Friday, August 26, 2022

Plant Profile: Yucca filifera (Mexican Tree Yucca)

Latin name: Yucca filifera  ("YOU-kah fill-IFF-er-ah")
Common name: Mexican Tree Yucca, Palma China
Originally from: Mexico
Blooms: 5' long weeping panicle of white bells
Light: Full sun to light shade.
Water: Winter rain is enough.
Height x width: Up to 32' tall and 9-12' wide
Zones: 6 to 10b
Where to find in P. Garden: We have some in the Brights Bed at the top of PG, and several down at PRG too.

What a handsome beast! This Yucca is one of my favorites for so many reasons. First of all, it doesn't need any water, loves rocky, dry soil, and doesn't need any pruning - any faffing at all actually - it always looks sharp. 

And when I say sharp, I mean watch out - the leaves are rigid, pointed, and they will stab you. I used to say "How can you tell the difference between Yucca guatemalensis and Yucca aloifolia? If you fall into the former you'll get scratched up as you scramble out. If you fall into the latter you won't get out at all..." but Yucca filifera takes it to the next level, turning the average human appendage into kebab meat with a wink and a smile.

With that in mind I have bought every one I can find at Flora Grubb and planted them in places where I don't want people going to great effect. They're all less than 4' tall right now but keep an eye on them. Growing up to 32 feet in height the Yucca filifera is regarded as one of the largest and fastest growing Yuccas so its growth rate would be considered fast, if it's given extra water.

It flowers from July to August with large clusters of cream or white bell-shaped flowers on a long (often over 1m) downwards pointing panicle which is very distinctive.  Despite being known as a low pollen plant, great for people with allergies, in its native habitat it reproduces through pollination by the yucca moth (Tegeticula yuccasella).

In Mexico, its early use was roofing for homes because of the strong fibers in its leaves. It is used for rope, thread, baskets, mats and the roots contain saponins which are toxic to humans and animals but can be used as soap.  The fruit can be eaten raw or cooked, the stem can be cooked like asparagus and even the flowers are edible.

Thursday, August 18, 2022

Plant Profile: Leucophyta brownii (Cushion Bush)

Latin name: Leucophyta brownii  ("loo-ko-FYE-tah BROW-nee-eye")
Common name: Cushion Bush, Silver Bush
Originally from: Australia
Blooms: Pale yellow pom poms dot the plant in spring and summer
Light: Full sun to light shade.
Water: Winter rain is enough.
Height x width: about 2' x 2'
Zones: 10-12
Where to find in P. Garden: Up along the top border and also in the brights bed

This is a great little silvery pom-pom of a shrublet with really interesting wiry branching stems, a round shape and tiny, close held leaves that make the whole thing look like a tumbleweed. They grow neatly and are more about the foliage than the flowers, but the flowers are cute little 1/2" pale yellow buttons in spring and summer.

We never water them, and in fact they dislike soggy conditions and don't care for heavy soil, preferring poor and well-draining soil so they are perfect for us. It withstands winds and salt spray, so it's perfect for coastal gardens, and can take a light pruning to keep it tidy if needed.

Not long lived, apparently it propagates easily by seed or semi-hardened stem cuttings, but I've found that Flowercraft often sells inexpensive 6 packs of plug sized (about 2") plants and they grow quickly so I haven't tried propagating them yet.

Occurring naturally on coastal dunes and cliffs along the south coast of Australia’s mainland and on the northern coasts of Tasmania, King Island, and Flinders Islands the more compact form that is in cultivation was a selection made from near Cape Le Grand in Western Australia. 

As is common in the plant world, this one had a name change along the way, so you might see it referred to by both names. The plant has long been referred to as Calocephalus brownii but the genus Calocephalus was found to be "an unnatural group" (whatever that means) and this plant was segregated into the monotypic genus Leucophyta. 

