Posts

Do you visit your local botanical garden?


I try to make it to my local garden at least 2 – 3 times a year, which just happens to be the world-renown, Desert Botanical Garden.


Last week, I visited twice – once for their spring  plant sale and again with my kids.  Spring break is a great time to visit when the garden is in full bloom.  The kids were excited to go, so we made the 30 minute trip.


I must admit that they were getting a little cabin fever over their spring break.  The problem is that spring is my busiest time of year for landscape consultations (spring for a horticulturist is like tax season for an accountant), so we can’t go out of town.  So, we try to carve out outings throughout the week.

The kids enjoy visiting the garden and one thing that we like about visiting the garden several times a year, is that it never looks the same.  Each season brings a different look as different plants take center stage as they flower or show off their foliage.


One part of the garden that really caught my eye was a bed filled with plants with gray foliage interspersed with spiky plants.

As you can see, there are layers of plants in this area, most of which have fine-textured, gray foliage.  They are interspersed with greener spiky succulents for a great color and texture contrast.


In this area, the garden enjoyed filtered shade from a Texas honey mesquite (Prosopis glandulosa), including the aloe vera in the background.


The feathery foliage of artemisia ‘Powis Castle’ filled the back spaces of the garden.  This is a great choice for gray-blue color in the garden.  It appreciates filtered shade in the Arizona desert.


The spiky plants in the center are two young yucca  – I’m not sure of the species (I must confess that I’m not a fan of yucca, but I’m in the minority).  Young yucca are often mistaken for agave.


At the base of the yucca was moss verbena (Glandularia tenuisecta formerly Verbena tenuisecta).  I love the carefree nature of this trailing ground cover with its purple flowers and bright green foliage.

The next section of the garden was filled with Caribbean agave (Agave angustifolia ‘Marginata’), lavender cotton (Santolina chamaecyparissus) and the small black-spined agave (Agave macroacantha) in the front.


Along the side of this garden bed were Agave ocahui, which is a nice small agave that looks great in this staggered arrangement.

These were just a few of the beautiful plants that have gray-toned foliage that we saw that day.  Introducing the plants with shades of gray that range from green to blue tones of gray, create a cooling effect and contrast nicely with the darker greens in the landscape.

Next time we will look at some of my favorite plants with shades of gray.

******************************

For now, I need to get my 3 youngest kids ready for school, which starts tomorrow.  Just 2 more months until summer!


On another note, my second-oldest daughter, Rachele, returns to work after 2 months off for maternity leave.  I remember how hard it was to go back to work after she was born – especially those first 2 weeks.  

Rachele and baby Eric are back on her Navy base and I can’t wait to go and visit them in a few weeks!

I am talking about Agave babies, which are known as ‘pups’.

Parry’s Agave with small pup.
I knew that my Parry’s Agave, above, had a little pup growing.  I have been keeping my eye on it, letting it grow a little bit more before I take it and place it somewhere to grow on it’s own.   
Now, I don’t meant to rub it in to my northern neighbors, but it was a beautiful day to be out in the garden so while I was taking pictures, I soaked up all of the warmth from the sun that I could.  It has been rather cold lately (for us desert dwellers anyway) and today was a beautiful 68 degrees.
*I promise I will be envying your weather come August….
 
Yesterday, on the other side of the same Agave, I had noticed the beginning of a little pup breaking through (in the far left corner of the photo).  Well, as I was uploading the photo, I was in for another surprise.  I noticed another pup growing right next to the Agave.  I now have 3 Agave parryi pups to figure out where to place in my garden (what a wonderful problem to have).  They are expensive Agave and do not produce a lot of pups as opposed to some other species of Agave.
Victoria Agave (Agave victoria-reginae) parent plant and pups.
This is another of my favorite Agaves.  How many pups can you see coming up from the larger parent plant?  I count 3 pups, but there is actually another that is not in the photo.  This Agave is also highly prized and expensive.  Victoria Agave do not often produce pups, so I am very thankful that mine has been nice enough to give me 4.
Agave lophantha with two pups.
Agave reproduce in two ways.  One is by flowering at the end of their lifetime.  The other way happens earlier in the Agave’s life span and that is by producing offsets called ‘pups’.  The Agave sends out runners underground that produce the pups.  The pups can be located right up next to the parent Agave or a few feet away.
Agave macroacantha with many pups growing around it.
To remove, carefully expose the runner and cut with pruning shears or a sharp knife works well too.  Before planting, the Agave pup needs to form a callus on the bottom, so place in a shady, dry spot for at least a week before planting.  Agave pups can be planted out in the garden or placed in a container.  Even better, you can give some to your friends.
Personally, I would do this in the spring or fall and avoid the hot summer months as this can add more stress as the Agave pup is struggling to grow roots to absorb water.  But, that being said, Agave pups can be planted year-round.
Agave americana with pups.
When most people think of Agave, they think of Agave americana (above).  I do love the blue-gray leaves, but I stay away from using this particular Agave because they produce large amounts of pups.  This leads to a lot of maintenance as the pups need to be removed frequently or they quickly become an overgrown mess.  I have worked with many clients who have ended up pulling out their Agave americana for this very reason. 
Agave desmettiana with two large pups.
This Agave started life as a pup and was transplanted 4 years ago. 
It’s parent Agave flowered 3 years ago and died.
 Okay, I admit, I am not the most organized gardener.  I should have taken these large pups (on the right) and transplanted them last year.  But, I promise I will as soon as it warms up.  So, please do not wait to do this as long as I did.  Agave pups do best when planted when they are small.
Agave desmettiana, (above), is a nice alternative to Agave americana as it grows large, but does not produce too many pups.  It also has smoother edges in contrast to Agave americana. 
Now, this photo does not have anything to do with this post, but my dog, Missy, loves to take advantage of any photo opportunities. 

As does my son…