) was once new and tiny—but look what it's grown up to be.

I'm convinced us gardeners always see our new plants with the potential they have and what they'll some day become. I'm loving my new plantings!

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


  1. You've done a lot! I love the way your Yucca rostrata echo one another and I hope the semi-sickly one recovers from whatever's ailing it. The Berkheya seedling is exciting - I'm always happy to find things seemingly returning from the dead (unless they're Albizia seedlings, which are still appearing on a periodic basis). You've picked up a LOT of new agaves! I look forward to seeing all your new plants grow and prosper.

    1. I'm still tucking in more plants too, I found some nice sempervivum at a great price!

  2. It's looking so beautiful! I just saw that strange Ozothamnus at thicket today, and misread it as Osmanthus (was thinking, how could it be?!). Glad to have seen it here to correct my misread!

    1. I thought the same when I first read the tag!

  3. I like your additions, and everything is looking great, aside from the slightly ailing yucca. Hope it perks up soon!

  4. AnonymousJuly 08, 2023

    It is so satisfying to complete a garden renovation. In our minds, every small plant has already grown to it's full potential.
    It seems many of your new agaves are tried and true, which means more success, less tragedies... much needed after last winter.
    Ozothamnus coralloides is new to me: love it's tight 'scales'.
    Fingers crossed for a successful transplanting of wissel's saguaro. Its a fantastic conifer. I have planted one 2-1/2 years ago and can't wait for it to bulk up and tower over me. What are the dark burgundy blades growing on either sides of the saguaro?
    The Callistemon blooms add such amazing pop of color!

    1. The dark burgundy blades are eucomis that emerged as I was planting. They've been there for years, but I can't remember the last time they bloomed. Maybe the increased light will push them to do so?

  5. Nothing better than being satisfied with a big project like this. I’m lusting after your ‘Wissel’s Saguaro’. Probably just as well that it’s not really hardy here, as it would look a bit odd in a Midwest garden.

  6. It all looks fantastic and so well-placed, Loree. I had no idea the Leucothoe could handle so much sun, good to know. Congrats on obtaining Holman - that's funny, my mother grew up on Holman street. I wonder....I'll have her look at your post about it and see if she recognizes the home Holman came from. Anyhow, I hope your yucca pulls through. I can't begin to imagine what's wrong. Crossing fingers!

    1. Thanks! We'll see about the leucothoe, it's all a grand experiment. The garden Holman grew up in is on the opposite side of Fernhill Park.

  7. Hey, you have a saguaro! Ha, ha, ha!

    1. That reminds me of a very funny story (at least to me) about someone who moved here from AZ and was working at a local nursery. A customer asked about a Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Wissel's Saguaro' and he proceeded to explain that while saguaros were indeed great plants they wouldn't be happy here in Portland. I guess all he heard was saguaro...

  8. AnonymousJuly 09, 2023

    Those Hellebores will be fine. They might take a bit to adjust. I moved one this time last year. It was more vulnerable to wilting because of the root disturbance, so probably some extra water. This year it's doing fine. I've also got several that spend half the day in full sun and they take it like a champ.

    I'm also finding myself impressed how tough some of the Eucomis can be. I have one green one that borders on worrisome with how quickly it multiplies itself, but the darker ones are great. I could see you having a "backup" pot or two of them stashed in a corner somewhere for temporary filing of holes after bad winters.

    1. Thanks, I moved the hellebores in late April and they seem to be settling in just fine. No, I won't be buying anymore eucomis. Their foliage is rather blah, and while the blooms were fun in my baby garden I don't need to plant them again. These have been here for a very long time (10 years?) so they get a pass.

  9. Loree, your redo is looking excellent with all of the textures, colors and shapes. I adore your colorful Yucca aloifolia, it is now on my list to check to see if it can survive the intensity of our sun. Unfortunately we discovered a snout weevil on one of the agaves in the pool area. Hopefully it will be the the only one to survive since we regularly spray for that evil agave killer.


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