Thursday, March 19, 2020

Agave Garden at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum

I was going to be in Phoenix, Arizona this week but I had to cancel my plans because of COVID-19. So instead of looking at desert plants in person, I'm catching you up on some of the things I saw on my previous trip in late December 2019.

The Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum (ASDM) in Tucson is a personal favorite. I always make time for a visit, even if it's just for a few hours. A few weeks ago, I wrote about potted specimen plants and the Cactus Garden at the ADSM. Today I want to show you the Agave Garden. It was restored from the ground up a few years ago, with a brand-new artificial rock island in the center that allows even small species to shine.

Agave parrasana in blue pot, Agave nickelsiae on the right, with Agave tequilana in the very back

An interactive map of the plants in the Agave Garden is available on the ASDM website, just as it is for the Cactus Garden.

Agave tequilana

Agave nickelsiae, a particular beautiful specimen

Mass plantings of octopus agave (Agave vilmoriniana)

Agave vilmoriniana

Even dead agaves can look beautiful

Agave murpheyi 'Engard'

The centerpiece of the Agave Garden is a new naturalistic rock island. It not only adds a dramatic look, but it also provides plenty of room for planting smaller agave species off the ground so they're easier to see. The installation is made of the same artificial rock you see elsewhere in the ASDM, combined with pieces of real rock.


Mass plantings of Agave parryi var. truncata

LEFT: Agave parryi var. huachucensis   RIGHT: Agave oteroi

BACK: Agave parryi var. huachucensis   FRONT: Agave oteroi

The apple green agaves are Agave lophantha

TOP: Agave parryi var. huachucensis   BOTTOM: Agave lophantha

Agave lophantha

Agave promontori

Variegated Agave colorata, a true rarity

It's an ugly duckling at the moment, but in a few years it could be a stunner

Agave deserti var. deserti

Agave wocomahi

Agave stricta

Agave xylonacantha

Agave xylonacantha


Agave pelona

Agave pelona

Agave pelona

Agave zebra

Agave subsimplex

Agave geminiflora

Agave colorata

Agave colorata

Agave colorata

Agave 'Sharkskin'

Agave sobria 'Pseudogigantensis'

Agave felgeri

Agave utahensis var. utahensis


LEFT: Agave bovicornuta × colorata (aka 'Mad Cow')     RIGHT: Agave vilmoriniana × pelona

Agave vilmoriniana × pelona, the first time I've seen (or even heard of) this hybrid

The white-striped agave is Agave americana 'Mediopicta Alba', the apple-green one is Agave gomezpompae, a tropical species from Veracruz, Mexico

What would an agave garden be without flower stalks, fresh or dry



Agave vilmoriniana flower stalk covered with thousands of bulbils


Agaves are found not only in the Agave Garden but in most areas of the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum. Here's a species I like from Baja California: 
Agave shawii ssp. goldmaniana surrounded by Boojum trees (Fouquieria columnaris)


The typical homeowner doesn't have room for an extensive agave collection, but visiting public gardens is a great way to see a large selection of species in one place. This makes it much easier to pick the ones you like best for your own garden.



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9 comments:

  1. So sorry you had to cancel your trip. We were supposed to be touring Scotland right now but had to cancel too. I really like how the ASDM elevated the smaller species so they can be better appreciated. Some of them are stunning. Are all those babies on the A. vilmoriana stalk viable? Seems like the area would be over run if they were. Thanks for the great tour.

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    1. So many people have had to cancel their travel plans. But that's nothing compared to getting sick. Fortunately, nobody I know has had COVID-19.

      Yes, Agave vilmoriniana produces large amounts of viable bulbils.

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  2. Sorry you missed your trip. AZ got a lot of rain this winter so their spring bloom may be particularly fabulous.

    AZ is the home of such gorgeous rock, the imitation stuff they have there doesn't measure up all that well--but they had their reasons, no doubt. Public safety, durability, budget, and so forth. All in all, their Agaves look great! Colorata is a beautiful species.

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    1. I imagine it was a cost issue.

      I've had so many different coloratas, but I've never found what I'm looking for: beautiful striping and restrained offsetting.

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  3. So many beautiful specimens! And evidence of the wonderful use of repetition in many of these beds.

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  4. Agaves are the best medicine, thank you!

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  5. Very cool. Like how many of the agave are growing out from the 'rock'. There's a few species I've never even heard of - I like the tropical looks of Agave gomezpompae

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