A new growing season begins!

Today dawned foggy and grey, but also nice and cool–perfect for a long morning in the yard, checking new growth, raking dead clippings, and assessing what should go where in the new growing season.

Rear patio containers and backyard, 3/5/14Just before the holidays, Maggie connected the narrow plot (where I grow lilies) to a corner of the yard that opened up when a large philodendron fell over (fyi: It didn’t die; it spiked a separate, upward reaching trunk and the original plant continued growing sideways!) Anyway….last month I moved my favorite succulent to this  “new garden.” Within a week it sent up a stalk and is now flaunting a beautiful full bloom:
Agave (possible guiengola) 3/5/14

I’ve been calling this plant an Agave guiengola, but it may actually be an aloe: ➡ many succulents are “look-a-likes,” with flowers the only true means of identification. So far, I haven’t found a trusted source with an accurate photo of A. guiengola in bloom, but I have inquires out, so stay tuned! 🙂  In the meantime, here’s a close-up of the beautiful orange flowers: ( Note: ID editted on 3/11/14. Scroll to addendum at the bottom)

Agave in full bloom, 3/5/14

I’ve never had great luck with Hollyhocks, which is wierd considering they’re classified as “beginner” plants.  This year I bypassed the seed route completely and bought a sack of bareroot mixed Alcea at Sam’s Club.  When I planted them 2wks ago, I didn’t think they’d “take”–they looked REALLY dried up and stickish, but lo and behold, today we have this:

Sam’s sells Hollyhocks in sacks of 10, so I divided the bag between two locations. The picture on the left shows plants growing to the right rear of A. guiengola; the plants in the other pic are coming up along the vinewall, on the opposite side of the yard. Both areas get 6hrs of sunlight, albeit at different times of day. It will be interesting to see which side does better.

Years before I created the vinewall, I hung several containersful of wild Emerald Fern (aka Asparagus densiflorus Sprengeri) from the fence posts. Sheer laziness left them in the original spots and gradually passiflora and mandevilla  grew all around them::

Hanging Asparagus densiflora sprengeri, 3/5/14

This “fern” produces mounds of leaflike flattened branchlets that resemble (and function as) leaves but are actually called cladophylls. What looks like finely textured foliage is actually woody, spiny and not as fragile as appearance might indicate. Cladophyls typically grow in downward arcs, but that all changes when push comes to shove!

Asparagus densiflora sprengeri, 3/5/14

This branchlet travelled 1.5ft up the fence, then continued another 3ft beneath the mandevilla just to find a small open spot!

Reaching for the light: I love this metaphor and what a tiny branch reminds us about the nature of all living things ➡ Resillience and adaptability are two of life’s most helpful attributes! 🙂

Addendum, 3/11/14: Cistus Nursery identified my “agave” as a Coral Aloe, aka Aloe striata.  I’ve included the email:
It looks like you have Aloe striata or Coral Aloe on your hands.  Here’s the description from our catalog: A stemless aloe from South Africa with orange-red flowers on 3 ft stalks and soft, pink striped blue green leaves that beg to be petted. Grows to about 1 foot high and 2 feet wide. Full sun to part shade. With excellent drainage can withstand temperatures down to 20F or lower.
Cistus Nursery
22711 NW Gillihan Rd
Portland, OR 97231
503 621 2233

Until next time…


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37 thoughts on “A new growing season begins!

  1. Aloe striata flowers are very similar (from what I can make out on the photo)… but wouldn’t put my neck out to that… I’m sure I have a photo somewhere of it… only thing I think the flower stem comes out the center of the plant… really can’t remember… been out of the game a little too long…

    • Bulldog, you were right! It IS A.striata, according to a rep from Cistus Nursery who had this to say via email:
      It looks like you have Aloe striata or Coral Aloe on your hands. Here’s the description from our catalog:
      A stemless aloe from South Africa with orange-red flowers on 3 ft stalks and soft, pink striped blue green leaves that beg to be petted. Grows to about 1 foot high and 2 feet wide. Full sun to part shade. With excellent drainage can withstand temperatures down to 20F or lower.

      Don’t count yourself out of the game just yet, my friend! 😉

    • It’s definitely getting “springy” here. 🙂 I’ve noticed the grass has started growing quicker (dang!!) and this week we turn the clocks ahead, which means more sun during the latter half of the day on my vine wall. Things will be filling in there quickly!

