Tuesday, May 12, 2015

Little Balls of Unlove

I do not like stabby plants. 
I do not like them in a pot. 
I do not like them when it's hot.
I do not like them here or there.
I do not like them anywhere.
I do not like those stabby plants
that make me bleed right through my pants.



Apparently, as a gardener I should have an appreciation for all plants, even those that slice and maim, such as agaves and cactus and I do. But it's the type of appreciation you extend to a crocodile when it's just taken a bite of an anaconda. I'm simply glad the croc grabbed the anaconda before it could grab me. I have no desire to garden in chain mail or leather chaps and am convinced most agaves have names not quite honest enough in their depictions of the plants potential. While agave 'Baby Boy' sounds rather sweet, had it been named ' T Rex' or 'Piranha' I'd find the tag less misleading.



Each of these little killers are $20 and guaranteed to die this winter.

However, it occurred to me that maybe if I spent some time with one of these botanical bad asses, I might change my mind. Perhaps my dislike was simply based on a perception of impending slaughter, rather than the reality of a plant that simply needed its own room. 




This echeveria scored a perfect 10 on the Snuggle Scale but it isn't cold hardy here, either.

But a trip to the garden center sent me running back to my comfort zone of soft, touchable plants. Several rows of overpriced, non-cold hardy agaves sat plunked in the middle of more mild mannered plants, sharp spears edging each leaf. While I appreciated their drought tolerance and ability to take down small mammals, I stayed away. I drifted towards the cactus and found a short, round sphere that looked like it's spines might be survivable should I accidentally veer too close. I'd barely touched the tip before yelling out, "That little sucker stabbed me!" Although the word I used might have rhymed with sucker, it was actually much stronger. Oops...



I do not like cactus, agaves or any of their murderous brethren and do not want them in my garden. Ever. If that means I have to surrender my status as a True and Genuine Gardener to pick up a card for the Cuddle Club, then so be it. I'll be in the hammock petting my plants.



I much prefer clematis, known to be non-lethal and unstabby.



 I think this is 'Pink Champagne'.

85 comments:

  1. I'm with you on this …I was just weeding around opuntia …ouch ,ouch,ouch .

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    1. Optunia should come with a box of band aids.

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  2. Count me in!! Living in Austin, I'm on the outs because I'm not part of the Spiky Plant Club. But that's okay--like you, I love the softness and cuddle-abiltiy of my perennials and blooming things.

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    1. Any plant that reminds me of a Great White shark is NOT going in my garden!

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  3. You are totally a poet! Listen, you are going to love this.....when I lived in Scottsdale, AZ, a lifetime ago, I accidentally happened upon a freaking cactus that actually SHOT out its tiny needles at you if you got too close. Honest to Pete. I can't remember the name of this bugger, but it was heat sensitive (part of its selective survival strategy), and so if your hand got too close, its thin, but numerous needles would lodge in your hand. There were practically impossible to remove and if you rubbed your hand, they spread! So, I'm with you 100% on this. It's like I wrote in my gardening journal back then: "Consider the Tumbleweed. How would you know if one had died?" I like plants that don't attack me, for god's sake, life is too short.

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    1. Actually, Dr Seuss is a poet. I'm just a borrower. :o) Any cactus that shoots needles needs to die or only live in places where shooting needles is required for survival. Any plant, aside from a rose, that attacks me is getting a shovel up its ass.

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  4. You are so funny! I've called them out and worse than sucker!

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    1. What I said only rhymed with sucker. Take out the S and add an F and you'll get a more accurate picture. ;o)

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  5. Ha!!! Yep...I can relate to this!! I appreciate them but have no desire to make a home for them! Loved your intro to this post by the way...so clever! Your clematis is rock star beautiful!!! Outstanding vignette with that watering can!!! Nicole xo

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    1. Clematis are always beautiful. They never have bed head or require make up be worn as an act of charity and public service.

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  6. Well, I understand where you're coming from, but I have a secret hankering for cactuses, agaves, and other succulents. Some of them are cold-hardy and native to both Virginia and Wisconsin: http://cactiguide.com and http://www.coldhardycactus.com/. But I haven't had much luck growing them outside in the garden (maybe it's because my garden is too shady?!!!). I will try again! And I will wear armour and thick gloves. (But, again, I understand where you're coming from.) ;-)

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    1. I don't like prickly plants or people. I'm a hugger and very tactile. If I can't pet my plants, they're outta here!

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  7. Please tell me that one day you're going to write a gardening book... You have such a great way of writing about the trials and tribulations of gardening. I just read your post celebrating Naked Gardening Day and almost died laughing!

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    1. I'm so glad you liked that post! I don't think I'll ever write a book. You can read my blog for free, instead. :o) I talk to my plants, I touch them, sometimes we even argue. If I weren't at least a little crazy, I'd be bored.

