I hope this finds you well and ready for the December holiday season. We love receiving the Garden Photo of the Day as well as your regular print editions. They’re always giving us fresh ideas and ongoing inspiration. I am attaching some lovely photos of our neighbor’s garden that I think your readers would find interesting. She is Janet Chen, and she has a robust and colorful succulent garden that is over 20 years old. However, the foxtail agave (Agave attenuata, Zones 10–12) specimens are in bloom now for the first time in 13 years! They are named “foxtail” or “swan neck” for the development of a curved inflorescence, unusual among agaves. These make a very dramatic and bold statement on the horizon with Mt. Tamalpais in the background. Wishing you a great holiday.
Dr. Roger Greenberg
The distinctive curving flower spikes of Agave attenuata stand out against the bright blue California sky. As with other agaves, each rosette grows for a long time before flowering, and then it dies. However, offsets at the base of the plant will carry on to produce foliage and eventually flower in the years to come.
Given that it flowers so rarely, the main appeal of this agave is the broad, succulent green leaves that, unlike those of most agaves, are spineless. This species is native to the mountains of central Mexico but is widely grown in frost-free climates elsewhere. In colder climates, it can be grown outside in a container during the summer and then brought inside for the winter. The lack of spines makes it a lot easier and safer to haul indoors than other, more vicious, agave species.
The arching blooms with Mt. Tamalpais in the background.
Echeveria is another staple of warm, dry climates. Like the agave, this plant can’t survive a frost but can be brought indoors for the winter in colder climates. Bright sun and dry conditions will bring out the brightest colors in the leaves.
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