Pointy, needly, spiny, prickly, barbed…..
“If it looks like it could hurt me, it’s probably coming home with me…” A quote from my first blog as one of the things I learned about myself as a new gardener.
That being said, there’s a DISTINCT difference between “looking” and “knowing” something can hurt me and I guess that’s theme of this blog post.
So, I’m that guy you hear saying “OW!” in the nursery on a regular basis because, for some reason, I’m not just drawn to wicked things, but, I’m obsessed with the need to TOUCH them – just ask the BF.
Now, I may be a fool, but I’m not an idiot (no comments from the peanut gallery!). My curiosity ends when I KNOW that there is real and definite pain involved. It is for that reason that this “Collector’s Garden” has been void of entire “category” of plants – until now!
You might have guessed by now, given my feature photo, that I’m referring to the AGAVE. (Don’t even get me started on Cacti!) I have hemmed and hawed over this decision for some time and it’s been a process getting to this moment.
Let me take you on my journey to the dark side….
While sharp and pointy would have to wait a few years, spiky, seriated, thorny, needly and the like would all do quite nicely as a build up to the main event in the Fall of ’16.
To say that I dipped my toes into the pool slowly would be a bit of an understatement. As shown by these cordeline here from three of the four summers I’ve purchased plants for my garden, I do love a spiky purple plant! While not particularly scary, ironically, the damn one on the left almost poked my eye out and provided me my most painful plant experience to date!
Another early spikey addition to my garden was the yucca. I have one featured in three of the four main sections of my garden.. Cleary I need to expand my collection beyond the three different variegated varieties shown here ( I’m only sure of Yucca “Color Guard” on the far left since the two on the right were planted before I started keeping my tags.) I can tell you that running into the big guy on the far right while working in that bed is NOT fun! However, despite the danger, I love the texture, the color and the year round interest!
Up next are my babies…the eryngiums. I’m not entirely sure what it is that fascinates me so much or draws me to them, but my ultimate goal is get all “Pokemon Go” on them and “catch them, catch them all”!
I mean, who could not LOVE this majestic beast? I think at max height, it reached almost 5 feet and beautiful serieted leaves reached over 3 feet across! This was a “pup” from the BF’s garden and my very first eryngium. I now have a few other agavefoliums but none of them have ever outperformed this one. This year, however, this particular one remained dormant. On a positive note, that meant the leaves are still beautiful now!
Looking at the serieted edges, one can clearly understand it’s appeal to me and it’s a feature on many other eryngiums that have lured me in…
These four eryngiums exemplify “they aren’t really that pointy, right?” and I have shed a drop of blood or two with these guys over the years. I’m particularly excited about the Eryngium aff. latifolium which I found at Cistus early this spring! One of the best aspects of Cistus is that you often get to so the “full size” version of your purchase in their display garden and I was mesmerized by the size and architecture of it! Plus, I’ve not run across it anywhere else so I love the “collectibility” of it!
Last but certainly not least, there is this little monster…Eryngium varifolum. Standing only about 18 inches tall, one would never guess that these gorgeous “wicked” spikes would emerge from it’s soft flat broad leaves.
Before I get to the main event, there are some singular favorites in my garden that I’ve collected over the years that should be included in this “wicked” blog….
I love this quote for Annie Annuals…
“Mean folks stealing your beautiful plants? Now you can have the last laugh!”
Don’t let the beautiful purple flowers fool you, this Berkheya Purpurea (nicknamed Ursula) is by far my most “wicked” specimen in my garden! Every square inch of this plant hurts and will pierce even the toughest gardening glove! So…of course, I had to by a second one for the hell strip this year! And yes, that is me being an idiot snapping a picture bare handed of it’s first ever bloom on my way to work one day…it was worth it!
Have you ever been shopping and come across something and have one of those “clutch the pearls” moments? Well, for me it usually involves shoes, furniture or decorative accessories but early this past spring on one of my first trips to Xera, it was love at first sight when I saw a solanum pyrocanthum…I mean, it looked dangerous AND there was ORANGE? How could I resist? I didn’t and I found a perfect spot for it in a large blue ceramic pot. For the first time, I’m going to try my hand at over wintering a few things this year and I’m adding this one to the list.
Another deceptively pokey and painful bugger, barbera replicata….purple AND painful, how could I resist? One of my very first plants from Xera in 2014. It was very tiny when I got it. I may or may not have planted it too close to the house…UGH.
I must be a glutton for punishment because the BF’s hakea has poked and stabbed me for the last 2.5 years but as soon as I saw that Xera has one in stock, I scooped it up! That’ll teach that damn cat from pooping in my garden! Staking this guy was not fun!
If I’m going to have an osmanthus, of course it’s going to be this one!
This was as about as “agave” as I was able to get back in the day…lol
Full disclosure, as many stories go, my journey ends where it begins….I did, in fact, have one agave from the beginning of my collector’s garden days. This little guys was a “pup” off of one of my BF’s agave’s and he brought it over when he brought over three flats of sedum for me (also from his garden). I wasn’t able to get an exact ID on it but this is his best guess. Anyway, as you can see, it was in pretty rough shape for a while but it seems to be recovering nicely. I often forget that it is even there as it is not in an ideal location. I have some moving to do in the spring so I’ll figure that out then.
I’m not sure what finally made me flip the agave switch, but early in the summer months I picked up these two at Xera…They were added to the backyard. We will see how they do this winter.
I swear the BF’s car goes on auto pilot whenever it is within a 5 miles radius of Portland Nursery! We always seem to “somehow” end up there on the way home from an afternoon out and about. Have I once complained? What do you think?
This last set of pics (with the exception of agave ‘Flagstaff’ (from Xera) are all from the “scratch and dent” section of Portland nursery a few weeks ago! They have definitely seen better days, but who could resist 50% off and I think it was the push I needed to finally go “all in”!
The two agave’s below seemed to be to least hardy according to the tags (see, I’m learning!) so they will be the beginning of a new chapter of my garden inspired by a visit to one of my first open gardens…
Some of you may recognize the work of Danger Garden who has been a huge inspiration for me ever since I saw her space. Her garden both fascinated and terrified me at the same time and I knew it would take baby steps to work my way up to anything like this!
As I wrap things up, who doesn’t love a good before and after? This is the where the majority of the new agaves were planted. Full southern sun and a “hillside” with lots of drainage so I am feeling hopeful for them to overwinter this year.
If it said full sun on the tag, this is where it goes and there are very few things I’ve lost in this areas despite it’s harsh conditions. Dare me to cramscape a 15X60 hell strip? Give me another couple years!
The agaves all found a spot towards the bottom of the hillside where there is the least amount of saturation of any rainfall or drainage from the driveway. I think they will like the heat from the street, too and they won’t be privy to much shade even as things grow in
As I finish up this Halloween morning, it is absolutely POURING and the wind is HOWLING ….you want to talk about WICKED? Not nice, nature, not nice!
“I Never Promised You a Shade Garden…..”