Hillside Garden Update

The warm weather arrived weeks ago, the kids are out of school, the summer solstice has passed, and 4th of July is just around the corner; Northern California can safely consider itself squarely in Summer. The hillside garden is still a work in progress but enough has changed that it's worth showing the difference since the garden started 7 months ago.

Top of the Hillside Garden looking roughly South

The serpentine curve of the rock wall divides this upper stretch of garden into three beds. If I could I'd use a sedum ground cover throughout the beds but unfortunately it is a favorite of the deer as other options dry up. The larger plants in the foreground you will probably recognize - Agave vilmoriniana. I'll end up finishing this section later - until then I've left it covered with mulch to keep the weeds down and moisture in the soil.

Middle of the upper garden

The Kalanchoe providing a splash of red above mark about where my property line starts; our neighbors were kind enough to let me to extend the bed a few extra feet onto their property. I used Lamb's Ear (Stachys byzantina) as a ground cover since it's both deer resistant and drought tolerant. For now it's out competing the Coral Aloes - hopefully by next year the aloes will be head and shoulders above the lambs ear.

I'm hoping the 10 or so Aloe dawei and Aloe 'Eric the Red' will eventually fill in to create backdrop for plants in the mid and foreground. The A. dawei were just planted in Late April - I was happy to see they decided to flower.

There's a lot going on above ... time for some close up shots.

Agave desmettiana 'Variegata'
All of the smaller A. desmettiana come from bulbils I collected from my other plants.  I've planted several in our garden and now have extra waiting to make a new home in your garden.

Agave guiengola
In the first longshot picture above you'll notice three A. guiengola which were all offsets from a plant in my backyard. The mother plant largely melted with all the rain we had this past Winter and Spring while these offsets seemed to do well. I can only guess that's due to better draining soil and location. In the background is an Aloe chabaudii I mail ordered from the Institute for Aloe Studies. Aloe chabaudii is described as "a clustering aloe that can form large groups with neat rosettes to 2 feet tall of up to 30 bluish green leaves that are often flushed with pink when grown in full sun." Maybe I didn't give it enough room to spread?

Bloodspot Manfreda

Agave chiapensis
A. chiapensis is still one of my favorites for the way it brings a lush, almost tropical feel to any garden. A. attenuata has a similar effect - so I like to pair them together. A. chiapenis and attenuata are companions in other locations around my house as well.

Aloe glauca
Almost forgotten in the mid-ground is a little A. glauca I also brought from the Institute for Aloe studies as a cutting. I'm hoping the bamboo stakes will save it from being trampled by deer.

Southern end of the upper garden
This end of the garden is where the hardier Agave and Cacti live - although there's still plenty of other plants to look at first. Notice the small Mangave's in the foreground?

Mangave 'Lavender Lady'
At this point the 'Ladies' are almost hidden by the unruly Lamb's ear - but give them time.

Mangave 'Mayan Queen'
Many of the Mangave in my yard have pitting due to a few 45 second hail storms this winter... the newer leaves don't which is a great way to measure just how much the plant has grown recently.

Mangave 'Pineapple Express'

Mangave 'Whale Tail'

Cactus garden in the morning light
Now to the cacti at the end of the bed which are highlighted by the sun each morning.

Cliestocactus sp.
Looking at the same cacti with the sun behind our back they lose a bit of magic.

Cactus garden late June, 2019

Cactus garden late May, 2019
How many changes do you see? The striking difference for me was just how quickly the Grizzly Opuntia grow.

Cactus Garden Early June 2019

 You might recognize the Agave filifera ssp. schidigera "Shira ito no Ohi" in the foreground from my post on the San Carlos Garden Club plant sale. They were a bit pricey for our customers that day so I ended up buying many of the left overs. It's also interesting to see how in the first week of June, when this picture was taken, the Opuntia erinacea have the beginnings of new paddles. Just three weeks later those 'nubs' have grown into almost  full size paddles!

Agave titanota blue

The above A. titanota came from Annie's Summer Sale a year or two when at the time they had a great selection of young specimens in 4" pots. It has been patiently waiting since then for it's "forever home".

Unknown Opuntia
I found these Opuntia at our local big box store, liked their coloring and couldn't pass given their $6(!) price. They have probably doubled in size since putting them in the ground several months go.

Cactus Garden from lower path
With their riot of shape, texture and color,  cacti remind me of a backdrop from Alice in Wonderland.

Agave filamentosa
Who wouldn't want the above A. filamentosa? At least that's what I thought when purchasing it for the Spring plant sale. Both specimens went home with me that day.

Further down the path we get to a section that still needs quite a bit of work. The larger, brown looking plant is a Aloe vaombe which has been unhappy since it emerged from a nice cushy greenhouse. There are also three smaller, much greener, Aloe pluridens you might be able to see on the hillside. These young Aloes plus more waiting to be planted are the beginning of an Aloe Tree grove.

Aloe pluridens
Around Thanksgiving of 2018 my order of a dozen Aloe pluridens in 3" pots arrived. They have all grown quickly but the three planted in these pictures spent most of the wet season in a grow tent under 12 - 15 hrs of light per day. They've ended up bigger, greener and generally healthier looking than the other A. pluridens.

Still lots of work to do on this hillside garden!


  1. There may still be a lot of work to do but wow...WOW! It's looking absolutely amazing. You should be proud. The plants, the layout, the rocks and gravel...perfect. I want to drive right over and see it in person...

    1. Thank you Loree for the kind words. If I could, I'd take several months off from my day job and work in the garden. You're welcome to visit anytime!

  2. What a huge change! I wish I'd followed a similar course with my succulent beds and started off with more medium and large-sized plants as you did - I made do with too many dinky specimen at the start. Not only were they slow to make an impact but many also fell prey to damage by critters, like the troublesome raccoons that conduct periodic raids in their relentless search for grubs. You've got a very nice Mangave collection going there too.

    1. By coincidence - I just saw two raccoons galloping through my back yard - first time ever! A lot of the plants I used started smaller and lived in 5 gal or 15gal containers for a year+ - in hindsight had I just planted them in the ground they would have grown faster. Of course we have not had issues with wild life other than deer and moles.


Post a Comment

Popular Posts