Last Friday night, Sean Hogan of Portland’s famous Cistus Nursery showed a couple of slide presentations to the Wasatch Chapter of NARGS. The first was of some flora of the Sierra Nevada. I’m always game for a trip up over the Sierras. But what really caught my attention, was his presentation “Architectural Plants of the Southwest: Growing Cactus, Succulents and Perennials in the Garden.” As he explained, he put this slide set together of large cold-hardy cacti for a presentation to a German plant society, so plants that could handle cold and some wet were a must. There was a number of really spiny but attractive Yucca and Agave species in the set that caught my eye, like the vicious looking native Yant Agaves (Agave utahensis ssp, or at least that is what my memory says it was). The one that stood out especially was his new variety of Agave ovatifolia, ‘Frosty Blue.’ It has the potential to become enormous, as their online online mail-order catalog describes:
A Cistus introduction and new. This mega-century plant, first discovered by Lynn Lowrey in northeastern Mexico some 30 years ago and just named recently by agaveist Greg Starr, might be the largest of the cold hardy agaves, reaching eventually to 6-8 ft with beautifully formed, blue leaves. Our selection, made from a more recent batch, has a distinct, pale aquamarine hue with the classic shape of cupped, upright, and slightly outward bending leaves. The species has taken the cold and wet of Dallas TX, for instance, so upper USDA zone 7 for cold hardiness; possibly colder in gritty or dry soil. Fabo container plant.
Could you imagine an enormous behemoth of that size parked on a rocky slope outside of your house? You literally could sell tickets. It would also make landscaping much simpler. One giant Agave with its offsets would be all you would need.
The other head turner worth mentioning here (although I have a list of many others) is a silver-leaved Afghan fig, Ficus afghanistanica ‘Silver Lyre.’
Used with permission from Cistus Nursery.
He showed us a picture of it in a parking lot plant median with an Arctostaphylos and an Agave or Yucca species which I don’t remember as distinctly because there was this amazing fig growing with them. More interestingly, another chapter member said he had it growing in his garden this last year. It pulled through the winter, although it died down to the ground, but it came back and grew about six feet, I recall him saying. It was a very mild, very dry winter, so who knows what it would do during a wetter, colder year. Imagine this thing in a pot!
On both points, the possibilities are palpably exciting.