Showing posts with label agaves. Show all posts
Showing posts with label agaves. Show all posts

Monday, January 11, 2021

Book giveaway! Fearless Gardening by Loree Bohl

I started blogging and gardening in 2009, during the heyday of longform content. I quickly found Loree's blog Danger Garden. She introduced me to so many plants I didn't know and that I didn't know could grow in our zone. She also reframed a lot of plants that I had grown up with in California, which I thought I disliked. Her blog had a huge effect on my emerging gardening style and opened my eyes to so many new ideas.

In 2012 a reader wrote me and offered to swap some plants. She had a number of agaves and a toddler, a bad combination. Would I want to trade them for something in my garden? 

Agaves in their original location

I had never grown agaves before but Loree gave me permission to try them out in my garden. And I mean that literally: I emailed Loree and asked if she knew what kind of agaves they were and should I put them in the ground? She told me she didn't know but that I should plant them anyway and then she walked me through how to prep my soil. Nine years later they are the anchors of my front garden. 

If you haven't yet purchased your copy of Fearless Gardening: Be Bold, Break the Rules, Grow What You Love, I am here to tell you that it's great. It's that magical unicorn of a book: equal parts inspiring and practical. 

In a time when our gardens are more important than ever, she gives you permission to break the rules and grow what you want. And then she gives you great tips for how to work with any limitations you might have. 

I should mention that I am a librarian and, after working in an academic library for years, I stopped buying books. I made an exception to my usual rule of "just borrow it from the public library," and I'm really glad I did. I know I'm going to return to it whenever I need a creative shot in the arm.

I am giving away a copy of Loree's book. Just leave a comment to be entered in the giveaway. If you're having issues with commenting shoot me an email.

Tuesday, March 31, 2015

A visit to Little Prince of Oregon Nursery

A few weeks back I had the good luck to be included in a group blogger visit to Little Prince of Oregon Nursery. You might recognize their name because you've seen Stepables (walkable groundcovers) or their huge line of sedums and sempervivums. Or maybe you've noticed the hundreds of other plants they grow, because you're not living in a cave like I am.

The team at Little Prince of Oregon. Photo source

I had no idea that Little Prince sold such a wide variety of plants. Agaves! Natives! Ground covers! Ferns! Edibles! Grasses! I went with a short list of plants to buy but ended up with the largest haul of anyone because I kept finding more plants I needed. What did I get?

The biggest Tillandsia xerographica known to man. I was blown away by their tillandsia collection. It was hard to choose just one. This guy is hanging in an impromptu swing in the bathroom.

This is bigger than my head, if the photo belies the size.

Epimedium 'Black Sea'. I have had a really hard time finding this epimedium. I bought three pots from Dancing Oaks a few summers back but they have been slow to bulk up. I freaked out a little when I saw that Little Prince offers them, and I snatched up five more. The leaves turn deep purple in the fall and winter, giving them their name. Little Prince has a pretty great variety of epimediums in their Fit for a King line.

Mahonia nervosa. I bought a clump of this NW native a few years back and plopped it in the front rain garden. It gets full scorching sun and no water and it's been flawless. It's just as happy in shade. I bought a flat and a half to fill the side entry to the back garden, where the hose won't reach and it alternates between searing sun and full shade. This plant is bullet-proof and I couldn't love it more.

Mahonia nervosa in winter

Autumn fern (Dryopteris erythrosora). This evergreen fern was my favorite plant this winter, where it looked absolutely perfect, no matter the weather. It erupts into bronzy hues in the fall and continues all winter.

Stipa tenuissima. My driveway strip is a little onesie-twosie and I've been wanting a mass-planted grass to unify the whole space.

I thought, "What's the weediest, messiest grass I could choose?" and went with this one. I have three of them already and the seedlings pop up in the funniest places. The heart wants what it wants, I don't know.

Our driveway. Don't judge.

Woodwardia unigemmata or Chain Fern.

Polypodium pseudo-aureum 'Virginia Blue'. If I had more than three square feet of moist shade, I would've bought more of this one. Those wavy blue leaves make me weak in the knees.

Jovibarba hirta 'Bulgaria'. I couldn't leave Little Prince without some hen-and-chicks, and I'd never heard of this one.

Agave franzosinii. If I wasn't already planning to marry Greg (in June!) I would marry this beauty. Loree got some great shots of large specimens at the Ruth Bancroft Garden. This is my favorite agave right now. It's hardy to 15-20 degrees, which means we'll definitely get a super cold winter next year. Because life is cruel and sometimes it wants you to buy replacement plants.

Agave gentryi 'Jaws'. I've wanted this one forever, thanks to Gerhard and Loree. I finally have one!

Agave parryi ssp. huachucensis. I had one of these (it was my favorite agave) and last winter turned it to mush. Again, because I planted this, next winter will be miserable. I'm so sorry!

Agave utahenesis ssp utahensis. Look at those gorgeous chompers.

I am still kicking myself for not getting more plants. Why didn't I pick up a Silver Surfer agave when I've wanted one forever?!? What is wrong with me?

