Monday, October 7, 2013

Toughing out the drought, agaves abound in my garden...

Like many Central Texas gardeners learning to cope with the drought, I have a growing collection of agaves in my garden. 

The common misconception about agaves is that they are giant monsters and that they all die after they bloom.  Most agaves are monocarpic, but a few of them are not.  What many call a century plant - a common name often used for many different varieties, doesn't actually live for 100 years before its first bloom.  Most bloom at about 40 years old, primarily because of the soil, water and environmental conditions in which they are grown in landscapes.

This agave 'Americana' does get large - typically 5-7 feet tall by 8-12 feet wide (including its offsets, or pups).


There are many much smaller and manageable species that can be used as structural focal points in the landscape and beautiful potted plants. A few of the more compact agaves suitable for small gardens and containers that do well here include the squid agave, quadricolor agave, Parry’s agave and the regal Queen Victoria agave.

These agaves above are quadricolor agaves and they stay quite small.  Mine is about 18 inches tall.  It does create offsets, or pups -- creating new plants through underground runners/roots.  This variety makes a great potted plant.

I believe this is a Webberi - it will get very large and it's growing in a very xeric bed outside of my back fence.
This beautiful, deep green agave is 'green goblet,' a passalong Pam of Digging shared with me.   I love the uncommon color on this one, but be careful, the spines on this one are absolutely unforgiving!
This is an agave parryi truncata, which typically grows 2-3 feet tall and 2-4 feet wide - a very manageable size for a smaller garden.
This is what I believe to be agave ovatofolia, or 'whale's tongue' agave.  Frequently confused with parryi agaves, they are sometimes mislabeled.    It is one of the agaves proported not to pup, and it grows to 3-4 feet tall and wide.  Because of its neat and uniform growth, it makes a wonderful focal point in the garden.

 This agave is called "blue glow" and it's easy to see why.


 This variegated agave has fine spines and is quite happy living in partial shade with very little water. 
 One of my favorites is the "squid agave" with it's delicate tentacles curling out into the sky.  After several years in this bed, this one is starting to produce quite a few pups. 
These prolific pups belong to my Agave franzosinii -- a beautiful and graceful piece of sculpture that is the centerpiece of the raised bed at the entrance to our home.  They are a lot of work - removing them is a  regular chore because I don't want a mass tangle of unruly agaves, I just want the one focal point.  But it's worth it.

And here's the mama Franzosinii from afar in its bed.  The Spanish dagger in the foreground had to find a new home, though, because it was stealing the show from the blue agave!  Can't have that.

With the dire forecasts of this unbearable drought, I'm pleased with these xeric additions to my garden.  There are many more wonderful varieties to try, and many of them are on my list.

9 comments:

outlawgardener said...

Gorgeous agaves! That Pam Penick is quite an Agave evangelist! Because I live in the soggy pacific northwest, most of my agaves are grown in pots and brought inside (tender ones) or under cover to protect them from the rain for the winter. This year, I've put a couple in the ground and am hoping that they'll survive.

Kris Peterson said...

You've got a great collection going! I particularly like the arrangement in the mixed bed. I've been gradually adding more agaves to my garden and your pictures give me incentive to step things up.

Rock rose said...

You have some lovely specimens. I would love to have blue glow but think it would have to be yet another potted specimen.

Ally said...

Great post! Is your blue glow in the ground? I've been keeping mine in a pot for safety.

Lea said...

Beautiful - every one of them!
Lea
Lea's Menagerie

dryheatblog said...

I really like that Agave franzosinii, plus the bed it's in. Pups - and now, you can be an agave evangelist!

Diana said...

outlaw gardener - I'd trade you some of my agaves for some of your Japanese grasses! I'd love to be able to grow those. But then I wouldn't need the agaves, either!

Kris - Thanks - I love that bed with all the color - most of it soft with just a few sculptural things in it.

Rock Rose - Thanks - mine is in the ground but it hasn't been through a bad winter yet.

Ally - It is - it went through last winter ok, but we were only hit with freezes/frost a few times here.

Lea - Thanks - they are fun to collect.

dryheatblog - That giant agave is really something, isn't she? I figure if she starts to get too tall, I'll start growing a pup in a pot and just replace her some day.

Pam/Digging said...

Your last image is postcard-pretty! I actually like the variegated Spanish dagger in that bed. I think it leads the eye from foreground to the agave in the background and makes a perfect punctuation mark. But I know what you mean -- if it doesn't feel right, you gotta move it.

I'm curious to know your de-pupping strategy. Maybe you can make a post the next time you de-pup A. franzosinii?

Diana said...

Pam - Did you see the previous comment about your agave evangelism? So true! Funny you should comment about de-pupping - good idea. In fact, the article I am working on for the Statesman is about most useful tools, and my fave is my soil knife. So you'll see it in a post and in the paper soon.