Wednesday, March 30, 2016

Big Yucca Quest

Did you ever really want a certain big ticket plant?   I did, but I realized it's important to wait for the right moment.  It takes extensive preparation to ensure a feature plant is located in the proper spot (since you only get one chance to get it right) so timing is important.   I have wanted a tall yucca for years and have pictured it somewhere in my front yard.  But getting it done took a combination of creating the basic landscape first and also the right circumstances.  

This spring we knew the Vitex tree on the front corner by the garage was past its prime.  Planted 20 years ago by the original owners, it had served its time well as a visual anchor at the corner.  But it was never a favorite plant, just a useful one.  Nothing wrong with that and I had so many other landscaping issues to deal with.


Pruned into treeform it held its own with stunning spring blooms until a few years ago, as shown in this 2010 photo.
 

Last spring it was clearly signalling decline by barely blooming at all and summer leaves were sparse and small.  Time to take it out.  Could the circumstances be coming together for my tall yucca?


First things first which meant removing the old plant.  We discovered the trunk was hollow.  No wonder it wasn't doing well.


Neal cut it into slices like an Angel food cake and hauled off the remains.


At this point a nest of scorpions ran out of the hole!  But they did not get far.  Are scorpions good fertilizer?  We'll find out.


Massive roots too!


Now what to do with the blank spot?  Of course, I already knew.  With the old Vitex gone it was easy to see my first choice would work well.



It's the perfect spot and I've been visualizing a tall yucca there for a while so the "Big Yucca Quest" was on.  At first thought, a Yucca rostrata was just the plant.  Except I wanted presence from the start which called for one about six feet tall.  Trying to find a large one available at retail proved to be a challenge and hiring a landscaper to acquire one wholesale would come at a steep price.  Yucca rostrata is a native Texas plant so I searched and made lots of calls.  I found specimens in the 3' to 4' range at a reasonable price from several Rio Grande Valley growers but the shipping made the prices essentially the same as those same sizes available locally.

Finally I found Yucca Rigida or Blue Yucca advertised on Craigslist at wholesale prices.  Calling the number revealed the seller was highly reputable grower Barton Springs Nursery in Austin.  For a while I was still on the fence about giving up on Yucca rostrata.  After more consideration and spotting a few striking silvery Yucca rigida around town, I decided its longer, thicker leaves would look more sculptural.  Still, we were limited to the 7' overall length we could fit inside our mid-sized SUV and that included about 2' of root ball leaving me with just 5' or less of yucca.  Then I just happened to mention my predicament to my friend Linda and she offered to take her truck.  Yay!  Linda and I were off on a roadtrip to Austin for the pickup.  Oh, and we decided to purchase two!  The BSN crew had already dug, wrapped and cleaned two six foot specimens by the time we arrived.


Barton Springs Nursery is apparently selling off Yucca rigida plants in favor of growing space for more popular Yucca rostrata shown in the background field.  BSN helpful staff loading Linda's truck.  The entire experience with them was great.


Here we are unloading back at home with help from our awesome neighbor Mike.  The hole was already prepared in advance with a combination of sandy soil and small gravel.


That's Linda in the background by the truck.  These weighed about 250 pounds each, so they were not exactly an easy install.


Here's the first six-foot beauty in place by the garage.  The yucca leaves will relax over time to show off their silvery side and pick up the agave color.


A longer view from the driveway.  Those spiky leaves work well with the house style.


Yucca number two went into the back corner where a significant focal presence has been needed for some time.


A before and after look.  Before: April 2015 with declining Vitex in place.


After: A clean, sculptural look works in well with the rest of our landscape.  Just as I visualized.


My "Big Yucca Quest" was quite an adventure and I'm so excited to have a great structural plant in place and it was a bonus to also get one for the back yard.

29 comments:

  1. I love it, when a plan comes together.
    Looks great!

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  2. Yes, indeed, very nice! I've bought from BSN Wholesale and found them very efficient and helpful as well. Your new yucca looks fab with the whale's tongue. And how cool that you got one for the back as well.

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    1. We just had to take advantage of the opportunity to add needed structure in both sports.

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  3. WooHoo, you done good! I love how it looks. I would have freaked out over the nest of scorpions. That sounds scary.

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    1. Thank you Alison! The trick with scorpions is to stay out of their way and keep them out of the house!

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  4. Love it! What a great addition.

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    1. Thank you and thanks for stopping by!

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  5. Good choice! Well-placed. It sounds like it was truly time for that Vitex to come out. A cavity full of scorpions--that would have freaked me out!

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    1. We see scorpions so often that it wouldn't be possible to freak out each time.

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  6. Those are great! That seems like a great choice, and how awesome that you got two!

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  7. Yay! Nice work. For some reason I thought the second plant was going to your friend's garden, how wonderful that both are yours.

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    1. Writing can be a funny thing since I know what I mean but can't always anticipate how it will be read!

      Linda didn't need one but I should do a post on her garden soon.

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  8. Looks AMAZING!!!!! CONGRATS on your yucca quest success :)

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    1. Thanks Heather, stop by and see it in person some time!

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  9. What a great find, and getting two was a smart choice while you had the truck, the help, and the inclination! I'm really looking forward to seeing how they do as the seasons unfold. I admire the skill and confidence it takes to buy and plant large specimens. I've killed way too many plants to have any confidence in my abilities to properly welcome anything expensive or large.

    We have a fair number of scorpions here though I rarely see them outside. The ones I do see are the ones who get inside, and as you state, eventually the freak-out reaction subsides. That said, if I was standing close to a hole that erupted with any number of scorpions, I do believe I'd freak out just a little! Good news is you eliminated a nest that was right next to your garage, hopefully reducing the numbers that might try to co-habitate indoors.

    Yucca for the win!

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    1. It's a risk and that's why I was slow to pay serious money for it. Less of a risk getting one that is known to do well here.

      Scorpions in the garage are not a good thing, reach for something and yikes!

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  10. I chuckled at your desire for a yucca plant: I lived 23 years in southern Arizona (and still own a home and acreage in Cochise County) and fought to get rid of yuccas all the time! They are prolific weeds that love to grow in our driveway, sidewalks and along the house foundation. I believe the Arizona version is the soaptree yucca (yucca elata). In our defense, we only killed/removed those that were growing in bad spots, we left all others to grow and proliferate. Our horses love to eat the yucca flowers in late spring - I hear they're edible by humans too. Your new addition looks perfect in that spot, and thank goodness there's no more scorpion nest that close to the house (that you're aware of, lol).

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    1. I used to take these plants for granted but with drought and water restrictions I'm all for easy, good looking landscape that works. Yuccas and sotols do grow wild in undeveloped areas of my neighborhood but most are low growing spreaders.

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  11. First, scorpions...eww! And second, I love the change. It really looks wonderful. I have not seen these often but I love the impressive look.

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    1. I'm glad you like it even though it would be a rare sight up in your area.

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  12. Wow, that was a job from beginning to end! Your new purchases look great. You'll have to let us know if the scorpion fertilizer was helpful in giving the plant in front a good start.

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    1. I enjoyed the hunt and the work of installing is over so now we can enjoy the plant.

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  13. It looks fantastic, and I'm so glad you found a great deal!

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    1. If you know anyone who needs a good yucca, they're right in your area.

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  14. Well done. And treasure hunts are so fun.

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    1. The hunt was part of the fun.

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  15. I really think the yucca looks excellent. I love the various forms of leaves from it and the surrounding plants, and the stone of the house. Excellent forms.

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