Plant Profile: Agave potatorum "Cameron's Blue"

Latin name: Agave potatorum “Cameron Blue” (“ah-GAH-vay pot-ah-TOR-um”)
Common name: “Cameron Blue” agave, Butterfly Agave
Originally from: Puebla and Oaxaca
Blooms: A 10-20′ tall spike with yellow flowers happens once in the plant’s lifetime.
Light: Full sun.
Water: Winter rain is enough.
Height x width: 18″ x 18″
Zones: 8-11
Where to find in P. Garden: Three at the top of PG

A small to medium sized solitary agave (no pups, boo hoo) from the semi-arid highlands between 4,000 and 7,000 feet of Puebla and Oaxaca, with wide broad gray leaves that form in a lovely symmetrical rosette to 1 to 2 feet tall by 2 to 3 feet wide. The leaves have chestnut brown spines and a wavy 1″ long terminal spine.

This cute little agave was appreciated by the Nahuatl Indians who called it “papalometl” meaning “Butterfly Agave”, and it’s now also known as maguey Tobalá locally, but the species name “potatorum” comes from the Latin word “potator”‘ meaning “of the drinkers” because the plant was used to make alcoholic drinks (mezcal brand Los Nahuales uses a. potatorum for example.) 

Like all (or most) agaves, this one wants full sun very little water – surprise! A great choice for water wise gardens. Plant a nice swath of these little spiky things.

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Quick trip

Matt and I popped out to the garden today and moved some smaller rocks from PRG to PH in order to make room for the new rocks that we HOPE will be delivered on Friday of this week.

Yeah, getting a permit to block off 9 parking spots for a couple hours is proving very difficult, due to COVID. The SFPA is involved in trying to make it happen, but we might have to do it the following week.

Back to today. We moved 4 rocks to the upper area to start a terrace along the top of the garden. Then we planted 3 Beschorneria parmentieri. Well, that’s what they were labeled as. But in fact there’s no such species… there is a Furcraea parmentieri… but it doesn’t look anything like these plants… which actually look like Agave vilmoriniana to me. Well, whatever they are, there are three of them planted at the garden now so good luck with that.

I trimmed up the front arch vine (again) and picked up the usual discarded clothing and rubbish from the garden, while noticing that 311 still hasn’t come for the waste left last week. So I put it in the 311 app again.

The photo? That’s Matt next to a Yucca faxoniana at Berkeley Botanic Gardens last week. I would DIE to have one of these! Total CHONK.

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Superb day for EVERYONE!

Woke up, got a new president, the day was already SUPERB!

After that amazing start, Matt and I loaded up and headed to PG for the monthly volunteer day! Andrea, Chris, Josh and Hilary joined us and as usual we got a LOT done with help from our friends.

Hilary set up the hose and got to work watering. Despite a light sprinkling of rain in Pacifica last night, nothing fell in SF as far as I could tell and some plants still need help.

Andrea turned ALL the compost and she and Hilary removed and spread several tubs of good compost too. Before that, we had to remove a bunch of lavender clippings someone left in the composter, and bag them for city removal. 

Remember neighbors – if you’re adding stuff to the compost bins, make sure sticks and dry stuff (like dead lavender) is not added. It takes 9+ months to compost down in our climate and that’s a waste of space for us.

Meanwhile, Matt, Josh and Chris set about cleaning up the severely messy west end of the drainage ditch. Yep, we will get rain soon and that ditch is very function at those times so it need to be cleared of debris. Loads of Opuntia had fallen in, along with rocks, sticks and dirt. In about an hour they had it totally cleared and it looks fantastic.

Chris planted another Opuntia further up by the ditch, and Josh put on up at the top of the garden. Josh also planted a dozen pink ice plants (Delosperma) in our new bed on the lower path and it looks fantastic.

Lastly, the tool chest took a hit: someone broke in. It’s been years since that has happened and this time it doesn’t look like much was taken… mostly because we don’t keep much in there anymore. But it’s still annoying. 

