Wednesday, October 18, 2023

2023 Tour, the front garden

It's tour time again! Each year I do a thorough look at the garden, usually taking the photos in late summer and posting them sometime mid-autumn. These posts are meant to preserve a moment in time, to give myself a record of the garden each year. Some years I take photos over a series of days, then go through and select the best—after all when the lighting is good in one part of the garden it probably isn't in another. This year as I was getting ready to go to the Fling in Philadelphia (we were gone Sept 18-25) I realized I hadn't yet taken my tour photos—so no prep, no paying attention to the lighting, just a walk through the garden with my camera...

I'm standing in the driveway, looking out across the front garden admiring the sexy branching of Arctostaphylos x 'Austin Griffiths'...he's been in my garden for 12 years now. 

Removing the Cotinus coggygria 'Royal Purple' last spring—it was pretty much dead center in front of Austin in the photo above—means a better view of that bark from both the house and the driveway.

You might remember the cotinus wasn't the only thing removed, we also pulled out a huge Fatsia japonica that I planted in 2005. I haven't missed it at all, Holman—the large Yucca rostrata up near the house—fills the space well. We'll look at that area closer in a minute. 

Sadly one of the smaller Yucca rostrata, the one closest to the driveway, has looked rather pathetic all summer. New growth emerges but then quickly fades to brown. I'm giving it until spring before I pull it.

The Agave ovatifolia at it's base looks great though!

The view from the street, house fully hidden behind the plants.

Left to right Arctostaphylos x 'Austin Griffiths', A.  ‘Monica’ and A. x densiflora 'Harmony'. I meant to prune them all this year, sadly I didn't touch a single branch on any of them.

The all-yellow Yucca filamentosa are still doing great.

You can see some of the Tetrapanax papyrifer leaves are turning golden, I only watered the front garden once this summer (excepting newly planted things that got regular water) so a few dying leaves are bound to be expected in September.  

Weather nerd info: this was our 3rd hottest summer on record, and as is expected it was a dry summer—the rains stopped back in early May, with the exception of a rainy weekend in June. It's amazing to me that this plant looks so good with so little water.

We've retraced our steps now and are about to walk up the sidewalk towards the front door. This is a near-repeat (but not exact) of the earlier image just to give you a sense of place.

Any guesses what the large shrub behind Holman is?
It's Edgeworthia chrysantha 'Nanjing Gold'. I knew it was big, but removing the fatsia shows just how big. It's definitely exceeded the 6-8 ft tall and wide promised on the tag. 

Notice the fun little top spurt of new growth Holman has going on, kind of an Alfalfa look if you're old enough to know who that is. I'm thrilled he's rooted in and making himself at home.

The plants at his base are doing well too.

As are the agaves I planted this spring, like this Agave montana 'Baccarat', it's settled in and put on a little growth.

Sometime in late August this Agave ovatifolia decided it wasn't getting enough sun and it started to flatten out its leaves, not a great sign for long term happiness. I trimmed a few branches on the edgeworthia and a Leucothoe fontanesiana 'Rainbow' and it's looking a little better than in this photo (not quite so splayed out). 

Looking across the sidewalk to where the cotinus came out and a Yucca linearifolia and Chamaecyparis lawsoniana 'Wissel's Saguaro' moved in, relocated from elsewhere in the front garden (what a horrible photo! The sun came out for a minute and blew everything out). 
You can also see the Little Free Greenhouse in the hellstrip, it's not always full, but it's definitely been a success. I've given away so many plants and others have contributed as well.

Four agaves were new to this area this year; conjoined Agave x protamericana 'Silver Surfer' twins.

Another Agave ovatifolia...

... which sadly had some damage to its outer skin layer. I'm hoping this won't be an issue, but I've got insurance agaves just in case.

Finally the biggest newbie of them all, an Agave 'Baccarat'. I did go a little agave-crazy last spring, perhaps a knee-jerk reaction to losing so many agaves last winter? I'm hoping this winter will be kinder.

Moving further up the sidewalk, a pair of Dasylirion wheeleri in front of Arctostaphylos 'Monica'.

On the far left is Agave 'Mateo' in a large container hidden by rosemary. That container doesn't move, but I have been known to temporarily relocate the smaller ones if the weather turns ugly over the winter. I'm hoping maybe this coming El Nino winter (warmer, drier here in the PNW) might mean I don't have to.

Turning back towards the house again now. The big shrub in the container is a pineapple guava, Acca sellowiana, and the edgeworthia is photo-bombing from the left.

Agave 'Baccarat' showing off there in the center of the photo. 

Looking to the right side of the front porch, where there is good news and bad news.

The bad news is that over the summer my prized Daphne × houtteana (the black-leaved daphne) slowly kicked the bucket. Rumor is that it's a finicky, short-lived plant so I guess I should be glad I got 10 years out of it. Just in case it decided to sprout new growth I didn't dig it out, instead just using containers to fill the void.

The good news is the Agave ovatifolia 'Frosty Blue' with nasty rotting on the leaves at it's center has grown out of it. Things were looking pretty dire late last winter, but as you can see the ugly has been replaced by solid new growth.