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  8. Generally, I agree with you. I am averse to thorny plants - even roses (!). I grew up with a hedge of Rosa rugosa in front of our house - beautiful scent, beautiful flowers, attracted bees, but man those stems were thorny.

    I live in fear of Pyracantha.

    And yet, I enjoy eating prickly pear pads (all thorns and glochids removed, then grilled) and prickly pear fruit sorbet is delicious. So some cacti at least have their perks :)

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    1. The closest I'm getting to a cactus is a bowl of that sorbet. As for pyracantha, there is NO WAY those are ever going in my garden! The cultivars should be named 'Vlad the Impaler' or 'Henchman'. Yikes!

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  9. Agaves have a cult status among my Portland gardening friends, even though they cause puncture wounds and turn to mush in our rainy winters. I don't get it.

    But the plant I really hold a grudge against is Fremontodendron. It is misleadingly called "flannel bush" and looks all fuzzy and sweet. Then when you touch it, you get tiny cactus-like barbs in your skin.

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    1. I picked up on that when I was there for the Fling but couldn't see the appeal. Cactus-like barbs from a shrub called "flannel bush"? That's down right cruel!

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  10. I really like that agave! The plant will definitely survive in my climate haha... Yup go for clematis. It is a beauty and you have such a beautiful one :-)

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    1. I stayed as far away from that agave as possible! I'd rather hang out with the clematis. :o)

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    2. LOL... and I am sure they love your company. Have a beautiful day, Casa Mariposa!

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  11. Hmm I wonder if agaves would survive here , it is sure hot enough but who wants a plant with attitude. I work with middle aged menopausal women, I have enough of that!! Maybe I shouldn't have pointy hints in my possession , oops sorry my needle slipped, now how did that happen?!?! I saw a bunch of really pretty succulents in the gardenng store, very pretty, very pricey and are just a one season wonder here. Your clematis is super pretty!!

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    1. Oops pointy things (needles) . I love your poetry, it's brilliant!!

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    2. Thanks but the poetry was inspired by Dr Seuss's Green Eggs and Ham. :o) I don't need plants with attitude. I spend all day with 12 years olds. I need plants that sit down, shut up and don't lose stuff.

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  12. After a day repotting bromeliads I look like I've wrestled wild cats but stupidly I'm taking some with us to the new garden. Some people just don't learn.

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    1. I put up with roses. The things we do for love. :o)

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  13. I admire these plants where they look at home. I will confess to one Eastern Prickly Pear cactus which is native and slow growing near the waterfall in stones. Now my nemesis is the rose and its thorns...sliced a finger open 1/3in deep the other day...not wearing gloves and cleaning up an area where a small broken dried cane lay in wait. Like a razor when they dry out. But I still plant them and love their flower...I have special gloves for roses altho sometimes they still get through.

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    1. I've impaled myself on those dried out canes before. Ouch!! I have five roses and one only has a few small thorns. But it's possible I've pruned them so much, they're more well behaved and keep those damn thorns away from me. Smart plants!

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  14. My Dear Ms. Decapitator ... and erodium lover too! haha
    It was a good thing I wasn't drinking my tea when reading this or else instead of commenting I would be cleaning and uttering similar naughty words vocally instead of mentally !
    I fear these plants too .. but like Donna I do the rose thing and get stabbed when they feel unjustly dealt with .. the buggers hate me and we both accept that .. BIG sigh !
    We tend to enjoy? some plants more than others and what is wrong with that ? it is our garden to choose what we like not what tries to slice us up like Jack the Ripper ! ... so I will pet my plants too and get on with a garden of lovables ?
    Love Pink Champagne .... I have a weakness for clermatis but OMG what a chore training and tying them up .. that part I hate !
    Joy of the North ! .. we went from almost Spring , to SUMMER, now back to almost Spring again .. go figure ?

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    1. I love my roses so I deal with the thorns although I never go near them without gloves. My fences are much shorter than yours so I have very little tying to do with my clematis but my sweet peas, which apparently can't do anything without a load of help, are laying on the ground like a damn rug. Whiners!

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  15. I feel this way about roses and wild blackberries although they have their virtues. You should see my arms right now -- I look like I was trying to wrangle a ball of rabid cats.

    Prickly pear is native to NC but it just looks.... wrong. Except at the beach.

    There's a lot of agaves at Juniper Level Gardens growing atop big mounds of gravel, but unless you have a certain type of garden, I don't really see the point.

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    1. It's native to parts of VA, too, I think, Whenever I see it, it looks so out of place. But they do crack me up when they fall over flat when they're cold. All they need is a blanket and a pillow. Wild blackberries show up in my garden every year and the thorns are nasty. I have 'Chester Thornless' instead. He's a very nice fellow.

