Goodbye, Moby: Removing a dying agave


It was time. Moby, my 11-year-old whale’s tongue agave (Agave ovatifolia), valiantly hung on for months after flowering, eventually making bulbils at the top of the bloom stalk. I’d been anticipating the leaf collapse that has occurred with every other agave I’ve ever seen in bloom, and yet Moby continued to remain upright. Still, after that spree of reproductive energy, he was now looking distinctly unhealthy, with yellowing, rotting leaves on the sunny side, although on the shadier side he still looked fine.


I took these two pictures on Sunday as a final farewell, as I’d scheduled a landscaping crew to come remove him on Monday morning. And then one of our cars wouldn’t start (bad alternator), and we had to have it towed to the repair shop, and Moby got a last-minute stay of execution — or should I say euthanasia?


Yesterday, though, the ax finally fell.


These two hard-working guys came over after lunch and worked on the removal for several hours in 93-degree heat. They were surprised when I said I wanted to keep the stalk intact, which made cutting it down a bit trickier. First they cut out Moby’s upper leaves. Then they began sawing through the stalk.


That stalk is huge — and heavy! Worried it would fall onto our string lights or the bottle tree, my husband and I rustled up a rope so they could pull high on the stalk and sort of control the fall. One last cut with the saw, and the stalk fell with a tremendous thud onto the gravel path along the fence, crushing nothing except a few of Moby’s precious bulbils.


These guys were such good sports, posing for the crazy lady who kept taking pictures of the decimated agave and fussing over the bulbils. They placed the severed stalk in the lower garden, and I’m planning to harvest the bulbils tomorrow and see how many viable ones I’ve got.


Not quite as many as I’d hoped (much of what you see here is flower stems on bulbils that are blooming — how weird is that?), but enough to keep some and share with friends.


A cross-section of the massive bloom stalk. The base has a diameter of 5 or 6 inches.


The guys went back to work on the agave, using a machete to chop off the fibrous leaves.


They wore gloves, which was smart, but they forgot or didn’t know to wear long sleeves to keep the agave sap off their arms. Soon their forearms were red and blistering from the toxic sap, and I ran inside to get soap and wet towels so they could scrub it off. Thank goodness they didn’t get it on their faces. That has happened to me.


This is why Agave ovatifolia is called whale’s tongue. Just look at the size of those wide, cupped leaves.


At last Moby was “pineappled”…


…and they started digging and sawing underneath to sever Moby’s tenacious roots.


Finally free


At this point several big cockroaches scurried into the open, like rats off a sinking sink, sensing, I guess, that their home under those spiny leaves was no longer safe. Gross.


After several tries, straining with effort, the guys were finally able to roll Moby out of the garden bed and up onto the patio. I bet that agave heart weighed 350 pounds, maybe even 400.


Somehow they got it up into the wheelbarrow and rolled it out to their trailer.


Goodbye, Moby! You will be missed. But hello Moby Jrs! Stay tuned to find out how many clones Moby made.

This is my September post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness or changes are happening in your garden this month? Please join me in giving foliage its due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave a link to your post in a comment below. I’d appreciate it if you’ll also link to my post in your own — sharing link love! If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it. I look forward to seeing your foliage faves.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

South Texans, come see me at the 2nd annual Planta Nativa festival in McAllen, Texas, on Saturday, October 22. I’ll be delivering the keynote talk, “Local Heroes: Designing with Native Plants for Water-Saving Gardens,” that evening. Tickets go on sale soon at Quinta Mazatlan. I hope to see you there!

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Hot child in the city: August Foliage Follow-Up


Surely August will be our last worst month here in central Texas. It can’t possibly remain blisteringly hot and humid through September, can it?


Yes, it can, and it probably will, but that’s why I love agaves, yuccas, prickly pear, and other tough plants. They breeze through a Texas summer looking as cool as an Austinite floating in spring-fed Barton Springs Pool. Here’s one of my current favorites, Agave applanata ‘Cream Spike’ (formerly Agave parryi ‘Cream Spike’), a pup given to me last fall by Bob Beyer of the blog Central Texas Gardening. Just look at those cream-and-lime-striped leaves and tidy, red teeth lining each crimson-spined leaf.


Agave x leopoldii is also a fine small agave for a sunny deck or patio. It needs some winter protection, but its coppery summer coloration — a little stressed from heat and drought — is especially lovely.


Out front, in the Berkeley sedge (Carex divulsa) lawn, lemony ‘Margaritaville’ yucca easily withstands summer’s heat.


For the first time, I’m experimenting with keeping tillandias — aka air plants — outside during the warm months. I’ve managed to keep the big one on the left alive indoors for a couple of years, and I’d hate to lose it. But they look so perfect in my new Tentacle Pots that I decided to take the chance. I hope they don’t burn up in Austin’s summer heat! They’re in filtered shade, and I’m misting them with distilled water once a week.


Since today is Foliage Follow-Up — a celebration of great foliage — let’s venture outside my own garden for a moment. I spotted this honor guard of ‘Will Fleming’ yaupon hollies at the “castle” house in South Austin. Its narrow, upright form and tidy, evergreen leaves make ‘Will Fleming’ a great screening plant for a tight space, or a striking vertical accent.


At the same house, in the hell strip outside a limestone wall, a zigzagging row of large, silver-blue agaves is eye-catching too — like campfires with tongues of blue flame. Atop the wall, prickly pear finds a crevice home. None of these plants minds the heat or the Death Star, and they make architectural additions to the summer garden.

This is my August post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness is going on in your garden this month? Please join me in giving foliage its due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave a link to your post in a comment below. I’d appreciate it if you’ll also link to my post in your own — sharing link love! If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it. I look forward to seeing your foliage faves.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Stock-tank pond garden is cool even in summer’s heat


Mid-summer is all about foliage in my garden. The spring flowers are long gone, but evergreen plants like ‘Winter Gem’ boxwood, ‘Color Guard’ yucca, bamboo muhly grass, and squid agave look good even when the Death Star’s on full blast. The stock-tank pond helps the garden feel cool, with a trickle of water spilling from a faucet pipe in the center.

Even my pond plants are largely about foliage — a dark-leaved crinum and sparkler-headed dwarf papyrus, plus rounded water lily leaves — since my garden doesn’t get enough sun for the lilies to bloom as much as I’d like.


To the right, Adirondacks by the pool are a good place to sit and let a lazy summer day float by.

This is my July post for Foliage Follow-Up. Fellow bloggers, what leafy loveliness is going on in your garden this month? Please join me in giving foliage its due on the day after Bloom Day. Leave a link to your post in a comment below. I’d appreciate it if you’ll also link to my post in your own — sharing link love! If you can’t post so soon after Bloom Day, no worries. Just leave your link when you get to it. I look forward to seeing your foliage faves.

I welcome your comments; please scroll to the end of this post to leave one. If you’re reading this in a subscription email, click here to visit Digging and find the comment box at the end of each post.
_______________________

Digging Deeper: News and Upcoming Events

Do you review? Have you read my new book, The Water-Saving Garden? If you found it helpful or inspirational, please consider leaving a review — even just a sentence or two — on Amazon, Goodreads, or other sites. Online reviews are crucial in getting a book noticed. I really appreciate your help!

All material © 2006-2016 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

Follow