The small leaves of Bommeria hispida are also looking great, this cute little desert fern had faded back to almost nothing.

Reverse view.

Shifting the angle to include Holman.

Back in the driveway now with just a few more plants to appreciate.

This spring I hinted that maybe we needed to build an a/c surround, something to hide it from view. Andrew didn't agree, oh well. Looking at this photo I'm feeling like I finally should do something creative to get rid of those stupid stacking pavers though. I've hated them for years...

But let's ignore all that for now, shall we? The Aristaloe aristata along the front are looking great, several of them bloomed this year. The agaves along the back, starting at the left, are one from Sean at Cistus that I swear he called 'Streeker', but I can't find anything to verify that. Next is another Agave 'Baccarat'...

...then an agave that was given to me labeled as an Agave gentryi/montana cross...

...and tucked in next to the Yucca filamentosa, a cute little one I bought unlabeled. Yes, that's a lot of agaves folks! 

Moving up the driveway now; I finally got to grow tomatoes again this year—work on the siding here the last two years kept me from doing so.  

We enjoyed buckets of sungolds and yellow pear tomato's.

I moved some of the sarracenia into the driveway where the large Agave weberi used to be (a victim of last winter). They did great with the increased sun exposure here, really nice coloration.

The second stock tank continued to act as my agave farm. Yes those are two "insurance" Agave ovatifolia, I overbought! I intend to pot them up and grow them bigger if they don't end up in the ground next spring.

Basil goodness! I tried to use it all fresh but it just kept growing! It's now in the freezer in pesto form.

Finally, we're at the agave gate, this is where we end for now. To be continued walking into the back garden on Friday...

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


  1. Your garden looks terrific, Loree, especially given the hot, dry summer you had. I think these periodic surveys are useful - I can't tell you how often I look back on my quarterly wide shot photos to track developments and search out early signs of problems I missed. I'm still waiting for my one, and thus far only, Yucca rostrata to live up to the standard set by yours.

    1. You really should give up on that yucca and splurge on one with a trunk!

  2. I adore your front garden, likely my favorite part (if forced to choose - it's all fabulous). The Arctostaphylos have filled in so beautifully over time, giving your garden that something special we all strive for. Fabulous -- and you'd never know there were losses from bad weather last year as it flows so smoothly.

    1. I am pretty happy with how last winter's destruction is nothing but a bad memory. Mostly it's due to my pulling out the loses and replanting, but there are also lots of plants that have rebounded so wonderfully. Plants are amazing!

  3. When a garden is mature it doesn't require as many large plants to make it look good. That's why no one misses the smoke bush or the fatsia... It gives center stage to the best looking trees and shrubs. I'm curious to see if the albino Yucca filamentosa continues to remain solid yellow.
    I've given Sarracenia a try about a year ago. Potted in the grower's special soil mix, in as much sun as my condo's patio allows. It sits in a little saucer with water, but I feel I may have overwatered it. Your Sarracenia looks better than mine...

    1. True the removal of big plants, when there are other big plants left behind, is not nearly so devastating.
      As long as you used the proper soil mix and kept the soil boggy I don't know what could be wrong with your sarracenia. Some people do recommend using distilled or rain water, if your areas water is treated with a lot of chemicals.

  4. Incredible! It’s been a joy seeing the big one progress. That manzanita is magnificent. Looks like the Edgeworthia has had some light pruning, no?
    Jim N. Tabor.

    1. Hmm, yes a little edgeworthia pruning over the years, mainly on the north side so I can get to the water spigot.

  5. Really nice, that manzanita is gorgeous, perfectly pruned up.

  6. The yearly photo review sure is useful. Something I should be doing, but haven't. I love the color of your house, which really helps all the living components stand out. Such a deep, rich color makes me think your whole yard should smell like fresh roasted coffee or chocolate. The last photo of the agave gate looks very inviting. I am really looking forward to see what you do with the stacking paver and a/c surround conundrums in the future.

    1. The brown house color is definitely better for the garden than the white we inherited. Sadly I don't think there's any future a/c surround, but hopefully I'll act (finally!) on the stacking paver situation.

  7. Love the tracery of those manzanita stems. Soo goood - it's all fabulous! As for the editing, you are an inspiration. I need to do A LOT of that! I had part of a Yucca 'Bright Edge' that reverted to just yellow. It's that what happened to yours too? Also, so sorry to hear about your Daphne. Hope it re-sprouts!

    1. Those pups came up all yellow, no reverting. Unfortunately I noticed just a couple of days ago that one of them has shriveled up. Bummer!

  8. Thank you for sharing your garden. Over the years, I've tried many new-to-me plants thanks entirely to The Danger Garden. Any plant failures are surely due to my humid fungal-laced Southeastern climate.

    Right now I've an Edgeworthia chrysantha to plant, and am uncertain about the location. It looks remarkably beautiful in front of your house and I'm wondering what compass direction does the front of your house face?

    1. East—so the edgeworthia gets morning sun, into the early afternoon. I was worried the leaves wouldn't like the removal of the large fatsia that used to give them a little shade but they didn't seem to mind at all. Good luck!


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