Denise GingerJud’s amazing agave & succulent garden

I have the Long Beach Marathon to thank for finding this garden. No, I didn’t run the marathon, more like actively avoided it. The marathon barricades cut off much of my end of Long Beach, so trying to get a few errands done was a circuitous challenge. I ended up in neighborhoods I don’t often see, such as the one where this front garden fills a corner lot. I vowed to return. Last night, I found it again, even though I had misremembered the street name. Who needs street names with a garden like this? I bet locals use it for reference: “Hang a right at Little Lotusland…”

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Agave americana, Agave pravissima, aloes and opuntia

Agave americana, Agave pravissima, aloes and opuntia

I parked along this sidewalk which borders the long white wall to the owner’s back garden. Agave americana, Acacia pravissima, aloes, aeonium, opuntia in narrow borders… all clear signs that a serious desire for architectural plants has been let loose here.

Jud's agave and succulent garden California

Turning the corner, the view was overpowering. And, surprisingly, so was the fragrance. But where was it coming from?
Other than a small aloe and a bloom from a mangave, I could see very little else in bloom. Took me a few minutes to localize the scent, but all the while the unexpected answer was literally under my nose. All that delicious scent was pouring out of this unlikely candidate for sweetness and delicacy.

The formidable anchor plant from South America, Colletia paradoxa

The formidable anchor plant from South America, Colletia paradoxa

Colletia paradoxa in Jud's agave and succulent garden in California

Colletia paradoxa flowers

Up to this time, I had discreetly kept to the sidewalks, but a gentleman drove up and parked in front of the garden. I wasn’t ready to leave yet, so instead of skulking around, it seemed a good idea to fess up and take my chances with getting permission to stay. But it wasn’t his garden. He shouted at the front gates, and the owner stepped out to address the interloper with the camera.

I think the first thing I said was, “Your Anchor Plant…” to which he immediately replied, “I know. Can you smell it?” and then we were fine, and I was allowed to stay and take photos and granted deeper access off the sidewalk. I was told this entire garden is no more than four years old.

Jud's agave and succulent garden California

Here was a garden after my own heart, where the axiom more is more reigns and minimalism is kicked to the curb.

Jud's agave and succulent garden California

Jud's agave and succulent garden California

Packed in, spike to spike, gardens like this aren’t serene and restful. From the street, it manages to make an impact at 25 mph.
Jud's agave and succulent garden California

Up close, it completely disorders the senses. I’ll take that over serene any day.

Jud's agave and succulent garden California

Jud's agave and succulent garden California

Agave guiengola 'Creme Brulee' and the cowhorn agave, Agave bovicornuta back right

Agave guiengola ‘Creme Brulee’ and the cowhorn agave, Agave bovicornuta back right

Some agaves I knew, like this Agave guiengola ‘Creme Brulee.’ Cowhorn agave, Agave bovicornuta, almost out of frame upper right.

Agave ferdinandi-regis

Agave ferdinandi-regis

Obviously, for a four-year-old garden, many of the plants have been brought in at specimen sizes.

Agave parrasana

Agave parrasana

Not sure about this one on the right, and still haven’t located my Irish book on agaves. Maybe Agave colorata? Past time to clean the office. (It’s Agave parrasana – thanks Mark)

Barrel cactus and Agave lophantha

Barrel cactus and Agave lophantha

Aloes, barrel cactus and Agave lophantha.
Though the agaves relentlessly led my eye through the plantings, there was much more.

Euphorbia ammak and Euphorbia tirucalli

Euphorbia ammak and Euphorbia tirucalli

Euphorbia ammak and Euphorbia tirucalli flanking the gate. Bloom spike belongs to a mangave.

Jud's agave and succulent garden California

Smaller succulents, lavendar, grasses. (But what are those gorgeous powder blue agaves at the back? Not potatorum, but what?) [Agave isthmensis – thanks for the ID, Mark]

Yuccas, ponytail palms and Bismarckia nobilis palm

Yuccas, ponytail palms and Bismarckia nobilis palm

Yuccas, ponytail palms, the Bismarckia nobilis palm

Agave potatorum

Agave potatorum

Agave titanota

Agave titanota

Jud's agave and succulent garden in California

Like so many agave lovers, collector mania has gripped the owner, who said the “gaps” were due to agave losses as mature specimens bloomed this summer. I hadn’t noticed any gaps. Do you?