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  16. I too don't understand my own love of all things spiky. It's unnatural. It's irrational. It's painful. I'll take yours :) Yes, Amy's comment is true, us Portlanders have a weird affinity for all things spiky and we blame Danger Garden for our addiction. At least I do and I love her for it. It must be that everything here is so flowy and billowy and well, grows so damned well that we need a little structure and discipline in our lives. We are too free-lovin' and need some pokin' to keep us in order. But I can appreciate your aversion to a particular plant and your attempt to try to love. Thank you for trying.

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    1. Loree's garden is gorgeous but I left bleeding. I love anything blowy and flowy and stabby agaves don't fit the bill. I tried to love them but the magic just wasn't there. It was a botanical date that ended with the stabbers being dumped.

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  17. I fully agree -- except in the case of roses. I've been steadily trying to group my roses together so that if I need to work around them I can wear the appropriate gloves, long sleeves, etc. and not be stabbed while weeding a bed. And I think cactus, agave and the like really look out of place here in Iowa anyway. I'll admire it when I visit gardens out west. Funny post -- Dr. Suess would be on your side I think. He liked fluffy-looking Truffala trees, after all.

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    1. I do love my roses but I'm careful with them. I think Dr Suess would like this post, too. :o)

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  18. I can't relate to spiky plants either, I much prefer something tactile or fragrant any day. Or something that attract pollinators or other wildlife.

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  19. That's why I stay away from roses. And why I loathe, hate and otherwise despise the barberry bushes the previous owner planted right in front of the windows.

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    1. I make an exception for my roses but they're not quite as thorny as some I've seen. I had barberries once but tore them out. The best barberry is a dead barberry.

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  20. I call it my old lady version of always going for the "bad boys" in high school and beyond.

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    1. Too funny! I was never attracted to 'bad boys'. I preferred them smart and with plans for the future.

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  21. Totally with you on this one Tammy. Blood loss, stabbings, severed limbs and mutilation in the garden & indoors is forbidden. Fluffy, wuffy, cuddly, wuddly plants for me too 😃

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    1. You and I like the same plants! I'll slide over so there will be plenty of room in the hammock for both of us. :o)

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  22. I put up with vicious attacks from my roses because they are so beautiful. But I really resent the Pyracantha which some masochistic previous owner planted. The thorns are the longest most vicious and poisonous in the garden. Even walking past this beast is dangerous. As for pruning it, you need full body armour. Compared to Pyracantha, Agave is a fluffy bunny of a plant.

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    1. Why don't you just cut it to the ground and then dig it up? Those are such nasty beasts. Those thorns are wicked!

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  23. I found myself giggling as I read this post and love how your describe cacti. I had not realized until now that I disliked them too.
    Ha Ha. Bring on the clematis

    Helen

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    1. There are enough jerks in the world that I don't need to add them to my garden, too.

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  24. I rescued three little 'aloe' babies that fell off a load of garden waste. As the little things grew they armed themselves as agaves. Having speared my bloody thumb on them once too often, they went to a good home.

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    1. I don't blame you! Gardening shouldn't be akin to warfare.

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  25. I hate cacti and the only non-touchy-feely plants i will tolerate in the garden are roses and perhaps gooseberry shrubs. I want to let my hand wander through flowers and plants without worrying about getting lacerated, stung or a skin reaction. There's a pyracantha at the front, which despite its flowers, berries and benefits to the birds and the bees, is in the queue to be ripped out of the ground to be replaced with something that isn't going to shred my underwear when I go past it! I'm not having it prick my sensibles!

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    1. You make me laugh!! We are so similar. :o) If your wife knew your sensibles were in danger, she'd be out there with the pruners to help you take the beast down.

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  26. I have always resisted Barberry for similar reasons, but finally last year I broke down and bought one token plant. I liked the foliage color enough to overlook the fine thorns. It is one plant I admire from a polite distance.

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    1. Barrberries are considered invasive here. Their foliage is beautiful but the thorns are nasty little buggers. The only plant allowed to have thorns in my garden is a rose.

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  27. I was smiling and nodding reading this! I too dislike the stabbers and don't have any, but I do have a monkey puzzle tree and it's nigh on impossible to weed beneath it, lethal it is! I even struggle with thorns....xxx

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    1. I saw that on your blog and thought, "That's crazy!" Those trees are armed with thorns like sabers!

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  28. Totally agree on avoiding too many stabby plants in the garden. Roses I'll abide, but I won't bleed for plants, no matter how fashionable they are in the nurseries, catalogues or magazines :)

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    1. I ignore all garden fashions. They're silly, anyway. But I do love my roses so I break the rules for them.

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  29. I guess you didn't like my Agave 'Jaws' then ;) If you gardened for long periods without rain, you might develop greater tolerance for the prickly members of the plant community. You could always start with Agave attenuata (aka foxtail agave). It's more friendly than most roses - its spikes are just for show. They can't hurt you. To be honest, I can't bring myself to handle most Opuntia.