Chris fetched his power drill and he and Matt fixed it right up. Oh well. Nothing can spoil this day.

Back to celebrating our new president!


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Rock shopping

Yesterday Matt and I went rock shopping at Rice Trucking and Soil Farm in Half Moon Bay. We picked out 10 large boulders for PRG and two pallets of smaller rocks for PG.

The plan is to replace smaller boulders at PRG with bigger ones. People tend to shove the little ones out of the way so they can park on the sidewalk which is so rude.

Then we will take the smaller rocks and use them to build up the downslope edges of some beds at PG. Mmm, rocks!

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Plant Profile: Yucca rostrata

Latin name: Yucca rostrata (“YOU-kah ross-TRAH-tah”)
Common name:
Beaked Yucca, Big Bend Yucca
Originally from:
Western Texas and northern Mexico in the states of Chihuahua and Coahuila.
Blooms: Large clusters of white flowers bloom on yellow-orange colored stalks that rise above the foliage on mature plants in late spring.
Light: Full sun.
Water: Winter rain is enough – hates waterlogged roots.
Height x width: 15′ x 10′
Zones: 5 to 11
Where to find in P. Garden: We have five down at PRG in a group

Yuccas are a staple at PG and PRG, and this one is particularly beautiful. A very slow-growing (and therefore expensive in large sizes) tree-like yucca with upright stems and beautiful gray-blue narrow foliage that can branch, but usually doesn’t.Growing slowly to to 12-15 feet tall, it has 2 foot long, somewhat stiff, slightly waxy, pale bluish-green leaves with very thin yellow margins,which make up a gorgeous rosette on top of the stems.

Give it a warm sunny areas with good drainage and perhaps occasional summer water and it will do well down to 0°F. Gophers do like it though, so if they annoy your garden plant it in a big basket.

Found on rocky slopes and ridges in western Texas and northern Mexico in the states of Chihuahua and Coahuila, the name “rostrata” means “beaked” referring to either the shape of the flower buds or parts of the fruit. That has led to the common name of Beaked Yucca but it is also called Silver Yucca or Big Bend yucca for the region in Texas where it is commonly found. The indigenous people of this area also called it Soyate and Palmita. 

It is sometimes confused with Yucca rigida which has stiffer leaves that are more bowed in cross section compared to the flat leaves of Yucca rostrata. A quick way to tell if you are confused which plant you are looking at is to imagine falling headfirst into it. Yucca rostrata would release you with scratches. Yucca rostrata would keep you impales on its stems…. forever…

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Rocks migration

Matt and I had another great garden day yesterday. We planted a large Agave tequilana “Sunrise” at the top of PG, as well as three variegated Yuccas that we had rooted this year. 

After that, we turned our attention to the lower path at PG. We have recently planted some aloes and agaves down there but the area was still looking pretty scruffy and as it’s fairly steeply sloped in the left bed it needed to be held up somehow.

After that, we turned our attention to the lower path at PG. We have recently planted some aloes and agaves down there but the area was still looking pretty scruffy and as it’s fairly steeply sloped in the left bed it needed to be held up somehow.

The solution was obviously to get some good sized rocks to hold the slope up. Knowing that some of the smaller boulders at PRG don’t really prevent cars from getting too close to the sidewalk we decided to re-purpose half a dozen of them. We went down and selected two and Matt put them on a dolly and drag them up the street. As you can imagine, they are extremely heavy and that was not a vast amount of fun.

Knowing that some of the smaller boulders at PRG don’t really prevent cars from getting too close to the sidewalk we decided to re-purpose half a dozen of them. We went down and selected two and Matt put them on a dolly and drag them up the street. As you can imagine, they are extremely heavy and that was not a vast amount of fun.

So I drove the truck down we loaded two more rocks on the dolly and then hooked the dolly onto the back of my trucks hitch…

Surprisingly, it stayed on as I drove extremely slowly up the hill two blocks and turned around. Genius redneck hack achieved!