  2. Your photos are so beautiful! It’s a cool, dreary, and rainy day in my part of the world. Spring seems *so far away* — your images give me hope. 🙂

    • It’s grey here today and muggy as all get out which means my hair is NOT co-operating!! Argghhh!
      This is turn the clocks ahead weekend–spring will be your way before you know it!

  3. It is great to see plants growing in the soil. It gives me hope that my garden will soon shed its winter blanket.

    • My boys are still living in Boston and they seem to text daily laments about this incredibly annoying, looooonnnnnggggg winter! I feel their and your pain, I do! Wasn’t so long ago I was shoveling too much…and too often!

  4. That agave (or whatever the heck it is) looks like a hummingbird magnet! It’s months early for hummingbirds here (unless the poor dears wanted to make ‘snow angels’), but you may be in the area where they are starting to congregate. I’d be on the lookout!

  5. I remember hollyhocks at the first house I lived in as a child. I remember them being so much bigger than me in the summer. 🙂 Spring … I vaguely remember that season. I’m not so sure we’ll see it this year….

    • I’m almost afraid to ask what the weather is doing there this weekend!
      My new hollyhocks seem to be establishing themselves well, having doubled in height since the photos here. Maybe some year they’ll be as high as the ones from your childhood. (hope I haven’t jinxed myself! 😉 )

  6. Lovely header!!! We have a little bit of green popping up that will become Daffies.. 🙂 Top shot, it looks beautiful there! I would love to sit in your yard and have a glass of wine.. 😀

    • Oh, daffodils….I had such a cheery lot that grew in a circle around one of my lawn trees in Massachusetts. They were a mixture of off white and bright yellow and really made me smile!

  7. it looks lovely…ready to burst forth. It is time for me to get in and clean up before autumn really sets in…not my favourite time in the garden really

    • Hello!
      A. striata actually (according to one of the nurseries I queried.) I can see where you’d say hereroensis though…very similar look! I find identifying Aloes and Agaves very challenging, and I’m sure there are other mistakes on my blog. I recently updated this post to include the new info, but still need to change the picture info throughout!

  8. Such a beautiful garden!

    Guess what “G” is for, in my “alphabet of help for living well” ? I love what you said about resilience and adaptability. Gardening is one of the best reminders that we can thrive even when things don’t go as we think they should.

  9. I think the top plant is a form of aloe, but I’ve never seen such brilliant blossoms!
    All your pictures make me want to get out and dig in the soil. Where we live in Colorado, the rule of thumb (if you want it to be a green thumb) is never plant until Mother’s Day. That’s a long way off, but I’ve tried to push the deadline up several times, and the outcome was sad.

    • Mother’s Day was the rule of thumb in Massachusetts, too!

      When I was President of my kid’s elementary school PTO there, we had a HUGE flower sale every year on the weekend nearest to Mother’s Day. Definitely a wildly successful event; people knew they’d get great prices for things they could plant immediately without fear of losing their work/money to frost.

      Such a short outdoor growing season for too many places in the U.S.!

    • Gardens always bring a nice memory, don’t they?

      My Italian grandparents had a very small side yard that we cousins called “the field” when we were small. In this “field,” winding up the front door bannister was a well established honeysuckle bush. To this day, I can’t smell or see a honeysuckle vine without being immediately transported to the field. Funny to think it wasn’t a field at all, just a long strip of grass in a congested urban neighborhood

      In childhood, everything looms so large.

  10. Reminds me that it’s about time to start planting seeds inside. We have a balcony where I’ll grow edibles this season. Last year I didn’t have the chance to plant anything there, because we moved in late in the season.

      • Lots of sun on the balcony and it has glass wall, so it’s like a little greenhouse.
        I planted cucumber seeds when I wrote my above comment (or perhaps the day after or something) and all 4 seeds have become tiny plants. So we’ll definitely try to grow cucumbers! I also bought tomato seeds that I’m planning to grow, plus some herbs: dill, chives & oregano. I also planted a flower called tangerine gem (the leaves are edible). Last year I planted mint and it’ll grow up again this year.

        Your post was actually the reminder I needed that it was about time to start planting for the season, so thanks a lot!

        It’ll be exciting to see if I manage to get something out of this project. My fear now is that an ice cold night will come and kill the stuff I planted outside. The cucumbers are inside for now, so they’ll be fine. We’re also going away for 10 days soon, but hopefully everything will survive 10 days of mismanaging!

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