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    1. If I were gardening in a historic drought, I'd have to change all my rules. But I truly, absolutely dislike spiky plants.

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  30. I have never considered Stabby Plants because of my dogs....I always imagined them chasing after some critter and running full into some thorns, so I have stayed away from these kind of plants....not even in a pot.
    They're good for perimeter plantings from intruders though!!!

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    1. I need soft plants that my blind dog can bump into and still be ok. He is more important to me than any plant in my garden. :o)

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  31. I've had a stab at working up an interest in all things prickly, forced myself to go to a garden club talk on the joys of them. It did not work! The only time I even had a small prickling of interest was in the private cactus garden of a delightful Japanese family where the plants towered above me. Even so it is the memory of the charming family that remains, not really the cactii.

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    1. Giant towering cactus sounds like hell.

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  32. Well, you know that I feel exactly the same on this subject. Though you do remember that in the end Sam decided that he did like green eggs and ham, so maybe you and I will end up liking prickly plants? By the way, this is odd but I keep subscribing to your blog and then it seems I keep getting unsubscribed.

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    1. I thought of you when I wrote this! You and I like the same types of plants. I have no idea why you keep getting unsubscribed. What a pain in the butt! The only prickly plant I like is a rose. :o)

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  33. This post cracked me up! I don't mind a few prickles, if they come with pretty flowers or edible fruit (although blackberries are pushing it a bit.) I'm actually planning to finish chopping down a teenager blue spruce out front this spring. Not that I'm holding a grudge, or anything, but we used the top half for a Christmas tree (um, 2 years ago--sorry neighbors!) and I tell you what! We only got half the ornaments up on that thing. This was us decorating it, "Ouch! Can you hand me that? Ow! And...OW! I'm done. Are you done?" I'm surprised Santa left any gifts under it, to tell you the truth.

    In the meantime, I pet the lamb's ears every time I walk by.

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    1. Lamb's ears are such a stress reliever plant! Soft, touchable plants are a requirement in my garden. Give that tree the chop! It deserves it after stabbing you so much. :o)

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  34. You always write the best posts...lol. I love most of the plants, but I think it must be like having a pet crocodile in your pond to garden with those babies. There was one HUGE beautiful agave at the nursery that loved to draw blood...especially around the thigh area...when you are wearing shorts. That sucker grabbed me on more occasions then the old guys did...lol.

    Jen

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    1. !! If an old guy grabbed me he might get punched in return. I give agaves and crocodiles a very wide berth. No love for either of them.

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  35. Glad to read that you are just a big softie at heart :) My garden has no room for prickly customers either.

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  36. Thanks Tammy for featuring Three Dogs in a Garden and I in your spotlight. I am touched by the kind things you've written.

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  37. yeah it is a pain to move my pokers in and out of the sunroom during winter. Soon they will be to large and get freeze dried in the winter.

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    1. No pokers for me! I hope you wear thick clothes when it's time to move them.

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  38. In my last garden there were native plants (well, what I considered to be weeds) called Adam's Needle Yucca that grew up wild in the yard. Those little weedy so-and-so's were horrendous! You had to use gloves to pull them, and be careful where you step in flip-flops! I do grow a few roses, but on the whole, I am much too clumsy a gardener to have very many sharp plants around!

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    1. I'm a kltuz, too. I do best with plants that don't cause any physical damage.

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  39. I used to feel the same way but Danger led me astray. My garden is mostly soft and billowy but I do love the sculptural quality of agaves, aloes, etc. and have one area where I group my collection. The secret to living with and loving spiky plants is to place them where they can't be reached. Like many thorny people, agaves have their soft side, you just need to know how to touch them. That variegated Agave parryi had me enlarging the picture to try and read the name on the tag. Do you remember the name by any chance. It's very sweet. (well except those pointy ends.)

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    1. I renamed it Hannibal but its real name is 'Kissho Kan' and it wants to live in zones 9-10. I appreciate the structural beauty of an agave but don't want to get too close. I feel the same way about prickly people. They're best viewed from afar.

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  40. I feel the same way, but I decided to plant a spiky plant, Sweet Bursaria, because it attracts butterflies and because it will shelter the small birds. It has already repaid me by my needing to go to the doctor to remove a long needle from my infected leg. Another (s)ucker!

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    1. How frustrating! I don't like plants that require gardening armor, no matter their benefits. I hope your leg has healed.

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    2. Thanks, Tammy - it has, along with my feelings of outrage.

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  41. Yeah.... they look cool, but I once helped a friend dig out a small agave and that's all it took to make me hate growing them and no longer envy warm climate gardeners.

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  42. I do not like them anywhere!!! I am with you- the cuddle club-my kinda club:-)

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