Popularly known for their use in the production of mescal, tequila and other alcoholic beverages, agaves are a dramatic specimen plant, or living sculpture, with hardy habits worthy of any plant lover’s attention. This family of plants features a vast range of colour and structural varieties, all of which provide striking architectural forms and year round appeal.
An evergreen perennial succulent that flowers once and then dies, agaves are slow growing and thrive on a little neglect. Most varieties are native to the hot and arid regions of Mexico and the Southwestern United States; they can therefore tolerate harsh, reflected heat conditions and survive on poor irrigation. Agaves are a great accent in containers or in well-draining ground. If positioned in a container, surrounded with other select specimens, low growing succulents, hanging plants like Senecio rowleyanus ‘string of pearls’ and the occasional soft flowering plant they offer a contemporary delight! Planted en masse they are simply breathtaking – sadly such usage is not exactly economical in Melbourne. (The mass plantings of agave in the Sunnylands Visitor Center garden, CA, which some of the team at JJL had the recent pleasure of visiting, is most certainly envy-inducing and awe inspiring).
L: Agave victoriae-reginae. R Agave ocahui. Bottom Agave parryi var. truncata
Agave ocahui, features dense, symmetrical rosettes of narrow dark green leaves with smooth margins and sharp terminal spines, which appear to glow when backlit by the sun. Although a JJL favourite they can be somewhat difficult to acquire, their similar-looking, smaller relative Agave blue glow (a hybrid of Agave ocahui and Agave attenuata) can be far more accessible to the Melbourne audience.
PARRYI VAR. TRUNCATA
With short, broad, thick leaves arranged in tight, compact rosettes, Agave parryi var. truncata is uncannily reminiscent of a squat artichoke. The leaves have a silver steel blue colouring, which contrasts with its conspicuous red-brown teeth and terminal spines.
With a perfectly spherical form, Agave victoria-reginae can be best described as a solitary rosette of thick, smooth and toothless dark green leaves. Each leaf is unique and is adorned with white margins and a terminal spine. Although an extremely slow growing agave, the deep green colour and picturesque white detailing of Victoriae-reginae makes for a dramatic contrast to the many readily available blue/grey agave varieties.
A single-stemmed dwarf agave, Agave geminiflora is characterised as a dense, symmetrical rosette of narrow dark green leaves that are sharply tipped. Unlike that of other agave varieties, its foliage is thus highly flexible. Geminiflora is a lovely addition to any garden; its fluid form creates movement that is complementary to the largely rigid architectural structures of other succulent and cacti species.