What’s In Bloom: Desert Plants

By | What's In Bloom | February 28, 2014 | 2 comments

While the deep freeze of winter continues here, I thought I’d share a few more snapshots from my Desert Botanical Garden visit. Featured is Echinocactus grusonii (Golden barrel), endangered in its native habitat of central Mexico.

Agave bovicornuta

A part of the Desert Botanical Garden’s living collections of plants in the cactus and agave families. Agave bovicornuta (Cow’s horn agave) is recognizable by its prominent, red spines along the leaves.

Agave x 'Blue Glow'

Agave x ‘Blue Glow’ (Blue Glow agave) is a cross between  Agave ocahui x Agave attenuata and looks nothing like either of its parents. It forms a solitary symmetrical rosette, rather than clusters of many smaller ones.

Agave x 'Blue Glow'

A closer look at the red-outlined leaves of Agave x ‘Blue Glow’. A real stunner!

Agave macroacantha

Agave macroacantha (Black-spined agave) has greyish-green leaves that end in sharp, black spines.

Agave parryi

Agave parryi (Parry’s agave or mescal) is a slow-growing agave native to Arizona, with blue-grey to grey-green leaves. Rosettes mature to 60 cm x 90 cm (2′ x 3′), eventually producing spectacular flowering spikes reaching up to 7 m (20′).

Agave salmiana

The term monstrous easily describes Agave salmiana (Pulque agave or giant agave).  This plant produces a very large evergreen rosette growing quickly to 2.5 m to 3.5 m (8′ to 10′) tall and just as wide!

Agave salmiana close-up

Close up, Agave salmiana is quite imposing. It is native to northern and central Mexico and grows extensively throughout warmer world regions.

Agave victoriae-reginae

Agave victoriae-reginae (Royal agave or Queen Victoria century plant). This slow-growing, evergreen perennial forms a rosette of thick, white-trimmed green leaves reaching 30 cm long. Considered to be one of the most beautiful and desirable species, it is endangered in its native habitat, yet common in cultivation.

Aloe striata ssp. karasbergensis

Aloe striata ssp. karasbergensis (Coral aloe) is native to South Africa. The pale blue-green leaves have a reddish striation, and in full sun take on a pink cast—I love it!

Cochemiea maritima

I think this plant is particularly interesting. I don’t recall seeing it on any previous visits. Cochemiea maritima (I could not find a common name in any search), native to Baja, Calif. and Mexico, is a clumping cactus forming irregular clusters of stems, either ascending or prostrate (shown here).

Pachycereus pringlei

Looking forward to bright blue skies. Pachycereus pringlei (Cardon), the world’s largest cactus, reaches upward.


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Sandra Pella about the author: Sandra Pella

Sandra Pella has worked as Head Gardener of the Toronto Botanical Garden since 2008. She holds a degree in Political Science from the University of Western Ontario, and upon graduation worked in the financial sector until the pull of plants was too much to resist, whereupon she found herself at Janet Anderson Perennials (formerly JEA Perennials) as a horticultural technician. She has been the Perennial Manager at Summerhill Nursery & Floral followed by the Assistant Horticulturist at the TBG prior to its renovation. Sandra worked as a Gardener for two seasons with the City of Toronto as well as seasonal Gardener for the TBG prior to being named Head Gardener. She is self-taught in the field and thus greatly appreciated the experience a gardening internship in 2009 at Great Dixter in the UK brought to her. Sandra has a regular What’s In Bloom blog and is one of the spokespeople for the TBG.

  • Karen

    Hi Sandra,
    Great photosI Last year when visiting Phoenix, I too was at the Desert botanical Gardens
    and fell in love with the variety of cacti. Thanks for bringing some warmth into the Toronto winter!

  • Gary Smith

    Hi Sandra
    Great article! I’m headed out to DBG next week to photograph the Dale Chihuly show. I’ve seen this touring exhibition in many locations – including the Desert Botanical Garden – and I think DBG is one of the best venues. The fabulous forms of the glass sculptures relate really well to the otherworldly shapes and forms in the desert plants (at least they seem otherworldly my Eastern Deciduous Forest upbringing), and stand as an exceptionally good illustration of how art can reinforce a garden’s local sense of place.
    Best wishes,
    Gary Smith

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