This previous name for the genus, Calocephalus comes from the Greek words 'calos' meaning "beautiful' and 'cephale' meaning "head" because of the silver rounded heads of flowers. The etymology of the newer name is from the Greek words 'leuco', meaning gray-white and 'phyta' meaning plant so combined as "white plant", which is also appropriate. The species name honors Robert Brown the Scottish botanist and surgeon who botanized and collected nearly 5,000 plants in Australia on the voyage of the Investigator from 1801 until 1805.

Calocephalus brownii syn. Leucophyta brownii

Read more at Gardening Know How: Cushion Bush Information: Tips On Cushion Bush Care In The Garden
Calocephalus brownii syn. Leucophyta brownii

Read more at Gardening Know How: Cushion Bush Information: Tips On Cushion Bush Care In The Garden
Cushion bush, also known as silver bush (Calocephalus brownii syn. Leucophyta brownii) is a very tough and attractive perennial, native to the southern coast of Australia and nearby islands. It’s very popular in pots, borders, and larger clumps in the garden, most notably because of its striking silver to white color. Keep reading to learn more about how to grow a cushion bush and cushion bush growing conditions. Cushion Bush Information Cushion bush does produce small yellow flowers on the tips of its stems, but most gardeners grow the plant for its foliage. The stems grow thick and outward in a shape very much like a tumbleweed, and the soft leaves stay close to the stems.

Read more at Gardening Know How: Cushion Bush Information: Tips On Cushion Bush Care In The Garden

Wednesday, August 10, 2022

Volunteer Day work

Our August Volunteer Day was attended by a small but devoted bunch. Sadly I didn't get photos of people but I did get some pics of the work done.

Kai and his dad Kresh weeded the entrance pathway with Kai's special tiny trowel that I keep ready for him, and while they did that, I deadheaded a lot of Lamb's Ears (Stachys byzantina), cut the cardoon (Cynara carduncuulus) down to the ground, trimmed the palm by the bench and weeded too.

Matt went to the hardware store to get better stakes for the new big cactus. Some helpful (!) person had taken the guy line and all the padding off the cactus so we had to replace it all. I think the new work looks much better anyway, and as a bonus Chris found the rope and padding that had been removed, left elsewhere in the garden. Matt and I also staked up the Dodonaea viscosa (Purple Hopseed) on the lower path that was leaning over.

While all that was going on, Chris moved the cardoon. We cut this back every year but this year it never really got very big as we were so short on rain. Generally when it gets big though it's too close to the path. So, Chris dug it up and moved it about 2' back in the bed, and also gave it a huge amount of fresh compost from the compost bins so it can bounce back. Matt watered it too.

Josh planted some cactus I had brought from home on the back slope, and both he and Chris weeded a lot too.

Tuesday, August 2, 2022

Cactus delivery

John messaged me recently and asked if we wanted some big columnar Euphorbia ammak (or trigona...?) cacti. I said yes before really thinking it through as usual because John always has the good stuff.

Off we went to John's neighbor's place in Glen Park and lo - two GIGANTIC Euphorbia cacti planted int he ground and needing a new home. And I mean, gigantic. So, of course, we decided to dig them up whole instead of trying to cut them apart and re-root smaller sections because, well... like I said, not thinking things through.

With John's help, Matt and I attached each specimen to a tall ladder for support with bungies and rope, padded with drop cloths, then dug it up, lowered it to the ground, and carried it down a flight of steps (!) to the truck where we had to hoist them onto the roof and tie it down with even more rope. 

Fun times - did you know cacti are mainly water and as such... HEAVY?

Then we drove slowly along back roads (vs the freeway) home to Pacifica to keep speeds down and avoid the beasts falling off the roof. Once home, we enlisted a friend to help unload them onto our driveway - said friend was a bit daunted when he arrived because Matt didn't sufficiently describe the task when asking for help...

The next week we planted the smaller one at our house, and last weekend we managed to hoist the bigger one BACK onto the truck with just the two of us, drive back to the city, and with the help of Josh and Jim we planted it at PG. It is a realistic 15' tall and it was HARD WORK, but it's done and it looks magnificent!

We will keep the guy line on it for quite a while as it didn't have much in the way of roots and needs the support. If it falls over I will cry.

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