Thursday, February 24, 2011

Welcome to the Barbershop!

Cough, cough, cough, that's the story of my life for the past few days. I've been pretty much housebound till recently as I help my body recover itself from chest infection, and been doing a good job of it so far! I do miss the garden and it was only yesterday when, feeling I've got enough spare energy going, was able to venture outside and do a quick inspection. It was lovely to see the garden I must say, a great feeling just stepping outside and seeing the general greenery. But the realities are also there, it is the tail end of winter after all, and some plants are showing signs of weariness, and there are the usual pockets that needs tidying up in preparation for spring.

They can wait for now, too much hard work for my currently ailing body and best reserved on healthier days. But I was itching to do something, something that contributes to the spring tidy up but at the same time not so labour intensive as to tire me out of the little spare energy I've got.

And that's when I spotted 'the boys', and some of them are due a haircut. Perfect! Not too tiring a job but just as rewarding! So with the sharpest secateurs on hand, scissors just nearby, and a bit of Sweeny Todd character in mind (with less intent to kill) I started the job in a flash and was most pleased with the results.

The 'boys' I'm referring to are some of the plants on our top patio near the house, and their 'heads' needs some tidying up!

In my eagerness to do the deed I forgot to take some before shots, only after shots but I managed to find older photos taken the past few years to give an idea what they looked like prior to their trim.
Before - Yucca rostrata (extreme right)
The first one on to the barber's chair is this small, trunked Yucca rostrata. It has grown so well since I acquired it some four years ago, unrooted at first but soon rerooted succesfully in the large terracotta pot it is in now. Prior to the trim , lots of its older, dead leaves had accumulated forming a skirt down the trunk, so much so that you could barely see its short trunk, and you see more of the dead leaves rather than the living blue ones. And it's the blue leaves that makes this special. So off the dead leaves and I think it looks so much nicer!

Before - Yucca thompsoniana
The second one is this taller, trunked Yucca thompsoniana. Bought nearly three years ago, again unrooted but has since rerooted in its large terracotta pot. Not the best looking specimen I must admit, but it looked decent. I was hoping it will carry on and start looking much better until it decided to flower. Yuccas tend to have one of the most beautiful and dramatic inflorescence, but it does take its toll on the appearance of the plant, and it can take years for it to recover again. Now, I think it looks bloody ugly, even more so before the trim. But it's alive, I just need to be patient with it. One interesting thing is that after flowering, the growing point starts to split and it starts to become multi-headed, or two headed in this case (click on the photo and you can just about see the two growing points emerging).  Eventually, it will be a specimen with two full heads. Cross fingers it doesn't flower again for years.

Yucca thompsoniana

The third one, the tallest of the lot is a Yucca linearifolia (green form). I decided to withold the secateurs as I thought it looked nice the way it is, untouched. It is tall enough that the old leaves neatly falling to the sides doesn't obstruct the view of the trunk nor it detracts from the symmetry of the head. Some 'gents' do look good with a bit of facial hair!

Yucca linearifolia (green form)

A little note, of the current shots of this patio, whatever you see is not the likely position it will have for the rest of the year. It's all in a bit of disarray for winter and the patio is due for a change of layout. That's one of the few advantages of plants in pots, you can change their positions much more easily.

Group Shot
Now a group shot of the Yuccas, with the big Dasylirion quadrangulatum amongst them. Only the Dasylirion will remain as it is placed now, all the Yuccas will be planted out in the next few weeks. I'm slightly worried about this as Yucca roots are notoriously brittle, and if done haphazardly you could easily break off all of the existing roots in the process. All those years of getting them well rooted again could go be in vain, if I lose them it will be like starting all over again, not to mention setting them back too. And almost always they would need some form of staking to keep them as straight up as possible, until they are well established and rooted in their planting area. As the photo illustrates, they have the tendency to lean in whatever direction they wish without the support of an adequate stake (and the stake of the Y. linearifolia clearly isn't good enough). It'll be fun and games come the time we plant them out. If we need to break off the pot then so be it, my main concern is preserve as much of the existing rootball as possible.

Speaking of the Dasylirion quadrangulatum, all it needed was a very light trim. What needed doing was some 'hair teasing' as I used a stick to tease off some of the dead bamboo leaves that have accumulated in between its leaves. They are prone to accumulate debris on their crown so it's best to tease off the debris from time to time to keep them looking attractive.

