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Moisture Activated

January 26, 2015

Wet … and whoa!

Nice agave, right? It’s one of the larger specimens at the Rancho and it’s much loved. It was one of two I purchased from a local propagator, I’d say five years ago; both were small and in pots. The vendor warned me that I should allow for space when planting them since they would grow to be super-large … I thought sure, right, great … but did as he instructed. Boy, am I glad I did! Although the other died eventually, this guy has grown and grown, completely filling the corner of our lot at 14th Street and Isabella Streets. Gorgeously dark green, each of the spike-tipped agave spears is a perfect water-directing device. During the rains of the last few weeks I enjoyed watching rainwater course toward the agave’s core … and, when the rain stopped I noticed something else: The tip of a giant aparagus tip was sneakily peeking out at the top! Long time readers of this blog know that nothing provokes garden excitement in me more than a showy succulent stalk, and on an agave this size it’s sure to be one for the Rancho’s record books. But how big is it exactly? Let’s place something next to it for scale …


Needs sequins

How about someone 5 foot, 10-inches tall? Paul, who is that exact height, graciously consented to stand next to our agave … it was his decision to bring a Vanna White-style zest to the proceedings. It’s been two weeks since that first photo; it’s easy to see that this agave must be over 10-feet tall, from base to stalk tip. But what height will it eventually reach? Your guess is as good as mine; I will be watching (and documenting) its progress.

I firmly believe that it was the rains of December and earlier this month that triggered this stalk’s appearance. But that’s not all that was triggered. Here are some other moisture-activated garden stand outs:



Hummer approved

This plant is one of my absolute favorites. Its foliage looks like that of an ordinary shrub; touch the leaves, though, and you’ll experience the cool feel of a juicy-leaved succulent. I had no idea this plant would flower, and I had no idea it would flower so beautifully. The tight-lipped red-orange blossoms are a favorite of visiting hummingbirds and who can blame them? That’s a very appetizing shade of persimmon red.



Torch bearer

An all-time fave, this agave ferox has been providing me with much garden pleasure for years now … I fall in love with it each time it blooms. I guess I’m just partial to a fiery succulent torch song.



Freshly Fruity

Relatively new to our garden, this chubby little cactus does not play: It’s got long, curved rigid spines surrounded by sticky prickles. It was after the rains that what appeared to be dead blossoms became something else entirely. Used to the Rancho’s other cacti, with fruit in colors that range from deep purple to bright red, I happily welcome little yellow pineapple cactus fruit to my garden party!



Sweet Posies

Given to me by another local propagator, this kalanchoe sends out long runners which end in little leafy clones of their base plant. I’m delighted by the idea that this plant will one day be overflowing its pot, crazy with little kalanchoe gifts I can bestow on visitors. When he gave me this plant he mentioned that it would flower, I just didn’t expect it to happen so soon. Check out the sweet little blooms at the top of the hanger’s curve.


Getting to know local propagators is a good thing to do, whether they give you free plants or not. The local guys I know are always willing to share their time and knowledge, and when I’m looking to buy always give me great deals. It’s a humbling experience for me, however, since I can never remember the names of most plants, especially the latin ones!

13 Comments leave one →
  1. veratrine permalink
    January 26, 2015 5:11 am

    Wow–I love that hanging pot! Looking forward to seeing the ultimate height! My aeonium (unknown largeish type) is blooming but not as big as last year since it got cut off and stuck in a pot when we moved. Which is okay with me as it’s not my favorite succulent bloom, but I’ll take what I can get.

    • January 26, 2015 5:21 am

      Thanks, V! That hanging pot was brand new and terra cotta, I received it and the hanger as a gift. Never content to leave things as they are I painted the pot with 3 different spray paints from Rustoleum’s metallics line. I think it’s a better match now for the hanger which is a much older piece.

      • veratrine permalink
        January 27, 2015 4:27 am

        So great! Was it unglazed? And if so, did you have to prime it first? My unglazed pots eventually begin to molt, but maybe that’s because I buy cheap ones?

      • January 27, 2015 5:54 am

        Hey, V … the pot was a basic unglazed terra cotta. The first of the paint coats was a grey metallic primer from Rustoleum. The following coats were a hammered metal looking paint in gray, with a top coat of a rust-colored paint. I could’ve easily gotten away with just two paints layered but I get a little nutty and want to add more. It’s a really nice fix for a basic pot and it sets off the aged classic metal hanger perfectly.

  2. January 26, 2015 1:40 pm

    Spring is a time that most plant lovers look forward to. All the new blooms just bursting with joy after months of being cooped up. However, the blooms of cactus and succulents that occur this time of year, never cease to amaze and surprise me. They are so unique and bring such joy. My favorite of your bunch is the Torch Bearer… I love the orange in the blossom and, the plant itself is so beautiful. I’m glad you’re taking photos of your large bloom because I’m curious to see if it actually flowers or just stays looking like an asparagus. BTW, tell Paul that I said he’s absolutely adorable. This photo of him made me chuckle this morning. Watch out Vanna, you have competition!

    • January 26, 2015 3:09 pm

      Right, WF? Stick Paul into a sequined mini and a new career is born! I just checked the giant asparagus and it’s already got little branches detaching from its sides … won’t be long before it’s got a flowery crown with bees and hummingbirds attending them.

  3. January 26, 2015 4:30 pm

    Great photos, and while I enjoyed the flowers (and stalks and fruit) I was mostly taken by how perfect your garden is! Not a stone, weed, or leaf to distract from the geometric lines and design perfection. Color me jealous as I have a seasons worth of mess to clean up.

    • January 26, 2015 6:03 pm

      Thanks, Loree! OCD helps a lot, not to mention many helping hands. Although we have no lawn we keep our gardener on; he blows debris weekly, does spot weeding and pruning when necessary, and keeps me from further injuring myself.

  4. January 26, 2015 7:03 pm

    beautiful plants !!!

  5. January 26, 2015 8:20 pm

    How nice of Paul to be your stand in (no pun intended) for measurement. I think he would great in place of Vanna, even without the sequined mini. I love the plant just below the picture with Paul. Do you know it’s name?
    I wish I could send plants through the mail, because I have one that you would like. I’ll send a picture to you later. Can’t wait to see the Agave bloom.

    • January 26, 2015 8:38 pm

      Darn it Val, I knew someone was going to ask me that very question. 😉 The grower who sold it to me told me the name of it; and when my chum Dustin Gimbel visited he said it, too; sadly I have no recollection of what either called it! Hopefully someone can help us out. Anybody?!


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