Thursday, June 25, 2020

Dividing Fox Tail Agave

Fox Tail Agave (Agave attenuata) 

If you are familiar with Agave attenuata, you are aware that they are beautiful plants to have. They make a dramatic statement wherever they are in the garden.  In addition to that they are also easy to grow.  However, they tend to get woody and heavy.   Like most succulents, the leaves serve as water storage and so you can imagine the weight.  They are also very phototropic which means that they tend to grow towards the source of light.  For a while I grew two of these in large pots which are equivalent to five gallons.  They were positioned in the yard against the east facing wall of our house.  They got the milder morning sun and were shaded by the house later in the afternoon. The condition was favorable for their growth, they got big but growing towards only one side.  Soon the pots could not stand without much help anymore because of their weight. 

My plants needed to be repotted two years ago but the job seemed daunting.  I procrastinated.  But during these days we have a lot of time to spare.  I asked my husband helped me.  First of all we had to break the pot - they were totally root bound and there was no way of separating the roots from the pot without breaking the plants - and then break the individual heads.

Agave in our front yard.  It's about to fall on one side.  

These are the things I learned from the process:
1.  Agave attenuata are great for handling, they don't hurt you.
2.  Hand saw works perfectly for cutting the stems apart.  
3.  Remove all the old roots.  The newly cut stems will have to problem growing new roots.
4.  If the stems are too long and they can be shortened by cutting the stem with the saw. 
5.  Soak the ends of the stems in water for a couple of days or plant them directly. 
6.  Separate all the little pups and plant them in appropriately sized pots to have more plants.  
7. The little plants are perfect for giving away to friends and neighbors.

Newly repotted Agave attenuata

Note: In spite of the number of years that I had these plants, they haven't bloomed in my possession yet - in other words they have not shown me their fox tail yet. And for that reason, I still feel more comfortable calling them Agave attenuata. 😃

Some tasks in the garden might seem daunting but when we confront them, we become more informed.

Tuesday, June 23, 2020

Gardening amidst Pandemic

Tulip "Angelique" (April 2020)
2020 is now halfway over.  Covid-19 pandemic has presented the world situations we have never experienced all our lives.  We all had to adapt in our own ways to the threat of the virus and its effects on what we've considered normal.  "Sheltering in place" was something we had never known.  But then one day in March, Governor Newsom of California said we all had to shelter in place to slowdown the spread of the virus.  Some people called it a lock down or quarantine.  We were also instructed to observe social distancing to avoid contracting or spreading the virus. So we did.  Three months later, although some businesses are slowly and cautiously opening, we are still sheltering in place.

One of the things that resulted from sheltering in place and social distancing is that we (my husband and I) acquired more free time.  Time was a gift that came from this unprecedented global disaster.   Busyness, a situation where the time allowance we get in a day is committed to the max suddenly lost its force as a social status indicator.  With the sudden surge of time, we started to spend more of it in the garden either by enjoying; maintaining; or changing it.  We planted more plants and cared for them better than we would have done had we been distracted by travels and social obligations.

Last year I was already planning to change our small front lawn.   Inspired by Monty Don on Gardeners World, I was intent on rewilding or at least increasing biodiversity the  the yard.  The monotonous and water and fertilizer-voracious grass is now old and irrelevant.  For the first step, we planted three Rainbow Ascot euphorbia (1 gal) and two gallardia along the perimeter of the grass. So I bought  some seeds (California poppies) and collected some (Queen Anne's Lace) from the wild during our morning walks with the intention of sowing them in December.  But I missed my schedule and sowed them late.  I think it was already February when I sowed them.  None of the poppies survived but a group of Queen Anne's lace emerged and with some help, they made it.  This year, God-willing, I will sow seeds in the fall.  I'll mark my calendar and ask Alexa to notify me. 

One thing we did according to plan was to plant bulbs: tulips in pots; and alliums in the ground.  Most of the tulips we planted were parrot and peony type.  They were a beautiful and since I have not grown them before, each variety carried an element of surprise as they bloomed in the spring.  The different varieties bloomed in succession and so we enjoyed them longer.  The alliums on the other hand were a complete failure.  We never saw a leaf grow beyond one inch above the ground.  We then made a path on the area where we planted them where they were immediately forgotten.

There are more things we did and are continuing to do in the garden as triggered by the pandemic which I will continue to chronicle in the succeeding posts.

Gardening is a peaceful and therapeutic engagement with nature.  
Grow a plant today.

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