questions and answers

Now that the agaves have been moved (an act which I unguardedly referred to as “rescue”), an analysis of the situation is possible.


These are dead. They may look alive, or slightly dead, but in fact they are dead.

“How do you know they’re dead?”

Someone who has killed as many plants as I have knows when a plant has reached the point of no return. It could be, like in The Princess Bride, they’re “mostly dead”, but if they decide to come back from the roots, it will take them years to get back to the size that makes them imposing landscape features, straining the patience for which I am famous.

“But they come from a mountain in Texas.”

“Coming from a mountain in Texas” carries as much weight with me as “survived four winters in a terribly exposed garden in San Diego”.

I feel well enough disposed toward the plants that I might consider spraying them with plastic and then painting them agave blue, or I might just buy more. They were growing in full sun in “well-drained soil”, sand and gravel and not much else, but they still got wet, which they would obviously do with water draining around the roots (the analogy is a “well-drained sponge”), and should have been planted where they are growing, dead though they may be, right now. The whole thing, in other words, could be all my fault.

“What happened to the hop tree?”

The hop tree, despite its name, had to be moved by me, and took a short ride in the wheelbarrow. Here it is.


“That doesn’t look like your yard.”

It’s not. I just moved it here because there was a space.

“So let me get this straight. You just dug it up, snuck into someone else’s yard, and planted it there?”

Pretty much.

“Do you do this a lot? Clandestine transplanting? Do your neighbors know about this?”


“What about the tree peony?”

That stayed in my yard. And incidentally, I did not use an ordinary shovel to dig it up. I’m a gardener, and do not own ordinary shovels. (I do have one that someone left in the yard years ago, which I use for cleaning up after the dog.) This is what I used.


Enough questions for now.

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6 Responses to questions and answers

  1. Desert Dweller says:

    Clandestine transplanting sounds like a blast!

    But having lived in San Diego and Denver, and travelling some to west TX, a “mountain in Texas” to me isn’t so cushy…more extreme than where I live and radical compared to San Diego. But Denver…few places are less cushy than Denver, except the great plains to your N. I would say you have a vast array of plants that evidence how it isn’t all that bad there, after all.

    I was looking at photos of a homesite I’m working on in El Paso, and I forgot how much freeze / drought damage there was on and beyond their mountainside property. So many dead native Opuntia, Dasylirion, and even Agave lechuguilla. When I see pics of the same look perfect in southern Calif, I wonder if those plants had a choice, they would all move?

    I guess it’s all perspective.

    • paridevita says:

      You bet they would all move. The notion that xeric plants “want” to be dry, especially during their growing season, is complete fiction, as was shown by Stephen Jay Gould in an essay on this very subject.
      The more extreme the environment, the more on the edge it is; the copiapoas in Chile are rapidly losing ground to increasing drought.
      It’s not surprising to me that lechuguilla could be damaged in El Paso but not here. In the “climate capital of the world” plants are induced into dormancy quicker than they might be elsewhere, which potentially makes them hardier, unless they just die. Agaves become cold-hardened within three days of exposure to cold, but if the exposure to cold occurs suddenly, different story altogether. Sometimes, anyway.
      I’d rather be in San Diego, too.

  2. Susan ITPH says:

    Oh where oh where can I get me a shovel like that?

    • paridevita says:

      Good question. This one came from Smith & Hawken way back when they first started selling Bulldog Tools, so probably over 20 years ago. I don’t see anyone who sells a steel strapped tree planting spade (I didn’t do much looking), but there are similar products available that look like you could dig up an established 6 ft Austrian pine with four scoops, like I did with this spade.
      Look at the Way Cool Tools website, or the Garden Tool Company website. Both places sell very high quality tools, have excellent service, fast shipping. You get what you pay for.

  3. Guerrilla gardening or imperialistic gardening.

    COOL shovel.

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