Friday, August 10, 2012

The Three amigos

Do you have a hot and dry yard? Have problems with growing plants? Then I have a solution for you, the Three Amigos. Wherever there is garden injustice, you'll find them. Wherever there is suffering, they'll be there. Wherever liberty is threatened, you will find..... well not quite! If summer is your 'El Guapo', then these "three amigos" are here to help.


Yucca's are an extremely versatile plant that many only think of seeing in the dry lands of the southwest and into Mexico.  Surprisingly, they grow well for us in Northern Virginia, and really begin to shine when the temperature goes up.  However, one word of warning, many types have a sharp spine on the tip of the leaf that will stick you like a bayonet. Be able to look past this and you'll have a plant with a touch of the exotic with the ruggedness of the wild west for the garden.  Here's my top picks for, of course, the lesser known cultivars that you might want to try out:

1. Yucca 'Color Guard'.  This one is from the Adam Needle types (Y. filamentosa), one of the most commonly found in the trade.  Variegated versions have been around for awhile, this cultivar is truly the most exceptional gold-centered yucca on the market.  The evergreen foliage is covered in filament hairs that curl off the edge of a bladed leaf, but can be cleaned off if preferred.  Over time it forms an upright and arching mound that increases its beauty in the border, year after year.  In summer, the creamy white bell shaped flowers hang from a tall, sturdy spike and open at different intervals, keeping the flowers fresh for many weeks.  Eventually, the rosette where the flowering spike came from will die (monocarpic), but is replaced by young shoots that are produced around the base of the 'mother' rosette to replace its loss.  Clumps can reach up to 3ft across, but can be lifted and divided, with little effort if needed.  Zones 5 - 10.


2. Yucca rostrata 'Sapphire Skies' - Beaked Yucca.  Collected from northern Mexico by Sean Hogan, founder of Cistus Gardens in Oregon, is named in honor of its powder blue foliage.  It's very different from the standard Y.filimotosa types mentioned above by having thin, flexible leaves to give a fine texture.  Over time it will grow to 4ft, producing an un-branched trunk, making a strong focal point in any garden.  Plant it in a hot, sun baked site with exceptional drainage, and keep it sheltered from cold winter winds.  It is a bit more particular in its conditions to ensure overwintering success, but I think you'd agree it's worth the investment to improve conditions to grow one of these specimens. Zone 6 - 10


3. Yucca aloifolia 'Purpurea' - Purple Aloe Yucca.  A uniquely different yucca coming out of the desserts of the southwest.  This one is new to me and is already on my wish list for trial.  Rigid icy gray leaves are flushed with purple that only intensify as the temperature heats up.  Drought, moisture and humidity tolerant makes this a viable player in many gardens.  Zone 6

Yuccas make excellent container plants or planted as to create a strong architectural focal points in the garden.  Successful once established, in the harshest parts of the garden, from droughts to prolonged sun exposure, and fully deer resistant. In the wise words of Steve Martin character, 'Lucky Day', "In a way, all of us have an El Guapo to face.  For some, shyness might be their El Guapo.  For Others, a lack of eduction might be their El Guapo.  For us, El Guapo is a big, dangerous man who wants to kill us."  We gardeners can conquer our El Guapo and produce a beautiful garden in summer by planting wisely and selecting any one of these "three amigos"!

9 comments:

  1. I would add three alternative amigos: little bluestem, nepeta, and any number of sedums.

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  2. I always feel sorry for the under dogs, everyone overlooks Yucca's probably because of the spear tipped leaves, but you could have an army of amigos to write about if you're not careful. Very nice blog you have! Just included it to my blog roll to follow. Thanks for writing.

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  3. You've written about 3 of my favorites! Yucca 'Color Guard' does very well in my Portland, Oregon, (zone 8) garden. As does Yucca rostrata. I'm afraid however that Yucca aloifolia 'Purpurea' hasn't been so successful. I had 7 of them at one point but have ripped out 3, the other 4 struggle on...if I weren't so lazy about it they would probably be gone too!

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    1. Sad to hear that y.'Purpurea' didn't survive for you. I just saw them for the first time last week on a nursery trip down to Norfolk, Virginia. It was new for them, but they thought it might work for us a little north. However, they're on sandy soil with good drainage and up here it the thick yellow clay! Might have to rethink! Thanks for the heads up.

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  4. All of those are a bit too stabby for me. I would need to garden in chain mail. I prefer sedums, liatris, annual vinca, lantana, nepeta, orange milkweed, or ironweed.

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    1. It's not a bed in the garden center I look forward to working in, but they are alluring in a strange way. Compare it to the 'REAL' hot wings at Buffalo wild wings, you know you shouldn't, but curiosity gets the better of you. Danger is my middle name.

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    2. Hey Smartypants,

      I was digging around the roots of my uncooperative asclepias incarnata and noticed they are absurdly shallow rooted. What's up with that?? Why would a plant do that when I have such wonderful VA clay to offer? :o)
      Tammy

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  5. Sorry, this is unrelated...

    Do you all get in bare root peonies in the fall? I am looking for Coral Sunset, want to know if I need to order online or if I can get them locally. Thanks!

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  6. Much enjoyed your posting here. With all the drought around this Summer, all of us can use these plants. Here on the shores of Lake Michigan it isn't a big problem yet, but maybe in the future. I do have a great yucca that has gone to seed recently. Can I get them to grow? Jack

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