Tag Archives: Yucca whipplei

The saga of Yucca whipplei

Yucca whipplei did at least give total privacy from garden visitors when sitting indoors

Yucca whipplei did at least give total privacy from garden visitors when sitting indoors

It was a bit of a milestone here last week as we completed the task of Moving Yucca Whipplei. This has been such a long story that I even have a folder of photos on my computer devoted to the move. When we planted the yucca in the narrow border by the house getting on for 30 years ago (I am pretty sure Felix was still alive at the time), I guess we figured it would be a tidy mound of grey foliage in that difficult dry border. Obviously neither Mark nor I looked it up and this would have been prior to the age when it was easy to do a quick net search.

But Yucca whipplei grew. And grew until it blocked almost the entire window of our TV room. While not as fiercely prickly as some members of the yucca family, it was not a plant with which you would want to tangle. I stopped cleaning the outside of that set of windows. A few years ago I declared I wanted it gone, which to Mark meant it had to be moved, not destroyed.

After more than 25 years, it flowered

After more than 25 years, it flowered

005Our ever handy man on the spot, Lloyd, cut back the concrete in anticipation of the move. That was on June 14, 2012. But time passed and other jobs always seemed more urgent. Towards the end of 2014, we spotted a flower spike forming. That was pretty exciting, given that the plant was over 25 years old and had never bloomed before. Moving it was out of the question.

The flower was a delight. Spectacular, even, as it grew ever bigger – reaching past the roof on the lower storey of the house. The flower passed and still the yucca remained.

Peaking above the roof on the first storey

Peaking above the roof on the first storey

Come September last year, the men were coming to install double glazing on that window so the main spike was cut down and removed. This was no mean feat. Mark had hoped he could chainsaw it off but the leaves just chewed up and choked the chainsaw. There was no alternative to clippers and a hand saw.

Removing the main stem last year

Removing the main stem last year

The remaining stump sprouted most enthusiastically and this year, I created the ideal spot out of the way on a sunny hillside where it could be relocated to its forever home. Fortunately, a yucca is not like a tree where the root system is critical but even so, it was a fairly major exercise to dig it out and then lift it away. It is now safely planted well away from any windows and we hope to see it flourish. The hot, sunny, protected position left vacant outside our TV room windows is destined to be the new home for a frangipani that has been waiting in the wings (which is to say, in Mark’s covered house). We are extremely marginal for a frangipani, but I have my fingers crossed.

The final removal was no small task and involved two men, a tractor and a heavy chain

The final removal was no small task and involved two men, a tractor and a heavy chain

I see I wrote in October last year: “As far as we know, this is Yucca whipplei, also known as Hesperoyucca whipplei, chaparral yucca, Our Lord’s candle, Spanish bayonet, Quixote yucca or foothill yucca. So Wikipedia tells me. Apparently the most common name is Our Lord’s candle. It being native to southern America from California through to Mexico, it clearly felt right at home in the bone dry conditions of the house border beneath the eaves.”

Yuccan whipplei in its 'forever home"

Yuccan whipplei in its ‘forever home”

That chapter has closed. Our Lord’s candle is set to burn with renewed vigour over on the sunny hillside.

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Tikorangi notes: THAT yucca, wretched geissorhiza and the close of magnolia season.

Yucca whipplei finally flowered after maybe 20 years

Yucca whipplei finally flowered after maybe 20 years

The state of our Yucca whipplei is such an ongoing saga here it even has its own folder in my photo files. I wrote about its impending move back in early 2013 when we had cut the concrete paving in preparation for its move. But it was still in situ this time last year when, after a period of getting on for 20 years, it actually flowered. We were thrilled. As the flower spike edged past the first story of the house, it was a well-documented blooming.

IMG_5269But other needs were always more urgent so the moving of the yucca had not taken place. Nor had the windows to what is our TV room been cleaned for many years. But yesterday the day came, forced by the arrival of the glaziers to install retro-fitted double glazing in our wooden window sashes. It was not an easy task. Mark had thought he could probably chainsaw the top off but the fibrous nature of the spent foliage merely jammed the chainsaw. At this point it is in two pieces. The top will be replanted on the sunny bank in the north garden where it will likely recover. The base, with a new rosette well-formed already, will be dug out and also relocated. It will, I tell you it will. I like the garden view out of the windows which is now visible again and while cleaning windows is not my favourite activity, I do like to be able to do it when necessary.

IMG_5272As far as we know, this is Yucca whipplei, also known as Hesperoyucca whipplei, chaparral yucca, Our Lord’s candle, Spanish bayonet, Quixote yucca or foothill yucca. So Wikipedia tells me. Apparently the most common name is Our Lord’s candle. It being native to southern America from California through to Mexico, it clearly felt right at home in the bone dry conditions of the house border beneath the eves. In the meantime, Our Lord’s candle is no long alight at our place.

Pretty it may be in bloom, but I have spent countless hours trying to eradicate this plant, as Felix Jury did before me

Pretty it may be in bloom, but I have spent countless hours trying to eradicate this plant, as Felix Jury did before me

IMG_5004IMG_5005I have been forced to extreme remedial action in the rockery in the Battle of the Geissorhiza. Such a pretty weed and so dreadfully invasive. Each bulb is surrounded by many little baby bulbs that peel  off as soon as you look at them, ready to grow into the future. In the worst affected pockets of rockery, I am lifting everything and washing the roots to make sure no dreaded geissorhiza bulbs are lurking in there hiding. Then I dig out all the soil and replace it with clean soil. I was surprised that one pocket generates almost a full barrow of soil. The contaminated soil is being dumped in the deepest, darkest shade where I hope nothing will germinate and if it does, as a last resort it can be sprayed. This somewhat extreme and labour intensive treatment should, I hope,  get me closer to victory and the extermination of this pretty but hideously invasive bulb.

