January Plant of the Month: Agaves

We often find our landscapes looking a bit sad this time of year due to lower precipitation and colder temperatures. This year is especially rough on our plants because of the La Nina climate pattern, which forecasts drier than normal conditions here in the Southwest.

But have no fear!

There are many great plants that look wonderful year-round, even when conditions get a little tough. Some of our favorites are those of the agave species, which consistently provide interesting sculptural structure to our landscapes. 

AGAVE GARDEN | harmonyinthegarden.com

AGAVE GARDEN | harmonyinthegarden.com

Weber's Agave (Agave weberi) is one of the larger and faster growing agaves that is often seen around town. It has gray-green leaves and can reach a size of 5' tall by 5' wide. Weber's agave is very easy to take care of as it loves heat and is drought-tolerant. Pairs nicely with aloe and red yucca.

WEBER'S AGAVE | monrovia.com

WEBER'S AGAVE | monrovia.com

Blue Glow Agave (Agave 'Blue Glow')  is a more medium-sized agave that has stunning yellow and red-edged leaf margins. The coloration on the leaf margins actually makes this plant "glow" in the sunlight. One of the nice aspects of the Blue Glow Agave is that it does not produce pups, so it is convenient for tight spaces or containers.

BLUE GLOW AGAVE | latimes.com

BLUE GLOW AGAVE | latimes.com

The Queen Victoria Agave (Agave victoriae-reginae) is a beautiful accent agave that has a tight rosette with a delicate white lining along its leaves - its structure resembles that of an artichoke. This is a slower growing agave, and will stay small at 12" tall by 18" wide. Because of its small size, plant the Queen Victoria Agave in areas that are more visible, and in groupings of three or more. Try it in a container!  

QUEEN VICTORIA AGAVE | worldofsucculents.com

QUEEN VICTORIA AGAVE | worldofsucculents.com

We're lucky to have one of the leading experts on agaves right here in our Tucson community, Greg Starr, who is the owner of Starr Nursery. Follow Greg's blog for more information on the wild world of agaves. 

Smarter Streets & Safer People

Wheat Design Group is excited about all of the bicycle and pedestrian advocacy in Tucson recently. Cyclovia and El Tour de Tucson both happened in the last couple of months, bringing out thousands of riders and enthusiasts. The World Day of Remembrance for Victims of Traffic Violence also happened a few weeks ago, and local organization Living Streets Alliance and their partners held a memorable vigil for the lives lost in Tucson due to traffic violence.

A large part of our work here at WDG is transportation, and we are always looking to improve the ways pedestrians and cyclists safely use transportation routes. We are happy to see organizations in Tucson also on board with this vision.

An exciting new bicycle program also just came to Tucson, and to our office's neighborhood in Sam Hughes: TUGO Bike Share!

Municipalities across the world have embraced bicycle share programs, and Tucson is now part of that group of cities that support alternative transportation. TUGO currently has 36 stations across Tucson and offers daily, monthly, and annual passes. We're thrilled to have a station at our office - what a great way to take a lunch break, commute to a meeting, or get to and from work.

Our staff member Alex attended the ribbon cutting ceremony for TUGO and brought the inaugural bike to our office's nearest station at 6th St and Tucson Blvd (see photos above from the launch - volunteers were the first ones to ride the bikes to various stations).

Visit tugobikeshare.com to learn more about the program. Don't forget your helmet!

YARDS

At WDG, we value service to our community and our profession. This weekend our designer Nate had the opportunity to teach a group of at-risk youth about Landscape Architecture and the design process at a program called YARDS. YARDS provides vocational training in desert landscape and maintenance for youth at risk involved in the Pima County Juvenile Court System. The students learn a range of skills, including Tools and Safety, Desert Plant ID, Soils, Water and Plants, Water Harvesting, Pruning Techniques, Irrigation Systems and more. 

Nate introduced the group to the profession of Landscape Architecture and the design process. The students got an opportunity to re-design a parking lot and turn it into their ideal backyard. 

Check out some of the student's very creative designs below!

Hard at work

Hard at work

A lot of sports in this backyard. Looks great!

A lot of sports in this backyard. Looks great!

Great spot for a spa.

Great spot for a spa.

Snack shop, DJ booth, and a charging station? I'm in!

Snack shop, DJ booth, and a charging station? I'm in!

Nate teaching about final design graphics.

Nate teaching about final design graphics.

A very nice flower garden.                                     

A very nice flower garden.                                     

Great presenters!

Great presenters!

Could be some future Landscape Architects in this group!

More about the YARDS program here: tucsoncleanandbeautiful.org/yards-youth-landscape-maintenance-training/

Take time to smell the...Stapelias

What’s that rotting flesh smell you ask? It’s the flower of a Stapelia plant of course! August and September are flowering season for Stapelias, and if you’re lucky enough, you’ll get to catch a Stapelia in bloom, and better yet, get to experience it’s pungent smell.

Don't get too close! Credit: alchetron.com

Don't get too close!

Credit: alchetron.com

Stapelia is the genus of over 50 different species of this succulent plant that has spineless, clump-forming stems. Stems are toothed, have four angles, and branch from the base into a larger mass.  Stapelia flowers are red, purple, or yellow, and can get up to 18” in diameter (Stapelia gigantea has the largest flower). Flowers can be polished or hairy, and there are only two species of Stapelia that are pleasantly scented.

The four-sided geometric stems of the Stapelia plant. Credit: wikipedia.org

The four-sided geometric stems of the Stapelia plant.

Credit: wikipedia.org

Stapelias make great container plants as long as soil remains well-drained. They can handle full sun, but will be happier in an area that receives light shade. The geometric stems of Stapelias bring interesting structure and texture to gardens, and the stinky starfish-like flowers that emerge during bloom season are an added bonus.

Stapelia flowers just before they bloom. Credit: davesgarden.com

Stapelia flowers just before they bloom.

Credit: davesgarden.com

Can YOU guess the Plant of the Month?

UPDATE: The answer is Firecracker Bush, Bouvardia ternifolia. See you back here next month for September’s Plant of the Month!

This month we’re changing things up a bit, and we want YOU to guess the Plant of the Month for August! If you’ve been out in the rocky upland areas around Tucson lately, especially Madera Canyon, you most likely spotted this plant. This attractive species is a great addition to native plant gardens, and will be sure to attract hungry pollinators.

Source: fireflyforest.net

Source: fireflyforest.net

Source: polyploid.net

Source: polyploid.net

Our Plant of the Month blooms between April and October, and the flower is tubular, bright red, and very showy. Flowers grow in clusters, and each blossom splits into tiny lobes. The entire plant generally grows to three feet tall and prefers partial shade. Leaves are lance-shaped and can be up to three inches in length. If you touched a leaf, you’d feel tiny soft hairs.

Source: Greg Lasley Nature Photography

Source: Greg Lasley Nature Photography

We are not the only ones who love this plant; hummingbirds, butterflies, and moths eagerly pollinate this plant when it’s in bloom. Some species that love feasting on its nectar include the Cloudless Sulphur and Southern Dogface butterflies, and the Falcon Sphinx moth.

Do YOU have a guess for our Plant of the Month?

Leave your answer on our Facebook page!