Archive for September, 2017

Summer 2017 — Succulents!

September 1, 2017

Succulents have played a big part in my garden — I love how varied they are, how easy they are to care for, and how easy it is to fit their interesting, sculpted, and sometimes almost other-worldly shapes into pots or small spaces. I’ve also been drawn to potted succulents because the soil in my back yard (the level part) and on the west side of my house has been largely silt that turns to mud when watered … making it unsuitable, for the most part, for in-ground plantings.

So, as promised, a review of the succulents that are a major component of my garden is in order.

In the back yard:

First, the delightful Cliff Maid (Lewisia cotyledon), which bloomed back in February, and sits on my patio:

(It doesn’t look too healthy right now — September — and I’m not sure it will survive until spring; we’ll see.)

Others in the back yard:

Crassula in June (Crassula mudicaulis var. platyphylla)

Chalk Dudleya (Dudleya brittonii) — on of the few California natives among the succulents.

Graptosedum (Graptosedum ‘California Sunset’ and Crosby’s Prolific (Aloe nobilis) in June

Climbing Aloe (Aloe ciliaris) and Elephant Bush (Portulacaria afra) in June

Overview of the west side of the back yard in April

Grouping consists of Pinwheel (Aeonium hawarthii) in the rear; Desert Agave (Agave deserti v. simplex) in front; and Desert Spoon (Dasylirion acrotriche) on the right; in June

Arizona agave (Agave arizonica) on left and Firesticks (Euphorbia tirucalli ‘Sticks on Fire’) on right; in June

Overview of the patio to the west.

Yuccas, species unknown, in the white pots. (I’ve had them at least 20 years!)

Includes Echeverias (‘Perle von Nurnberg’ and ‘Blue atoll’), Golden Barrel (Echinocactus grusonii), Silvar Coral (Senecio scaposus) and Thimble Cactus (Mammillaria gracilis fragilis)

In the side yard:

I have added a path and deeper gravel to the side yard, and added some cacti in an attempt to suggest a desert:

Roadkill Cactus (Opuntia rubescens)

Aloe Vera (Aloe vera) and Cotyledon Chalk Fingers (Pachyphytum ‘Moon Silver’)

Blue Barrel Cactus (Ferocactus glaucescens), left, and two Dwarf Chin Cacti (Gymnocalycium baldianum)

Left, clockwise from bottom: Dwarf Chin Cactus, Spiny Pincushion Cactus (Mammillaria pilcayensis), Silver Bell Cactus (Notocactus scopa); Right: Queen Victoria Agave (Agave victoriae-reginae)

Front Yard Succulents:

The big news of this summer is that the huge Aeonium bloomed quite spectacularly in May (and that I finally identified it! It’s a Giant Velvet Rose, Aeonium canariense). Here it is in full bloom:

The bees fell in love with it for several weeks, but in June it finally faded, and that whole stem died:

A couple of the pups also bloomed, less showily:

They too, have faded and are slowly dying. The plant as a whole has lost much of its luster, but there are several pups that are still in decent shape. I’ll trim the dead stuff and hope the rest of it perks up with the winter rains (hopefully we will get some!).

The biggest change is in the section of the yard where I used to have milkweeds. I pulled them all up when the Monarch caterpillars that they were hosting were relentlessly attacked by tachinid flies — a parasitoid fly that lays its eggs in the growing caterpillars, which die later when the eggs hatch. As much as I loved the Monarchs — in fact, because I loved the Monarchs — I could not bear to see caterpillar after caterpillar succumb in this way, over two seasons. In their place I have planted a collection of succulents. It has been difficult to find succulents that can take the unrelenting sun of this strip of land on the east side; many have withered and died. The result is that most of them are Agaves or very hardy Aloes.

(1) Fatal Attraction Agave (Agave funkiana ‘Fatal Attraction’), (2) Twilight Zone Aloe (Aloe hybrid x haworthiodes ‘Twilight Zone’), (3) Blue Glow Agave (Agave ‘Blue Glow’), (4) Coral Aloe (Aloe striata), (5) Ray of Light Foxtail Agave (Agave attenuata ‘Ray of Light’)

(1) Mateo’s Agave (Agave ‘Mateo’), (2) Panda Plant (Kalanchoe tomentosa), (3) Blue Chalksticks (Senecio mandraliscae), (4) Twilight Zone Aloe

(1) Narrow-Leaf Chalksticks (Senecio vitalis)

This area should fill in when all these plants grow a bit more and form groupings. I will dutifully follow their progress here!

In the following grouping, the cactus has nearly overgrown the lovely Queen Victoria Agave. I am going to look into moving the latter. Succulents are among the few plants that can be transplanted and survive — but we’ll see; this one may be too large and established.

(1) Blue Chalksticks, (2) Mateo’s Agave, (3) Bunny Ears Cactus (Opuntia microdasys), (4) Queen Victoria Agave (Agave victoriae-reginae)

Last but not least, there is the spectacular Aloe Vera that thrived and grew to great heights when I moved it to a shadier spot near the house. This is an example of a succulent that does not do well in constant sunlight. It now consists of three pups:


‘Till next time, happy gardening!