We installed the six rocks and I think the result was really worth the huge amount of effort as you can see from the photos!

After that we did a little watering and packed up for the rest of the day.

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Big agave transplant

Today Matt and I moved a nice big Agave weberi “Arizona Star” to PRG. This replaces one of the ones that flowered there this year and subsequently died, as they do. Big job but great result I think. 

We also moved a large Agave “Sharkskin” from home and three others from the bottom of PRG into. Group halfway up the street. Not bad!

Lastly at PG we rescued a pot of Gaillardias someone left there, and some Agave vilmoriniana bulbils I had hoped would grow bigger on the stalk, but someone cut it down instead. Ack! At least I found the stalk and saved the small babies. 

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Agave plantings

On Sunday Matt and I popped out to plant some plants – more plants we have been nurturing for ages, and just cannot keep through another winter!

Matt planted three Agave desmettiana variegata, and moved another big one to join the ones down on the lower path at PG. I put in one Agave lophantha, an Agave filifera, and arranged two new Agave shawii with the rest of the group we have – all growing quickly and starting to look very cool; see pic.

We watered a few very dry plants, weeded, and tidied the vine on the arch, and walked down to admire how clean and weedless PRG is right now. Except for a couple spots we will tackle at the next volunteer day 🙂

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Agave rearranging, mega weeding achieved

Matt and I popped out to Potrero Hill on Saturday morning to meet Kris of Rhode Island Street who wanted to donate some tools to the gardens. We were delighted to get lots of good tools and some tree watering bags which will be super useful. Thanks Kris!

We headed to the garden and watered a few plants probably for the last time this year. Then we rearranged some of the Agaves behind the wrong way sign. That area has been a “pup farm” where we let small Agaves grow on. Now it’s time to make sense of it all. 

We made a group of five “Green Giants”, moved an Agave tequilana “Sunrise” and laid out six or seven Agave lophantha as well. We pulled out a few somewhat shriveled looking pups to grow on at home, and weeded a bit. 

And yesterday Tomas and co were back to do some weeding at PRG. They removed some big Agaves that had flowered and cleaned up the path – a whole day of work for two people that has made a huge difference.

Fennel plants were cut back, grasses tidied,  litter removed, tree branches and leaves cleaned up, and the whole place just looks 1000% better.

Thanks to Josh and Tomas for making it happen.

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False pretenses

I lured Josh to the October workday by saying we were planting new plants. On the day as we loaded the truck I realized we didn’t actually have plants ready to go in the ground this week but it was too late to tell Josh to stay home. Haha. That would never happen 😉

Despite this he was his always cheerful self, and along with Matt, Chris, Bill and Hilary we worked away in the warm sun and got a few fun tasks done.

Bill turned the compost – emptying one bin completely and almost another, and getting several trugs of compost out which was spread around where needed. It’s a really solid workout doing that, and I so appreciate anyone who turns compost. Rock on Bill!

Hilary cut back Salvia leucanthas. When the rains come they will spring back into action looking superb, so it was great to get that done at just the right time. Will we get some rain soon? Forecast says it’s a definite maybe…

All those salvias went into the compost heap, and we also filled 7 paper bags for 311 to pick up – all the non compostable sticks and other things that take forever to break down in our bins go in those bags, and get composted elsewhere.

Chris removed a santolina that was past it’s sell by date, and also the Dasylirion wheeleri in the middle back bed which had sadly rotted out after flowering. He replaced that plant with a good sized Agave weberi “Arizona Star” that was at the bottom of the steps and really too big for that spot – great swap!

Then what to put in the spot at the bottom of the steps? Well, a cactus that was there had been struggling due to a bramble crushing it. Chris and Josh removed and replanted the cactus, and gave the bramble a haircut.

Matt deadheaded a lot of Stachys byzantina (Lamb’s Ears) and watered the plants that needed it. And I cut back a Phlomis.  I must have done more than just that, but somehow I can’t recall!

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