Fresh landscaping ideas for agaves and yuccas

Sharon Cohoon

With their bold structures and textures, agaves and yuccas look right at home in cactus gardens, but how do you use them in other landscape situations such as a perennial border, a Mediterranean-style courtyard, or a lush, subtropical garden? Coauthors Mary and Gary Irish address that question in Agaves, Yuccas, and Related Plants: A Gardener's Guide (Timber Press, Portland, 2000; $34.95; 800/327-5680). Nearly every plant listed in this illustrated guide comes with suggestions for landscape use. For example, among the agaves, the authors say, the big, silver Agave franzonsinii (shown in the photograph at left) is a wonderful choice for brightening a dark corner; A. parryi truncata ( below left) is especially striking planted en masse; and A. victoriae-reginae (bottom) looks great when viewed from above, as from a deck.

This encyclopedic book supplies all the information you need to succeed with these plants, including detailed guidance on care and cultivation. Both authors know their subjects extremely well: Mary, a regular contributor to Sunset, was the former director of public horticulture at the Desert Botanical Garden in Phoenix, and Gary, who took most of the photographs, is an avid grower and collector of agaves and yuccas.