Shun Geissorhiza aspera. It belongs to the same group as highly invasive oxalis or allium-type of Pesky Weeds Masquerading as Pretty Plants. You have been warned.

Magnolia Serene

Magnolia Serene

Magnolia Serene is opening. This always heralds the end of the deciduous magnolia season for us as it is the last of the major magnolias here to bloom. Alas, a magnolia season that was progressing magnificently was dealt a near death blow two weeks ago when we had a huge wind which lasted more than 24 hours. We are used to wind here – it is the west coast of the Windy Isles after all (New Zealand being marooned in expanses of vast ocean all round means that we are a windy country) but this was more than an ordinary wind. Reminiscent, in fact, of the worst winds we can remember which came as Cyclone Bola 27 years ago. Fortunately the damage was minor though the debris was great. And the later flowering magnolias were something of a casualty. Because Serene was still in bud, it came through unscathed but the rest of the plants in bloom had their season cut short.

A prickly tale – plants doubling as burglar deterrents

It would have saved a lot of effort had one of us looked up Yucca whipplei before we planted it 20 years ago

It would have saved a lot of effort had one of us looked up Yucca whipplei before we planted it 20 years ago

“I hate prickly plants”. I have said that often and indeed have consigned various prickly specimens to the incinerator. But when I thought about it, I realised we have a fair swag of spiny and spiky plants that we wouldn’t be without.

Many of the bromeliads have spiny points down their leaves and I often have somewhat shredded arms from delving in their midst to pull out dead foliage and to remove spent pups. The broms can make a mess from wrist to elbow but these lacerations heal very quickly, unlike roses.

Roses harbour so many fungal and bacterial diseases that their thorns can cause wounds which often become infected at an alarming speed. A nurse once told me she spent some time “specialing” a patient with acute cellulitis as a result of a rose injury – a thorn in her elbow – and some older gardeners have told me they have pulled out their roses rather than risk health issues from the inevitable scratches and splinters. I get tempted, every time one rips me as I pass but what is a garden without roses?

What amused me was when I looked around our house and realised that we have several large, very spiky plants around windows. Burglar deterrents! Not that we planted them for that reason. Nor indeed have we ever been burgled. Maybe our plants are doing their job? Generally, such plants have ended up in those locations because they are desert plants which need hot, dry conditions and the house borders are one of the few places to offer these.

Aloe ferox - now a distinct hazard at the base of our fire escape

Aloe ferox – now a distinct hazard at the base of our fire escape

I doubt the wisdom of the rather large Aloe ferox with evil spikes at the base of our fire escape. Our only justification is that to get on to our fire escape, one needs the agility of an 11 year old and these days we would more than likely be found calling piteously for help from an upper storey window. The corollary is that at least burglars or intruders are unlikely to gain access up it.

Our biggest problem is the large yucca outside one window. We think it is Yucca whipplei. It was only a small, sculptural plant with attractive grey foliage when we planted it, maybe 30 cm high and 20 cm wide. That must be getting on for 20 years ago. At the point at which we decided we should be moving it, Mark thought it might be putting up a flower spike so wanted to leave it for another season. We are still expecting a spectacular flower spike at some point. Several years have passed and it still has not flowered. It is now well over two metres tall and a metre wide and that particular set of windows has not been cleaned in recent years. Nor can they be opened any longer. I gave the ultimatum last year that I wanted it moved.

Not for us, the quick and dirty solution of cutting it off and then digging out the roots. Oh no. This is a fine specimen and not particularly common, so it is waiting to be relocated. We have a sunny, north-facing bank where we have some of these larger desert style plants growing. It will take two men the better part of half a day. The problem is getting the two men on to the task at the same time. One man in my gardening life is more obliging than the other. That may be because he is paid, whereas I am married to the other one.

Last year, in preparation for the move, the concrete was cut. Oh yes, we have to remodel our paving to get this plant out. At the time of the concrete cutting exercise, our Lloyd commented to me that he was not going to be the one moving it because every leaf has a spiky tip. We are not talking seriously spiky like some yuccas of the major-risk-to-eyes or dangerously-hazardous-to-children variety. We had one of those and removed it from the rockery. This one is just a bit pointy on the tips, enough to cause discomfort rather than serious damage. “Easy,” said Mark. “We will just wrap the top in a blanket and tie the leaves upwards.”

Some yuccas can just be cut as lengths of stem and they will reshoot. This is how the very popular (and non-spiky) Yucca elephantipes used to brought in to this country and possibly still is. We are not willing to run the risk with this one which does not have much of a stem. We are trying to avoid butchering it. 20 years of growth deserves some respect.

Vertical cacti now guarding the laundry window (and the inimitable Zephyr once again getting himself into a photograph)

Vertical cacti now guarding the laundry window (and the inimitable Zephyr once again getting himself into a photograph)

If you like the idea of using plants to give some protection against intruders, it may be wise to keep to more vertical plants. Some of the desert cacti such as we have outside our laundry window are good – this one has been gently co-existing with the house for maybe 60 years.

I have a gardening friend, an older woman living alone, who told me that she has trained a very prickly rose along her narrow, secluded boundary where she feels most vulnerable. I prefer something a little less rampant than a climbing rose but there is no doubt, we could have saved ourselves a major task had one of us looked up Yucca whipplei before we planted it.

First published in the Waikato Times and reprinted here with their permission.

If you are wondering how to set about moving large plants (similar to the Yucca whipplei mentioned above), there are step by step instructions in our Outdoor Classroom – Moving Large Plants.