Mom Finds Agave Love at Cistus Nursery

On an unseasonably sunny day last week I drove me mum out to Cistus Nursery to help her spend my Christmas present to her, a Cistus gift certificate towards her first agave. She had never been, so this was to be an adventure! 

When we arrived at this, one of my all-time favorite nurseries, it was picture perfect. No wind, a sunny day, crisp with a bit of warmth in the air and who was there to greet us? The man himself! Sean Hogan! He was busy collecting cuttings to take to the upcoming Yard Garden and Patio Show at the Oregon Convention Center. With a handful of hardy eucalyptus branches in hand, he greeted my mother with a big smile, to which she said, "Oh, you're famous! My daughter talks about you all the time!" I think I turned a little red. Sean is so kind. We talked for a bit about the hardy eucalyptus (soaking up their wonderful scent), talked about the virtues of arctostaphylos species then my mom got distracted by all the other cool plants surrounding us. She was off on a mission to find her agave.

No problems here.

Just one of the many many manzanitas or arctostaphylos species in the display gardens and, by the way, they were covered in bees. These hardy natives like it dry in the summer; they are great for West Coast gardens. Cistus and Xera Plants both have wonderful selections. 

Here we go, into the Big Top! 

I think at this point my mom stopped breathing (she was so excited).

I think she read every label on every plant. I'm not kidding. We were there a while.
Ok, note the large single Agave parryi below the Yucca rostrata. Nice, isn't it. At this point, she was still thinking small for an agave.

Opuntia, opuntia, how I love you so and how my fingertips hate you so. Also, here's an update: Luisa from the fabulous blog Crow and Raven I.D.'d the lovely plant in the foreground for us: Tephrocactus articulatus var. diadematus is the elongated pine cone -- gorgeous white flowers. The paper spine variety, T. articulatus var. papyracanthus. Thank you, Luisa!

Better shot of the beautiful agave. Price tag $125. But Oh So Gorgeous!

Backlit phormium goodness.

Spiky wonderland under the Big Top.

I learned recently that the white water spots on the plants at Cistus are from the water they use; it comes from the Columbia River. The spots come right off, so no worries.

Fuzzy, right?

Under the Big Top with Brodie (behind the wagon) coming over to say hello.

Brodie is a sweetheart. Kind of hard of hearing, but very kind and loves to get some rubs.

 Abutilon megapotamicum 'Teardrop'

Oh, those colors.

 Mom scoping out each and every succulent under the Big Top. See what I mean?  I think we'd been here for 45 minutes and she had moved about 8 feet. She really enjoyed seeing everything. She's a gal after my heart.

 Oh, phormium, I love you so, but I am not ready to commit. Again. You are too fickle for me. I've had too many P.K.W.'s in a row (phormium killing winters).

Outside the plant tables were filling up nicely. Sean had apologies saying there wasn't much out there but as you can see, there is plenty.

Not quite a pollo, close enough.

What a gorgeous day to spend with Mom. At Cistus. All day.

Narcissus bulbocodium nodding in the sun.

This beauty is Camellia lutchuensis, fragrant camellia. So tiny, a beautiful special tea camellia.

Here are some Ephedra nevadensis. I blogged about a different species of ephedra that David saw up near Mt. Everest this past November, you can read about that here. I considered getting this in honor of that trek, maybe I'll go back. They're kind of cool.

Check out those buds! Stachyurus 'Magpie'. Why did I not buy it?

Here's a less cluttered but slightly blurry shot.

Corokia x virgata 'Orangerie' - a Cistus introduction.

Here's another work of art by Bay Area artist Mark Bulwinkle.

I know...another phormium photo. Eye candy for me. Have to share.

That wonderful, blinding late winter sun. Sorry East Coast friends, we feel for you. I wish we could send some your way.

Polypodium californicum 'Sarah Lyman'

So here's Mom's varied Cistus haul. She had a good time, to be sure. But wait, where's the agave? That's why we came here, after all. After going through every...single...single...agave, she picked out an Agave 'Sharkskin' at a decent size, but not that big. Then I suggested a couple smaller Agave parryi but with an ulterior motive: Get her to add up the cost of all the agaves and realize that she needed to put the small ones aside and step up and go for it. Get the big one. Go for the, in her words, "big honkin' agave!" And she did.

This agave moment is being interrupted by a cat. When my mom is involved, cats come first. Always.

Kitty! Don't know this cutie's name, but we've seen him/her before at the nursery. Seemed pretty darned contented.

Back to the big honkin' agave. Here it is!  I think she should name it Carl. She doesn't like that name. What do you think it looks like?

**Sniff** I'm so proud of my now agave-addicted mom. She's a gardener, that's for sure. She even went out and bought a proper pot for it. I will help her get Carl into his new pot and onto his new patio soon and welcome him home.
**UPDATE** She named it Oscar. Acceptable name, Mom. I approve.

She's in love.

There's Deanna, the happy camper! What a great day out with you, and thanks for the gift of the Tsuga mertensiana or mountain hemlock from Cistus. I'll treasure it.

