Still raiding the old garden


Tuesday I hired a landscaping crew to help me with a big fall cut-back in my former garden at the Unsold House. The house has been rented out since August, and except for a few drive-bys I hadn’t really seen how the garden was holding up on its own. Up close I could see that some of the plants had disappeared, overwhelmed by other plants or perhaps having succumbed to the summer’s drought. There were beaten down areas in parts of the garden where maybe their kids like to explore. But overall it looked pretty darn good. Ready for its first major trim in 6 months, but good.

Naturally, I saw plant raiding opportunities as part of the thinning process. Pictured above is the variegated American agave in the front garden (as seen when I lived there). It was overgrown with pups coming up all around it, so we got to work grubbing those out and clipping them off at the root.


I collected them in a tub and brought them home—15 agave babies looking for a good home. I can’t possibly plant all these in my garden, so I’m planning to leave them bare-root in my garage for a while then give them away in the spring. I think they’ll survive just fine that way.


I didn’t take a shovel with me that day, but it wasn’t necessary. By pulling up or separating overgrown divisions with my hands, I was able to bring home a number of transplants for my new garden: rosemary, Mexican feathergrass, three big pots of bulbine divisions, spineless prickly pear pads, and three divisions of Lindheimer’s nolina.


I also collected a handful of seeds from the ‘Lavender Lady’ passionflower vine. She looks like this in warmer days, and I look forward to having her bloom next summer in my new garden.

All material © 2006-2009 by Pam Penick for Digging. Unauthorized reproduction prohibited.

22 Responses

  1. Lisa at Greenbow says:

    This is probably the best thing about not selling the house quickly. You get to raid the garden occasionally.

    That’s definitely the silver lining in this whole deal. —Pam

  2. Gail says:

    It’s good to know your old garden is doing so well. You’ve helped it look better and had all those divisions to take home! That’s an early Christmas present for any gardener! gail

    So true! I was giddy over all the free plants for my new garden. And it helped the old one look better in the process. —Pam

  3. kat says:

    I love your frugality! Are passionflowers easy to start from seed? I have one with white flowers that I’d like to spread around, but I always assumed it would be sterile.

    I’ve never started passionflower from seed, Kat, but I’m going to give it a try in the spring. I’ll let you know if it works. —Pam

  4. Let us know how those agave pups overwinter with their bare roots. It would be very useful to know that it works.

    I know that many agaves and succulents can live bare-root for a while, so I hope that a couple of months in a dark, chilly garage will not phase these pups. Even if they don’t make it, I’ll have lots more in the future thanks to a larger, pup-producing specimen in my back garden. —Pam

  5. You’re lucky that your old garden is still there to steal from. (Maybe unlucky that you haven’t sold the house yet.) I wish I’d taken more when I moved from the last house, but I didn’t want to make it look like I’d stripped the garden since that’s what attracted them to the house in the first place.

    It’s not stealing if you still own the house, Jim! A leisurely raiding party every now and then is proving helpful for filling out my new garden. It’s definitely an upside to the disappointment of not having sold the old house. —Pam

  6. Cindy, MCOK says:

    Pam, I’m glad the garden is holding up fairly well without its Head Gardener there on a regular basis. If the Agaves make it, I’ll trade you a pup from the A. lophantha I bought in Raleigh for one of yours!

    I’d be glad to save you one (or several), Cindy. Like A. lophantha, this one produces numerous—and I do mean numerous—offsets. Once you have this agave, you’ll never be without pups to share with your friends. I’d love to have a lophantha pup, and I think I would keep it contained in a pot to prevent it taking over. —Pam

  7. chuck b. says:

    Did you have to eat a passion fruit to get the seed?

    Should be pretty easy to grow, as those kinds of plants are invasive in many places. I feel like I don’t remember seeing passionflower in your old garden very much. I remember the trumpet vine on the back fence.

    No fruit, just a dried-up old seedpod, Chuck. Not very edible. I broke open about a dozen that looked dry and ready to be harvested, but only three seeds looked viable. You are right that passiflora can be invasive, although ‘Lavender Lady’ never seeded out that I recall. I had that problem with ‘Incense,’ such that I finally pulled out the mother vine, though her babies continued to appear. I also had a burgundy ‘Lady Margaret’ in the old garden, although I didn’t see her when I was there a couple of days ago; she didn’t survive the summer maybe.

    The vine you remember on the back fence was not trumpet vine but lookalike ‘Tangerine Beauty’ crossvine (Bignonia capreolata). I have it in the new garden too, but it gets a lot of shade so doesn’t bloom as spectacularly. —Pam

  8. Good to have all those new plants, for your new garden.
    My bulbine is in a pot…safely away from deer, on the deck. My plan was to move it to a bed inside the fence, when I get the bed ready. Right now, after the freeze, it looks pretty sick. Hope it’s not a goner.

    I bet it will recover, Linda. It’s pretty tough. You’re right to point out that deer love bulbine. —Pam

  9. Sigh I love the agave but that passionflower really caught my eye. Glad you were able to do a little garden raiding.

    Oh yes. It’s not a good visit to the old garden without a little raiding to show for it. :-) —Pam

  10. Denise says:

    This first photo of the American agave with Salvia leucantha (and hymenoxys?) is such a beautiful composition. The pupping of these American agaves never stops, does it? I’ve got a few that need attending to as well. I’d bet the bare root experiment works fine, judging by the neglect some of my potted pups endure.