Colletia paradoxa

Colletia paradoxa

After sundown when I left, that scent from the Anchor Plant seemed even stronger, following me back to the car.

I noticed one agave he doesn’t seem to have is Agave gentryi ‘Jaws,’ and I’ve got a couple offsets potted up.
I think I’ll drop one off at his gate to help fill up one of those “gaps.”

[Many thanks to Denise Ginger for allowing GardenDrum to reproduce her fabulous blog post and photographs from A Growing Obsession]

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Denise Ginger

About Denise Ginger

I took a certificate in horticulture from UCLA Extension’s two-year program in the early ’90s but do not work in the horticulture industry. My blog, A Growing Obsession, is the perfect distraction from my day job, which requires long hours at a computer in a home office that looks out — you guessed it — on the garden. Obsessiveness aside, I don’t baby plants. If a plant looks happy under my care in these blog photos, consider it growable by anyone in similar growing conditions: coastal Zone 10-11, no winter chill (which rules out quite a few classic garden perennials), amended clay. No synthetic fertilizers. With few exceptions (summer tropicals), I lean toward drought-tolerant plants.

8 thoughts on “Jud’s amazing agave & succulent garden

  1. Thank you Denise for taking the time to visit this rather superlative garden of the “Jud’s” I presume .. sooooo impressive, particularly the colletia, euphorbia ammak and all the spherical agave especially impresses…
    Its the combination of contrasts that seems to make an impression greater than the sum of its parts I always think and certainly, the owner MUST have great interest in finding such planting that looks as good as it fits to the local Californian warm temperate coastal frost free growing conditions … so happy there, growing completely with the grain climatically speaking. Perhaps they trained to make these very informed selections and combinations, perhaps not but interest is king in garden making so I’ll have to challenge you only on one point there ..
    “gardens like this aren’t serene and restful.” really ? Its subjective of course, one persons serene in another’s repellant horror… for myself I have to say this kind of Huntington-esque Little Lotusland combination takes me immediately into the “the zone” where time ceases, much as you experienced on the day till dusk gently fell across this semi arid garden jewel-box .. replete to the sweet scent of colletia ..no ??

  2. Denise on said:

    That’s an interesting distinction, Peter. I find gardens like this so exciting and energizing, which was the reason for my comment. But like you point out, studying all that rich detail, they do transport one to a place out of time, so in that sense they are incredibly restorative. So glad you enjoyed this amazing garden.

    And thank you, Catherine, for sharing it with your readers.

  3. AliCat on said:

    I too thoroughly enjoyed this garden through pictures. The owner has really done it well and is a credit to him in only 4 years. But with a passion, a lot can be achieved.

    • Denise on said:

      AliCat, very true — gardens like this are all about passion. Glad you enjoyed it.

  4. These are amazing, Denise. When I look closely, I realise I have many of these plants and succulents, but the secret of this amazing garden is their placement and arrangement. The stones and pebbles and fountain grass ( which I also have) all help complete the picture of a many-hued, multi-textured oasis. Thanks for the inspiration. I am off to pebbleise my entry likewise.
    Julie

    • Denise on said:

      Julie, that was my reaction too, that many of these plants are familiar from my own garden, especially the agaves. But adding in things like colletia and the dramatic Euphorbia ammak just takes it to another, more exotic level. I drew lots of inspiration from this garden too.

  5. clevy on said:

    wow talk about inspiration, and yes it was encouraging to see plants i have, just picked up a little agave potatorum at the Melbourne Botanical garden plant sale, so excited to see it all growed up! must look for more euphorbias, and some of that anchor plant, I love scented plants, and we wait all year for the cereus. Denise I will check your blog, nothing like a good diversion from work at the computer.

    • Denise on said:

      clevy, that anchor plant is a formidable one, armed and dangerous. It’s used for hedging in its native Argentina, if memory serves me right, to keep cattle from roaming. I love it too, though, and would love to try it in a pot.

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