That's it from this corner of the world this week, what's happening where you are? Thank you for reading, thank you Mom for the great day out, thank you Sean for the warm welcome and "big honkin' agave!" (mission accomplished, you now have one more devoted fan), and happy gardening to all! May spring arrive to our East Coast friends soon. Very soon.


  1. I bought two of those Ephedra this past weekend when I was there. Love them! Sounds like you had a fun day with your mom. That is a gorgeous Agave. I don't like Carl either. She should name it Barry. Or Parry. Or maybe Perry. Perry Como. Perry the parryi.

    1. OK, the ephedra it is. And them's fighting words Alison - about Carl. Haha…just kidding. My mom hates Carl. She suggested Perry too, I like Barry Parry Perry Como…Keep 'em coming, you're pretty clever :)

    2. Heya Alison, you'll be happy to know Carl failed. He is now officially called Oscar.

  2. What a great gift both of you shared! Oh I wish I could go to Cistus tomorrow. BTW, it's not the sun that we are missing, it's the warmer temps, at least in the midwest.

    Closer to the start of this post, the image with the caption "Opuntia, opuntia, how I love you so..." -- what is the Opuntia that looks like elongated pinecones? I think I have to get that one.

    1. Oh, Alan - I'm not sure! Maybe Danger Garden knows - or you can write or call Sean Hogan, he'll know in a heartbeat…or anyone at Cistus. I hope you warm up soon, I had mixed feelings about posting such a warm sunny post when the rest of the country is experiencing such horrible weather. Hang in there, spring is coming.

    2. @ Alan: In case no one has answered yet... Tephrocactus articulatus var. diadematus is the elongated pine cone -- gorgeous white flowers. The paper spine variety, T. articulatus var. papyracanthus, is crazy-looking. I have both -- if you can't find one in your neck of the woods, give me a shout and I'll mail a section to you. Sections tend to break off if you look at them the wrong way :~) I'm exaggerating, but not much.

      Tamara, your mom totally rocks. And she got a beaut of an agave! Sounds like you had an awesome time at Cistus. Finally warming up here in SoCal, just in time for Spring Break. Two weeks of non-stop gardening, yay!

    3. Howdy Luisa, Wow, I just added your blog to my blog roll, thanks for commenting and reading! You have a great gardening blog! Thanks for your info here, I'm sure Alan will appreciate it. It was an awesome time with Mom, she's a trooper and we had a great time! Enjoy your spring weather and the break, happy gardening!

    4. Luisa beat me to it, thanks Luisa! Alan there's also one that has long white spines. Photos here:

  3. Great to see your mom getting into Agaves! Cistus is the perfect place to introduce her to this wonderful group of plants :)

    1. Isn't it lovely? Something to share with her, it's so nice to have that in common. I'm pretty lucky :)

  4. Oh I so happy you got her to get the big guy! It's a beauty! Such a nice way to spend a day with your mum. Well done T!

    1. She got the big guy! She got the big guy! I'm so happy for her, it was a ton of fun. Maybe I'll turn her into a blogger yet!

  5. This nursery tour was a sight for sore eyes. I'm an East Coaster at home because of a snow day. I dream of retiring in Portland and planting an amazing garden!

    1. I'm so glad you enjoyed it, Maureen! I was hoping to at least spread a little sunshine rather than rub it in, that was my intent. Come, retire here, get a garden going and we'll all go shopping together! I hope you find some warmth and sunshine very soon and that winter releases its death grip on you all.

  6. I'd rather visit a nursery with someone like your mom than people who want to get in and out quick - I always want to look at everything too. You mom made an excellent choice, even if I did wince a bit at that price!

    1. Isn't it lovely? I winced myself at the price but rationalized it by knowing that I myself would probably buy four or five small ones over a short period of time and would easily add up to that much, so buy what you love and enjoy it. She certainly will and...there are a couple pups happening so maybe she'll share :)

  7. Awesome post! I too ADORE Cistus! Such a beautiful Portland treasure. Sean's chandeliers hanging throughout the garden center are a great touch. I agree on the Phormiums being a risky choice for our winter (boo-hoo!). Time for hardier strains to be released, right?:) That Magpie Stachyurus is INSANE - I'm smitten!

    Thanks again for sharing your trip!


    1. Yay! Glad you adore Cistus, what's not to love? Such friendly, knowledgeable staff and Sean is just the best. Those chandeliers are and idea I will steal when I have my own greenhouse someday. Boo hoo for phormiums in winter too! Although, I must admit, many around PDX that I thought were dead dead dead after 2013/2014 winter have sprung up from the frozen depths of hell to rebound (took a long year to do so) and look pretty good so maybe....there's hope. I have Paul and Greg at Xera on a mission to come up with hardier strains, I think they're into finding one too.
      Thanks for reading and commenting! I'll probably be back to buy that Stachyurus if it's still there :)

  8. What a fun day and resulting post. Your mom did quite well, I am impressed! Of course I'm always ready to jump in the car and head out to the nursery but your photos have me wanting to do it right now! Did you buy anything?

  9. Your mom... I don't know her but I love her. May I suggest "Parry" for the Agave?


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