    Yes, that is hymenoxys in that top photo; glad you like that combo. The little yellow flowers are nearly ever-blooming and look nice with the yellow-striped agave. —Pam

  11. Susie says:

    Nice work! That passion flower is gorgeous!

    Thanks, Susie. I didn’t get many seeds, but maybe I’ll get a couple of plants from them. I hope! —Pam

  12. Hello Pam,

    I love the planting combination in your first photo. I think I really need to plant Mexican Bush Sage again and I just love Angelitas. I am glad you were able to bring plants from your old garden to your new one. I was heartsick to leave my old garden. The new owner demolished it :(

    Hi, Noelle. I’d never heard hymenoxys referred to as Angelita before, but I just saw one on your blog so I know we’re talking about the same plant. They are a great little native for year-round color, aren’t they? So sad to hear that your previous garden was destroyed. Maybe that’s better than watching a slow decline though, which is what happens most of the time. —Pam

  13. Lola says:

    Great going. Nice to be able to get those freebies. I’m sure you won’t have any trouble giving them away.

    I don’t know, Lola. I may have saturated the local market already. ;-) I’ve given away an awful lot of this agave’s pups to local gardeners, and lots of people already have one anyway. —Pam

  14. LU says:

    I have that wonderful outcome of being able to raid the old garden, one benefit of the housing markets downturn. I think I am going to send my renters seed this year and ask them to just toss it in somewhere so I can come and bring the plants back to Texas. It was so easy to grow anything in GA, I could just use the old garden as my nursery! I did bring a whole trailer load when I moved to TX, but could always use more… So nice that your old home is near. Love the passion flower, good luck, I hope it grows for you.

    Thanks, LU. I’m glad the old house is close by too; it makes a good garden raid so much easier. Having to go to Georgia for your seedlings—well, that’s a long way! :-) —Pam

  15. Frances says:

    Oh happy day, Pam! All those goodies for free, and no shovel even! I hope the passionvine takes hold for you, what an asset on a trellis or fence. Are you sure there couldn’t be a mass planting of the agave, that would be too cool, or am I misunderstanding the spacing needs here? The bulbine makes my heart beat faster, good to know you will plenty of it at the new house too. What fun! :-)
    Frances

    If your zone were warm enough, Frances, I’d send you some. Bulbine is coming out of my ears these days, just like those agave pups. A mass planting of that agave would look smashing for about a year. And then they would have an explosion of growth to 5 or 6 feet tall and wide (maybe bigger!), pupping out little agave babies like Tribbles, and take over my entire garden. They’re lovely as an accent plant, but I must be careful about giving them a long leash—unless I want to create a thorny thicket around my house. ;-) —Pam

  16. If I lived close by, I’d be raiding your garage. Glad the garden still retains its bones.~~Dee

    I wonder if this agave is a little more cold-hardy than the one you’ve been trying, Dee. Come on down for a visit next spring and I’ll send you home with one to try. —Pam

  17. Elephant's Eye says:

    I am sure your bare root Agaves will survive. When we moved gardens, sorry house, we brought bits of Aloe. NO roots. Kept the bits in the shade for a year, while we rented until the new house was built. And if you read my Karoo Koppie post, there they are, flourishing. And flowering. And making more pups!

    Isn’t it wonderful how tough succulents are? I’m not worried about these pups at all. They’ll come roaring back as soon as they get a bit of dirt and sunlight on them next spring. —Pam

  18. Wonderful to have the continuation. The agaves will be extraordinary and you’ll feel good about sending them out.

    It’s hard to throw away a great plant, even if everyone you know already has tons of it! —Pam

  19. Ah great harvest Pam! My large Agave americana v has only 1 pup so far, and I am a little concerned about trying to get it out of the pot. I think I will just leave it until there are others to make it worth the trouble.

    I just yank ’em out, Loree. No matter if a leaf breaks or you get only a smidge of root—it’ll be just fine. But it is best to wait until warmer weather if you have the choice. —Pam

  20. Kathleen says:

    oh what a bummer your old (beautiful) house hasn’t sold Pam. The market must still be soft there? It’s turning around a little bit here but slow still. Maybe 2010 will be the year? At least you have it rented ~ I can’t imagine paying two mortgages. Yikes. Great the garden is still going strong too. Those raiding parties would be fun ~ I’d like to accompany you! I wish you a Merry Christmas too without any incidents (didn’t you husband have to go to the hospital last year?)

    We’ve been renting it out for several months and will likely put it on the market again next summer, Kathleen—if the market seems recovered enough. Austin is pretty strong compared to much of the country, luckily. And yes, you have a good memory. The DH is very much counting on not spending this Xmas in the hospital! —Pam

  21. Jim Long says:

    I enjoy your photos, Pam. And envy your agave babies. Love that two color leaf!
    Jim

    Hi, Jim. Isn’t it great? It has racing stripes! —Pam

  22. Congratulations on assembling a renter-proof garden. The rental next door to me is a scary mess of overgrown junipers, ice plant and dead grass planted by the owners a few decades ago. It sounds like you’ve chosen plants that not only survive, but also look good.

    I don’t know if it’s renter-proof yet, James, as it’s only been a few months since we rented it out. But they do seem to be taking good care of the garden. Regular pruning was the main maintenance chore in my old garden, and I’m making sure to keep up with that until we sell the place. —Pam

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