Dasylirion quadrangulatum

Last one on to the barber's chair is a much smaller Dasylirion quadrangulatum. All I do to protect it in the winter is truss up the leaves and bubble wrap the pot. Despite the small caudex, it has a big footprint for its size as the leaves form a lovely, symmetrical sphere that sways with the breeze, gorgeous! I trussed it last year with no effects to the leaves nor its symmetry. This year, when I untrussed it the outer and middle leaves were pointing all over the place, in different direction, and strange enough it reminded me of the hair of the Cat Lady character in the Simpsons (my imagination can get overactive at times!).

Before - small Dasylirion quadrangulatum (right side)
Gone was the symmetry, it looked a wiry mess. I think what happened was, with the mild January it carried on growing, pushing new leaves. Trussed up and in a different position to where it usually is, it carried on growing despite being tied up and growing in the direction of light at the same time, hence the distorted leaves. The central leaves looked fine but it needed a big trim so off came all of the older, distorted leaves leaving just the pristine central leaves in place. It's not as spherical as it used to be, more like a fountain spurt now but as it carries on growing it should regain its spherical form. I think I've done a good job with it!

smaller Dasylirion quadrangulatum

Astelia nervosa 'Westland'
The barber is about to pack up when I spotted this 'customer', Astelia nervosa 'Westland'. Oh dear, it looks so scruffy and in bad need of tidying up, like trying to sort out someone with dreadlocks. This is such a reliable, unfussy plant and have had this for years in the same pot, with little care, and it always looks good, until this year. Going through a harsh December with temperatures dipping down to -10C has taken its toll on its appearance. But it is alive, and all it needs is extra TLC (and a trim!) and it should look good again in no time.

But the barber is too tired to sort out such a complicated job. I'll sleep over it now, maybe I'll tackle it tomorrow energy permitting!



  1. Quite a bit accomplished for someone not feeling well! Your Yucca and Dasylirion collection is so gorgeous. I am envious of the Dasylirion quadrangulatum, it because I already have a mature trunked Y. rostrata. Now I will be dreading the Yucca possibly blooming.

    So when you say that they were unrooted what do you mean? Did you buy them that way? Were they cast-offs? I'm just curious.

  2. Hi danger garden, yes I've bought unrooted, just trunks with leaves and a bit of the caudex from which new roots will eventually form.

    Most of the trunked Yucca you can buy here are unrooted. Imports from abroad, usually coming here via The Netherlands, Spain, and Italy.

    Occasionally nurseries here would try and reroot them before selling them, but more often they are sold as it is and it's up to the buyer to reroot them. Quite risky as rerooting is not always straightforward.

  3. Mark and Gaz,
    They're all stunners!!
    I've never had luck with Astelias even though I love them.

  4. They look fabulous after the hair-cuts! Hope you are feeling a whole lot better now.

  5. Thanks Alice and Christine, feeling much better now! Glad I've done them :)

    Alice, Astelias can be hit or miss but Westland is worth a try, not as fussy as the others (I've tried them too, mixed success).

  6. they all look great, you obvioulsy treat them all very well! how old is your Astelia?

    Get well soon! drink lots of ginger tea!

  7. Cheers Clive, ginger tea is fab! :)

    The Astelia is nearly five years already in the garden, in the same pot. Treat it like a big epiphyte is the advice then, so I did, and haven't any extra care apart from occasional tidy up. It's been a rewarding plant overall, I might introduce another one this year.

  8. Your "gentlemen" do look a tad inebriated in their group photo - what have you been feeding them on?! Love the Dasylirion, big and small. Glad you were able to get out and tackle such a satisfying job despite the lurgy, such things always make me feel a lot better about life. I always think there is something rather lovely about the way yuccas produce such wonderful flowers and then keel over in exhaustion. Somehow I think they deserve a season or two looking scruffy. I'd never realised that this was what led to them becoming multi stemmed.

  9. The barbershop theme for what you were doing is a very clever one and your plants certainly look better for their trimming.

  10. Stunning plants and a great trim job, too!

    Yuccas and dasylirions are among my favorite plants. I just saw mature Yucca rostrata specimens at the Living Desert in Southern California and they were breathtaking. For lovers of desert plants, that place is heaven.

  11. Cute post! I can imagine them lining up to sit in the barber's chair. Gave me a laugh today! Hope you're feeling better soon.

  12. Janet, they do look like a tipsy lot aren't they :)I agree with what you say, even little accomplishments like this really does lift your mood.

    Thanks Carolyn, Gerard, and HolleyGarden! Gerhard, I knew you'd like them, especially after just having been through your trip in the desert :)


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