urban eden's plant rant


Beschorneria yuccoides

(Quite a mouthful, I know!)

I have a big soft spot for this plant. Native to Mexico, it is in the Agave family so is tough as nails, drought-tolerant and all that good stuff. But unlike most Agaves, it is soft and pliable (graceful, even) and not thorny. Its foliage has a silvery sheen, not unlike Agave attenuata. Also like A. attenuata, it is a great plant to use for "tropical effect" in areas (such as the Bay Area) that are distinctly not tropical. It has a basal growth habit, meaning that it doesn't trunk and stays close to the ground.

I have used this plant in many gardens, juxtaposing it with softer grasses or using it as a low-growing contrast to a 5-foot Leucadendron. Like most plants I use, I do it primarily for the foliage. In fact, to be honest I hadn't seen it bloom in real-life until quite recently. I knew from the descriptions that the flower is pretty spectacular (and one of my favorite garden hues, coral), but all that was secondary to me.

And then, in the spectacular planting outside this company's showroom, I saw this:

And the deal was sealed.


Current ambivalence...

...and its cure.

I'm not all that jazzed with my own garden at the moment. It hasn't been its best year, although there was a fleeting moment in April/May when everything was going through its growth spurt, its first flush of bloom, that it looked pretty hot.

Right now, there are cut-back areas that will fill out come September, and second rounds of bloom that are just getting going. A bit gappy and bedraggled.

A colleague of mine recently asked me, while lunching in my garden, if I liked it currently. We agreed that we are both dissatisfied about the same thing in our respective gardens - lack of cohesiveness of planting (despite a clear color/texture/scale plan), general unkempt-ness of the specimen plants that we were crazy for when we planted them.

This all being said, I am so not ready to myself have the type of garden I would design for someone, well, less garden-y. While I long for an allee of Leucadendrons underplanted with one or two types of succulents, that will just have to wait for when I have my, hem, estate in the country. In the meantime, my little 25' x 30' garden will continue to be my proving grounds, my lab. I have to be able to say "in my experience with X plant", and I have to continue to fall in love with a new plant every week and want to bring it home. That's just how it is.

Today I decided that there needs to be some attitude adjustment around here, so I went out armed with the camera to look for vignettes and individual plants that still flip my skirt up.

Here are the results:

I love the textures and colors in this bed, especially the peach colored Cotyledon that has been blooming for months now.

Brugmansia sanguinea, eat your heart out. This thing is so incredible - it grew from a 4" plant to an 8' tree in two years. It blooms like clockwork, and adds a nice scale to the garden.

This shade bed is actually just coming into its own, despite all my bitching. There are a couple of background plants that need to grow a bit more (my fault for buying everything in 1 gallon containers or smaller...), but this particular vignette I do like. I should clear some of the Oxalis and Plectranthus so that you can see the Bromeliads better, but... later.

The Dahlia coccinea is the current dah-ling of the garden, sprawling against a 6' tall rose, its blooms peeking through.

Like I said, ambivalence. But, as I always preach to my clients, the garden is never finished.


quote of the day

Talking to a potential new client, I asked her what aesthetic she liked for her new garden. She replied that she liked a kind of "overgrown, messy" look. I qualified that it would be really well thought-out without looking fussy, and she said:

"yeah - like putting on makeup to look natural!"