I've got almost all of my plants in the ground now and I've been thrilled with how healthy and well-rooted they've all been. Keep your eyes peeled for LPoO when you visit your local nursery, and if you see something on their website that your nursery doesn't carry, let them know you want it. And a huge thank you to Mark and the Little Prince of Oregon crew, who so generously opened their greenhouses to us.

To see more coverage from our visit, check out:

Danger Garden
Gravy Lessons
plant lust
Rainy Day Gardener
Sprig To Twig

Tuesday, October 8, 2013

Fall is here

I've pulled the tomatoes out of the ground and brought my tender plants inside. I made bolognese and Brussels sprouts for dinner. All I want to do is make chicken stock and roast vegetables. Fall is here and I welcome it with flannel-clad arms. Let's put on socks and talk about Oscar contenders and our favorite squash. 

I always said I'd never buy plants that couldn't survive the winter outside but then I went to Rare Plant Research this spring and caved. And then Ricki posted about her Opuntia microdasys 'Bunny Ears' and I had to have one. And then I needed, absolutely needed, an Agave 'Blue Glow' so I bought two. Then the flood gates had broken and I was like, f*ck it, I'm gonna buy a bunch of aeonium and sedum that aren't hardy to my zone. 

And you know what? I still have room inside! I could've bought way more tender stuff!

Mike the ceramic squirrel makes these guys feel like they're still outside

I could totally squeeze a few smaller pots here!

Everything is looking balanced and almost . . . planned. Next year I'm buying everything.

Thank goodness we don't have kids or cats. Danger, danger everywhere. Happy fall, y'all!

Thursday, September 12, 2013

The Michelle Duggar of agaves

I was deadheading yesterday and I noticed that I had some agave pups that I could relocate. When I looked closer, one agave had a petticoat of pups that you could barely see, they were so smashed underneath. I actually had to dig Mama Duggar up, unwind all the pups, and put her back in the ground.

Mama Duggar this winter, plotting her fecundity

All but one of these came from this agave.

NOID Agave americana?

I thought it only right to give them names.

Edited to add: if any of you are unfamiliar with the Duggars, they're an obnoxious family that had their own show on TLC because they had 19 kids, all of whom were named with J names. She was going to keep having babies "as long as the lord wanted her to." Now they lobby Congress to outlaw birth control. Ick.

Now take it easy, lady. You've given me something to take to the next plant exchange! Your work here is done.

How's your agave crop this year?

Wednesday, June 12, 2013

Lightning didn't strike twice

The last time we rented a sod cutter was in April of last year and we successfully got rid of the sod we removed by listing it on craigslist. Sadly, I don't think June (an unseasonably warm and dry one at that) is the time to try and get rid of old lawn. No one picked up our discard pile so I had to take it to Wood Waste Management after my dentist appointment yesterday. You'd think a dental cleaning and dealing with a truck full of sod would be a terrible way to spend your afternoon but I had fun (my teeth were super clean and my clothes were so dirty!). It was only $25 to drop it off to be composted, so I can't really complain.

I stopped by Fred Meyer and saw that all of their pots were 25% off. And then I saw a pot with a chip on it and asked the manager if she could come down in price. She agreed to knock off an additional 20% but then we couldn't get the pot dislodged from the larger pot it was sitting in so she said, "Just pick out a different pot and I'll honor the extra 20% off."

So I got this persimmon baby (it's larger than it looks) for $35. I threw some of the enormous stash of High Country Gardens freebies in here (Stachys coccineus 'Mountain Red') along with an agave pup and a Color Guard yucca. I realized that I have a pot addiction, one that's certainly more expensive than the one that comes with illegal transactions at music festivals. I also realized that need more agaves. A lot more. They look good everywhere!

Tuesday, January 22, 2013

Agave update

Loree recently asked how my agaves were handling their first winter in the ground. They were planted back in May in the berm. I amended the soil with chicken grit and mulched them with gravel.

I'm happy to say that so far they are doing great. No black spots or rot as of yet.

Of course, we have many wet months still to come. My fingers are crossed!

Monday, November 5, 2012

I'm still on the fence

I'm still not sure about my rusty wheelbarrow planter but the agave pups I put in there are so much happier. They got water every day this summer but the drainage is very sharp, so they've gone from skinny desiccated things to being fat and happy.

I'm hoping that the sedums fill in next spring before the weeds can.

I'm pretty excited for next summer to see what survives. I purchased a trellis to go behind this area, next to the stock tank full of bamboo. I'd like to plant Kennedia nigricans, so I have black blooms twining behind the yellow bamboo.

Photo source: Annie's Annuals

And then maybe I'll actually plant the surrounding bare ground with some grasses or something so it doesn't look so staged.

Friday, May 25, 2012

Come hell or high water . . . oh god, what did I do?

