Agaves, Yuccas and Related Plants: A Gardener's Guide

Overview

These exotic natives of the Americas are among the most striking of drought-tolerant plants, and they make wonderful accents in the landscape, providing excellent contrasts to flowering perennial plantings. They can also be massed effectively, and many of the species are small, ideal for use in containers.

The authors point out that innovative nurseries and gardeners in cool, humid regions of North America and Europe have shown that many of these plants may be suitable for areas...

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Overview

These exotic natives of the Americas are among the most striking of drought-tolerant plants, and they make wonderful accents in the landscape, providing excellent contrasts to flowering perennial plantings. They can also be massed effectively, and many of the species are small, ideal for use in containers.

The authors point out that innovative nurseries and gardeners in cool, humid regions of North America and Europe have shown that many of these plants may be suitable for areas with climates very different from their native range. Full information on cultivation and propagation is provided.

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Editorial Reviews

Horticulture
"This is a must-read for lovers of these spectacular plants ... well-organized, friendly, inviting."—Lauren Springer Ogden, Horticulture, October 2004
— Lauren Springer Ogden
American Gardener
"A useful and authoritative new reference."—William May, American Gardener, January/February 2001
— William May
Pacific Horticulture
"An excellent introduction to this delightful group ...Mary and Gary Irish have produced a book that will be an invaluable reference for the enthusiast and a source of inspiration for those not yet familiar with these useful and beautiful plants."—Dean Kelch, Pacific Horticulture, Winter 2001
— Dean Kelch
Horticulture - Lauren Springer Ogden
"This is a must-read for lovers of these spectacular plants ... well-organized, friendly, inviting."—Lauren Springer Ogden, Horticulture, October 2004
American Gardener - William May
"A useful and authoritative new reference."—William May, American Gardener, January/February 2001
Pacific Horticulture - Dean Kelch
"An excellent introduction to this delightful group ...Mary and Gary Irish have produced a book that will be an invaluable reference for the enthusiast and a source of inspiration for those not yet familiar with these useful and beautiful plants."—Dean Kelch, Pacific Horticulture, Winter 2001
Booknews
Mary and Gary Irish (former director of public horticulture at the Desert Botanical Garden, Phoenix, Arizona and photographer/plant geographer, respectively) provide a wealth of information on the cultivation and gardening uses of and , as well as several other American genera in the family Agavaceae, including discussion of their cultivation in more adverse climates. Includes keys for identification and some 100 color photographs and 18 drawings. Annotation c. Book News, Inc., Portland, OR (booknews.com)
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Product Details

  • ISBN-13: 9780881924428
  • Publisher: Timber Press, Incorporated
  • Publication date: 5/10/2000
  • Pages: 384
  • Product dimensions: 6.38 (w) x 9.31 (h) x 1.19 (d)

Meet the Author

Mary Irish is the former director of public horticulture at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, Arizona. She has written extensively on dry-climate gardening, and is the coauthor (with her husband, Gary Irish) of Agaves, Yuccas, and Related Plants. A Texas native residing in Arizona, Mary received her master's degree in geography from Texas A&M University. She is a regular contributor to several magazines, including Sunset, and teaches classes on the care and culture of agaves, cacti, and other desert shrubs and perennials as well as introductory classes for beginning gardeners. She once hosted a weekly Phoenix-based radio show called The Arizona Gardener, and has also helped produce several television programs about gardening.

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Read an Excerpt

Most Agave species are monocarpic (blooming once in the life of the plant); only a few species are polycarpic (blooming repeatedly through the life of the plant).

Agaves, in general, have large leaves arranged in a spiral along a small, often visible, stem to form a rosette. Rosettes are a common adaptation to desert or arid conditions. This growth form allows water to be directed down the leaves, like a channel, to the root zone. During times of serious drought, the small stem of an agave will shrink, allowing a tiny fissure in the soil around the plant base, further increasing the utility of the rosetts form in channeling water when it does rain. Rosettes are common in many genera from arid regions including all other members of the families Agavaceae and Nolinaceae, and genera from other families such as Aloe, Haworthia, and Gasteria, to name a few.

The leaves of Agave usually are hard or somewhat rigid and very fibrous inside. Many have prominent sharp marginal teeth, and almost all leaves have a rigid and very sharp terminal spine. A rosette may have fewer than 20 leaves or as many as 200, depending on the species. The leaves are thick and succulent, with specialized cells for water storage. Most leaves are coated with a fine to heavy wax cuticle. This cuticle is an adaptation to prevent excessive water loss through the leaves, retaining as much water within the leaf as possible to endure long periods of drought.

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Table of Contents

Preface, 7
Acknowledgments, 11

CHAPTER 1 History of the Families, 13
Agavaceae, 13
Nolinaceae, 22

CHAPTER 2 Description of the Genera, 25
Agave, 26
Yucca, 32
Hesperaloe, 38
Furcraea, 40
Manfreda, 41
Beschorneria, 42
Polianthes, 43
Nolina, 43
Dasylirion, 44
Beaucarnea, 46
Calibanus, 48

CHAPTER 3 Horticulture and Cultivation, 49
Ornamental History, 49
Economic and Ornamental Distribution, 55
Ethnobotany, 59
Planting, 65
Watering, 68
Containers, 71
Frost Protection, 75
Seed Propagation, 81
Vegetative Propagation, 83
Pest, Disease, and Cultural Problems, 88

CHAPTER 4 Species Profiles, 93
Agave, 93
Beaucarnea, 184
Beschorneria, 190
Calibanus, 192
Dasylirion, 193
Furcraea, 202
Hesperaloe, 207
Manfreda, 215
Nolina, 220
Polianthes, 232
Yucca, 234

Key to Agave, 227
Key to Yucca, 283
Plants Suitable for Humid Gardens, 85
Map of Mexico and Adjacent Areas, 288
Glossary, 289
Bibliography, 293
Index, 299

Color plates follow pages 144 and 208

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