Saturday, September 28, 2013

A Passion For Agaves

I'm placing all the blame on Pam Penick (author of Lawn Gone!: Low-Maintenance, Sustainable, Attractive Alternatives for Your Yard) for my obsession with agaves.  Ever since I saw the giant ones on her blog (Digging) several years ago, I have been hopelessly besotted with this prickly desert plant.  Never mind that the closest desert is nearly 1500 miles away, in Texas.

Pam's not in the desert, but Austin, Texas, is where she happens to live, so she not only can grow agaves with ease there, she has access to many, many kinds of them.

There are a few species of agaves that are hardy to Ohio Zones 5/6 (A. havardiana, A. parryi, A. utahensis, A. lechuguila are some of them) but you'd better make sure they have superior drainage, because they do NOT like our wet clay soils, most especially during the winter.  I didn't just read that in a book either.  I've got personal experience with it.  (Read: I've killed three of them.)

I have a small collection of agaves, mainly because I can't walk by one without stopping to drool and see if there's a possibility that it might come home with me.  That's what happened when I paid the nearest Lowe's a visit this week.  We needed a new drain plug for the bathtub, but I left the store with three new peach trees and this:

Loree Bohl, of Danger Garden blog, has identified these three as what she believes to be Agave parrasana, sometimes called cabbage head agave. These aren't even close to being hardy here, so this planter will stay inside for the winter.  It produces offsets (baby plants) readily, so maybe I'll eventually have a mound of them that I can put in a larger round container.  (I hope!)

There was a tag that cautioned that there is no drainage in the pot, but I'm going to alter that situation by making some holes in the bottom of the liner.  I can then take it out and water it in the sink and then return it to the metal cache pot after it has drained.

My new agaves, with Dracaena fragrans 'Lemon Lime'

The fact that I'm finding more and more agaves for sale in my area makes me happy.  It was just a few years ago that I wouldn't have been able to find even one.  They make excellent houseplants for a bright, sunny window and they're super low-care specimens that always elicit comments, the main one being, "Is that real?"

Now that fall has arrived and with it the impending first frost, I've got to bring in the agaves that enjoyed their summer outside, including this big fella, a gift from Joseph Tychonievich and Brigitta Stewart of Arrowhead Alpines two years ago:

This agave was growing under the greenhouse bench at Arrowhead Alpines and was way too big to
ship, so they surprised me with it when I visited them in 2011, knowing how much I love these plants.

Look how much the giant agave has grown
since this photo was taken in fall of 2011!

We keep it in the utility room where it gets light from a south window, and though my husband wishes it could stay in the greenhouse, it's too big for there, measuring over three feet across and having those lethal pointy tips.  (Some people take fingernail clippers to the tips to make them less dangerous, but that's no fun!)

It's not easy to transport into the house, but the Potlifter makes it as easy as possible to carry and move it.

I also received a very nice agave in a very nice pot as a gift from Chris Tidrick (From the Soil blogger) two years ago. Gardeners are some of the most thoughtful people there are.

Because the FCC requires it, I'm disclosing that I received the Potlifter free of charge from the manufacturer two years ago.  I am also an Amazon affiliate and clicking on links may take you to Amazon through my affiliate link.  It doesn't cost you any more for the product when you do that, but if you make a purchase that first began by clicking through my link, I might make a few cents.  Seriously, it's never much ( sometimes it isn't anything, depending on the product), but it all adds up at the end of the day.  Thank you.


Lisa at Greenbow said...

That is one huge agave. I bet you have trouble carrying it this year. It seems to love your garden. Here there was a man that pulled his out of the ground and just laid it on it's side all winter. He did that for years until he got too old to handle it and he left it outside which of course led to it's demise. I blame Pam for my agave/succulent love too. The succulent merchants must love her as she spreads the word.

Alison said...

Wow! That is quite a magnificent Agave (still nothing near the size of the ones at the Ruth Bancroft Garden). If you're really worried about the poky tips, you can stick wine corks on them to make them somewhat less lethal.

Kylee Baumle said...

Lisa ~ It does well outside here. Too bad it can't stay out there all year! You're right - Pam has enabled many a gardener in the ways of agaves!

Alison ~ If that agave ever gets to be the size of those in the Ruth Bancroft garden, we'll have to build it its own greenhouse! LOL! Good idea, about the corks! That's what I'm going to do while it's in the house. Thanks, Alison!

outlawgardener said...

That big agave is a beauty alright! Thanks for mentioning the potlifter! It has saved me a lot of time and a sore back when moving large pots around! I blame Loree for my agave addiction.

danger garden said...

If your new babies are indeed Agave parrasana they should fill up that container in no time! It's a very prolific plant, in my experience.

LOVE that big one, it's a looker. I don't envy you moving it but you're right the pot lifter certainly does help.

Jay said...

We have so many kinds of agave here in Tucson. They are quite nice and they grow well. They can be incredibly beautiful when they bloom at the end of their life!

Anonymous said...

Hi, Kylee! Those agave plants are awesome.

Pam/Digging said...

Well, well, well -- it sounds like you are HOOKED, and I'm happy to take the fall. Like you, I fell hard for agaves while reading a blog (Tom Spencer's Soul of the Garden), and the love of the spiky plant has only increased since then. It's cool to see how you're able to make them work in your northern garden.

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