It's been called living sculpture, a giant stylized artichoke, the cousin to the aloe, new world native, and a vital component to both tequila and didgeridoos: The agave.
It thrives on neglect, needs no fertilizer, very little water, and can tolerate a variety of soils as long they're well drained. The perfect addition to the California garden.
Agave makes an excellent candidate for potting as it produces sparse roots and tolerates crowding. It's also a good companion to the pool as it produces litter sparingly.
The agave's natural structure makes it an excellent sculptural accompaniment to soft grasses, wispy wildflowers, tufty salvias, and other fine-leafed gatherings. It not only provides the masculine element, it makes the feminine appear even more so.
It also makes for a striking emotional impact, its visual severity along with its spines and dagger-like projections can add drama to a any garden or country road.
Agaves are available in many color, sizes, and varieties including spineless.
Below, the sentries of the Sunnyland Gardens in Rancho Mirage, CA:
Beneath the pergola one agave stands like both king and jester at the terminus of this visual corridor: The general-in-arms and a floppy and spiky armed clown. If great gardens are like kaleidoscopic mixtures of beautiful contrasts then the agave, as one designer said, "is a great design opportunity."