Tuesday, November 8, 2011

Work in Progress: The Hesperaloes

The issue on my mind today is planting diversity vs single variety plantings.  This post showing changes we have been making to the front yard beds is prompted by inputs from David at The Desert Edge.

Six red flowering yuccas (hesperaloe parviflora) were planted near the garage nearly 20 years ago.  They were definitely pretty when in bloom as shown here in Spring 2010

But the deer often snapped off the blooms and I thought they looked boring much of the year

Somewhat like the H-E-B parking lot

Not a bad choice for the local shopping center, but not so good for a color loving gardener like me.  One of my favorite things about San Antonio is how colorful everything is and I enjoy bringing that home.  Definitely time for some changes.

The south facing spot gets maximum sun exposure and plenty of reflected heat so anything here needs to be tough.  In the spring of 2010 we planted gold lantana in front.  Last fall we added Mexican Bird of Paradise (caeselpinia mexicana), Pride of Barbados (caeselpinia pulcherima) and a lantana camara found growing wild nearby

Inspired by the photos of Agave ovatifolia in Pam Penick's blog Digging, we removed the two large hesperaloe in front and installed the agave

A gardening friend shared a native Velvet pod mimosa (Mimosa dyscarpa) which will eventually grow up about six feet against the stone wall.

One of the large red yuccas has been transplanted to the back yard and the others will be divided and planted along side the driveway in the near future. 


The early plan was to replace them all until David featured hesperaloe in some of his posts and, combined with the really hot, dry summer of 2011, I began to rethink the plan.  Instead of removing the rest of them this fall, we have divided and relocated them around the bed to fill in the space.  Three of the larger original ones remain in place.  The tree form vitex remains and the Texas Mountain Laurel is kept full and shrub-like in front of the garage window.

As always around here there's more work to do.  Two more gold lantanas will be added in front of the agave.  The old landscaper's border will be pulled out.

The red yucca should bloom again next spring and the agave is growing well and looks good all year while adding interest that was lacking before.  The Mexican Bird of Paradise should take off next year and really bloom.  A more disciplined gardener might have left all the red yucca, but I enjoy seeing the new mix with the agave there whenever I pull into the driveway....and isn't that the purpose of a garden?


  1. I think the new mix looks great and will be more attractive as everything matures. You're not less disciplined for desiring more variety--quite the contrary. It looks great.

  2. Thank you Tina! I've been reading so much about mass planting lately and rethinking some of my decisions that it really helps to have positive feedback.

  3. I like your deletion of some of the Red Yucca and adding an Whale Tongue Agave. And thanks for sharing!

    Based on you saying about SA, "how colorful everything is and I enjoy bringing that home", I might suggest unifying that scene with more color. You could add some more lantana either side of the one you have in the corner - a couple between it and the red yucca along the sidewalk, and one next to it towards the garage door.


  4. Thanks David, I really appreciate your input. More gold lantana was already in the plan but I'll add even more. Right now gold lantana is lighting up my neighborhood and many places around town. Great fall color, South Texas style.

  5. shirley, I love the new bed - great design! I love looking at before/after pics :)

  6. Hi meriberi and thanks. I have plenty of befores, the afters are mostly still WIP since planting even a 4" pot requires serious rock removal and we are also renovating the inside of the house at the same time!

  7. Funny that you threw in the HEB photo. Dang those red yuccas are just ridiculously tolerant... and yours look so healthy despite their challenging location, AND they're 20 year old?! But, yes, not so colorful if that is your aim.

    I'm digging the structure, wide-leaf contrast and color of your Whale's Tongue agave..that's a pretty one.

  8. Thanks, Cyndi. It's good to get so much confirmation I'm on the right track here.

    Now all I need is patience to wait for it to fill in.

  9. It looks good.
    I like red yucca, but the deer eat the blooms here. So, the structure of the foliage is all we get. Still, I like it. And, that lantana...beautiful.

    I'm waiting for the groundcover to be dug out in our front. Then, I'm planting water-wise plants. This summer was too hard on even moderate water-users.

    I keep learning more about the difference between here and the DFW area, where I grew up gardening.

  10. After reading your blog, I kept noticing red yuccas when I was driving around yesterday, looking at what they were paired with for color that worked….have you thought about golden barrels in that front bed – they’d give continuous color in the winter when the lantana fades. FYI, the deer ate the blooms off my MX bird of paradise and I had to move them to the back....but I had really wanted that plant in the front...I have some seriously hungry deer.

  11. Thanks Cyndi, I had been looking for ideas to give more winter interest and that's a really good possiblity. I liked the agave parryi I saw on CTG last week, but the color of the golden barrels would make even more impact and add simpler geometry.

    The deer have nibbled on my MX Bird of Pardise flowers, but I think when they get bigger it won't be a problem. Many of my neighbors have very large ones within easy reach of deer and the flowers stayed on and were spectacular this year.

  12. That looks so much nicer, Shirley! I always adore 'Whale's Tongue' agave, as you know (thanks for the link love), and it makes a good focal point for that space--even more so as it grows larger. The red yuccas are tough, but they aren't great focal point plants, as you found. The lantana really pops against all of it.

  13. Thank you for such positive comments Pam. The Whale's Tongue 3 gal. was the largest we could find locally. It's growing quite quickly since we give it a dose of water now and then.

    I truly did get inspired by 'Moby' so the link back is only natural. I'll plan a post on how I found your blog initially at some point.


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