Because I had AC installed and I put tomatoes in the ground, it rained a lot this week. We got a break yesterday afternoon so I decided I wanted to work chicken grit into the berm out front and get the succulents planted. I went to Garden Fever and they were all out of big bags of chicken grit. I caught myself eyeing ferns before I snapped out of it and started calling other suppliers. I called Livingscape Nursery and they weren't selling it in bulk. I think that's when I muttered "Goddamn it, come hell or high water I want to do this TONIGHT." But I didn't want to drive down to Milwaukie to Concentrates NW, plus I'd never make it before they closed.

I called Urban Farm Store and they had big bags! I had 20 minutes to get down to Belmont Street before they closed! When I arrived I asked for 300 pounds of chicken grit. The lady rang me up, ran my card, and as I was signing she started giggling.

"I don't know why I rang you up for that. We don't have that much in stock."

Son of a. It turns out they only had 200 pounds, so we had to reverse charge my card and all of that, but then I was home with my plants and my chicken grit, hallelujah. I got the Dasylirion in the ground and then the sky opened up and was like, "COME HELL OR HIGH WATER? WATCH THIS YOU SILLY GIRL." Epic. rain. y'all.

The rain garden out front, which only has one gutter feeding it, never fills. It actually had four or five inches of water. 

Crappy phone photo!

The rain garden out back, which is humongous and serves the most roof water, almost overflowed. That's why you install an overflow notch, but I honestly never thought I'd need it.


Note to self: don't change perspective halfway through a video.

Eventually it stopped raining and I threw on my rain boots and dry pants and got back out there. Getting the agaves out of their pots was easier than I thought it would be. Sarah gave me the helpful advice to use a garden knife around the edges of the pot, then put the agave face-down into wet soil, then pull. In most cases the pot comes right off, though your poor agaves have mud all over their faces.

Agave americana

The back side of the berm is still a bit empty, though I have two more agaves to put in. I wish I had bought more Lewisia last weekend

I still need to acquire rock to edge the berm, then mulch the berm with gravel, and then maybe I can just let it do its thing for the summer. I'd still like to work in a black daphne (to the right by the castor bean plant) but I may wait until fall to put it in.

I can see the finish line and I think, with some tweaks (like redoing the dry rock bed and editing down the grasses), it's going to look pretty out there.

Friday, May 18, 2012

More conundrums

I'm going to rename this blog Just a Girl With an Inability to Correctly Estimate How Much Soil/Compost/Chips She Needs. Ever since I ordered way too much soil for the raised beds I've erred on the side of less when ordering soil and amendments. I figured the pathway would call for 1/4 yard of cedar chips. Keep in mind, I didn't measure anything, that just sounded like a nice number.

I went to the wood waste place and discovered that the smallest amount they'll sell you is 1/2 yard. I asked the guy to go light when filling the truck (he did), so of course it fell short of how much I needed when I got home.

A little low

I had to go back the next day and get another 1/2 yard which got the pathway to the level I wanted.


Next up: adding drainage to the berm in the form of gravel or chicken grit, based on Loree's instructions (thank you Loree!), getting more plants in, and figuring out a way to mulch the agaves with gravel or stone while mulching everything else with fine bark mulch. Any bright ideas out there? I think I need some sort of border to divide the two mulches but I don't think bender board is going to cut it in this case.

I think I might have to build a rock wall/perimeter where the red line is. So much for avoiding the purchase of stone right now.

Wednesday, May 16, 2012

I'm officially sick of digging

Digging holes, that is. I will never be sick of Digging. Pam's up there with Margaret Roach for me.

I spent this weekend digging out the path in the front yard. Someday I want decomposed granite and beautiful stone edging, but for now we're going to do cedar chips. I needed some sort of line in the sand to say "chips go here, mulch there." I went to Home Depot and decided that I couldn't stomach putting plastic edging in the yard. It will break down over time and if I'm going to have pathways decomposing I want them to be made of natural materials.

So cedar bender board it is.

Anyone want to take bets on how long it will take before this starts to break down? I'm guessing this winter mostly because I know I'll step on it before then. This stuff shatters if you look at it wrong.

I've also built up a bit of a berm behind the rain garden for agaves. An incredibly generous woman named Sarah contacted me, offering up her agaves in trade for something that wouldn't poke her toddler. How great is that? I'm hoping the raised area will provide enough drainage that I can put them in the ground and not have them decompose in the winter. I have pretty good drainage in the front yard but I want to give the agaves every chance to succeed during the wet months.

I know, my MS Paint skills are incredible.

I saw an image somewhere of a giant agave paired with a fountain grass that looked incredible and I'd love to recreate it. I'm running into the problem where all the pretty grasses I see have pale pink blooms, which I think will look yucky with all the orange stuff I have planted. Of course, I have a metric ton of Sedum Joy planted, which will be pale pink, so I don't know why I'm worried. My color compositions are always a mess.

Now ask me about the time when I was pulling the hose across the driveway, forgot about the pavers I had stacked there, backed into them, then fell backwards over them into the roses. I hope one of my neighbors at least got a good laugh from it. Related note: do you know how hard it is to get mulch slivers out of your backside? Send band-aids.