September 19, 2015

Some variegates

Late summer. Blazing hot some days, raining hard on others. Everyone's happy.

Loree Bohl of Danger Garden really does grow all the coolest, spikiest plants, and last week over at Plant Lust she wrote about some of her favorite spiky variegates. She inspired me to take inventory, and it turns out I may have more variegated agaves than not. How'd that happen?! 

Because honestly, I love non-variegated agaves. I think they're gorgeous. The shapes of the leaves, their colors and patterns, the variety of lateral and marginal spines, the bud imprints... check out this Agave isthmensis: 

And this A. cupreata with its copper spines: 

[Digression: Bud imprints always remind me of Mesoamerican design, like the Xicalcoliuhqui pattern, and figurative art, like this seal from the Olmec archaeological site San Andrés

Everyone in Agaveland cultivated agave. The Xicalcoliuhqui pattern was inspired by bud imprints, if you ask me.]

So anyhow, I started looking around the garden and there were variegated plants everywhere. New ones, like the 'Cornelius' and the little 'Butterfingers' (both gifts from a friend up north -- thanks, Tom!), and the A. victoriae-reginae 'Golden Princess' (pupping!) from Tony Marino, maker of cool rock pots

I thought I'd killed this A. gypsophila 'Ivory Curls' (because I tend to kill gypsophilas, though I love them so much). Not dead yet:

Here's a 'Cream Spike.' Not happy in full inland sun, picky about water, one of my favorite agaves:

A very small 'Cream Spike,' saved after the parent plant went belly-up last winter. Thrive, little dude! I love the tiny bud imprints:

Wiki says that Agave murpheyi is "found growing only at a few dozen archaeological sites of the ancient Hohokam Indians in southern Arizona and northern Sonora, Mexico. It appears to be a cultivar grown by the Hohokam for food and fiber." Here's a terrific article on A. murpheyi, pre-Columbian Indian cultures, and the son of Mayahuel himself, Howard Scott Gentry: "There, amid the palo verde and the mesquite, the bur sage and the barrel cacti, a prehistoric Hohokam plot had persisted at least half a millenium after being last tended. The same plant -- the identical genetic stock that had been transplanted here in prehistoric times -- had reproduced vegetatively on its own, clinging to the same terrace where it had been originally placed." Agave is life...  

My big Kissho Kan:

With 'Creme Brulee' leaf in foreground:

And a little Kissho Kan, lower leaves still pockmarked from a hailstorm last year:

Variegated opuntias! Opuntia monacantha:

Opuntia cochenillifera:

Agave americana var. striata:

This is the only A. angustifolia marginata that survived last year's snowy winter. His siblings turned to mush :~(  He'll get more protection this year.

Not a variegate, but I'm including this one because the spines are so big and striking and white. Titanota from Granite Hill Nursery:


More white. A. toumeyana var. bella:

A. shawii. Got this one in a trade (thanks, Rob!):

'Rum Runner,' from the Huntington. Looks delicious:

I left out a few: 'Shira ito no Ohi,' 'Fireball,' 'Snow Glow'... They refused to be anything but blurry. (My fault for being such a poor photographer.) So here's another shot of white spines -- an unnamed hybrid dyckia:

Interesting weather we've been having. One day last week I took the scenic route home from work:

Preview of El Niño? Just in case, I'm ordering some Self-Inflating Sandless Sand Tubes. And of course I'll be stocking up on plants: Fall Planting Festival at Rancho Santa Ana Botanic Garden's Grow Native Nursery, Claremont - October 3-4, 2015. Can't wait :~)


  1. WOW! You've got quite the stunning collection. That 'Rum Runner' is hot (super hot) and the white teeth on your Titanota are the best I've ever seen. Thanks for the gorgeous post!

    1. Loree, thank YOU so much...! I was inspired to go after a number of these agaves because of write-ups on your blog :~)))

  2. Thanks for the link to that article on murphyi. You've got all my favorite variegates, Tradewinds, Ivory Curls, Fireball, and of course Rum Runner that we both grabbed that day at the Huntington. Love that cupreata too, which really does look like a dwarf cowhorn agave. Bovicornuta was too big for my garden, so I'll keep an eye out for this one.

    1. Mu bovicornutas aren't too big -- yet :~/ Isn't Rum Runner something? Fond memories of that plant sale...!

  3. That's amazing; for an agave collection I had no idea that was Agave murpheyi, too. Yes, strange weather, alot of us are having, here too...I think we've been in this transition to El Nino for over a year in El Paso...I've never see this consistent of moisture in late Sept.

    1. Strange weather is right, and I think you're spot-on about El Niño. I'm hiring a friend's kids to help me move some plants under cover...

  4. All of the above on the comments for moi. 'Rum Runner', fabulous.

    The sandless sand tubes are interesting. Is there a way to get the water back out of them and into the ground?

    1. Seriously, 'Rum Runner' looks to me like something I should enjoy with ice cream.

      AFAIK, all the varieties of sandless water barriers are filled with super-absorbent... stuff, and when the sun comes out the gel (or biodegradable polymer, or whatever) just eventually dries up. Be cool if you could wring them out somehow, and harvest all that water [runs off to patent office].

  5. You have a fantastic collection! I scrolled through your photos twice to make sure I saw every detail.

    'Rum Runner' is awesome. I have yet to see one up here in Northern California. Hopefully soon.

    And your smaller 'Cream Spike' has the best variegation.

    1. Gerhard, thanks so much! I'm going to frame a photo of your big 'Cream Spike' and put it where my little ones can see it, to inspire them.

      If 'Rum Runner' takes too long to show up locally, the Huntington (as I'm sure you know) will mail you one (or two or three!): here's the link.


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