Louis Raymond experiments in his own gardens like

a mad scientist, searching out plants that most people have

never seen before & figuring out how to make them perform.- The Boston Globe

…Louis Raymond ensures that trees can grow in Brooklyn…

or just about any other place where concrete consumes

the dirt and skyscrapers shield the sunshine.- USA Today

 
 

NEW Trips to Take!

Myrtle's easy when the conditions are right.

 
 
 
 

NEW Plants to Try!

Louis tries to capture the exact words to describe the fleeting but deep pleasures to be found in these Summer-into-Autumn incredibles.

 
 
 
 

New Gardening to Do!

Allergic to bees? You can still have an exciting garden, full of flowers and color and wildlife.

 
 
 
 

Plant Profiles

Beaked Yucca

yucca-rostrata-640

 

Put a plant outside for the Summer, and it's liable to thank you.  I keep my Beaked Yucca in a pot; it would almost certainly rot away over a sloppy, chilly Winter in my garden's heavy soil.  With a March repotting in the greenhouse, plus moving it out to the sunny terrace in May, it has surprised and thanked me for both kindnesses with a flower spike.

 

You can really see why yuccas are members of the—yes—asparagus family.  If this were just a plant of hundreds of needle-tipped leaves, I never would have suspected the kinship with the vegetable, whose foliage could scarcely be more ferny. 

 

yucca-rostrata-bloom-spike-640

 

This picture was at dawn following a night of mild rain.  The spiders must be dry-drip as well as sure-footed to string their webs from one merciless leaf-tip to another.  Indeed, given the countless times I've managed to give a blood sample when handling this plant, it's remarkable that I've never come out one morning to see a hapless bird crucified from a botched landing job.  Are they just more agile than this tall and in-a-hurry gardener?  More focused?  So wise they never even get close?  Or did all the birds with poor aim get crucified many thousands or even millions of years ago, so only the yucca-savvy ones are now surviving?

 

Hmm:  All spiny plants are effective drivers of evolution:  Creatures that are too dumb or too slow to learn to avoid a stiletto-tipped cactus, euphorb, or yucca are likey to have shorter (and more painful) lives, and so fewer children.

 

The "sharp" theme doesn't stop with the foliage, either.  Although the flowers themselves are soft and even caressable, they're still arrayed on a spike.  Not as a spray, cluster, or cloud.  Too soft.  Instead, a spike.  Even a spear that's wearing a bouquet is still a spear.

 

The flowers will be out in a few weeks.  I'l photograph from a safe distance, coming in close only with a Tai-Chi, slo-mo focus.

 

PS:  I can't find or figure out the common name, Beaked Yucca.  I'm guessing it's about the flowers, so stay tuned for those pictures.  Meanwhile, if you have the poop on the beaks, let us know. 

 

 

Here's how to grow this fierce beauty:

 

Latin Name

Yucca rostrata

Common Name

Beaked Yucca

Family

Asparagaceae, the Asparagus family.

What kind of plant is it?

Evergreen tree.

Hardiness

Zones 5 - 9

Habit

When young, a perfectly-round sphere of sharp-tipped quill-like foliage.  Develops a trunk over time, and may also branch. 

Rate of Growth

Medium.

Size in ten years

In favored climates, to five feet tall or more, and three wide.

Texture

Dramatic, sculptural, and airy.

Grown for

the orderly sphere of foliage, so uniform that it doesn't quite look real. 

 

early-Summer spikes of cream-colored flowers that, because they have no petals, only sizable pistils, create an overall fluffy mass instead of a spike of recognizable individual blooms.

 

the uncompromising and stark geometry of the plants, especially as they get old enough to develop a trunk.

 

being deer-proof. 

 

its self-reliant nature.  After it's established, it doesn't need watering (although it will grow faster with it).

Flowering season

Mid-Spring: Late May in Rhode Island.

Culture

Any soil as long as it's extremely well-drained, especially in Winter.  Full sun.  Great drainage is essential for hardiness at the cold end of its range. 

How to handle it

Yuccas are native to dry climates of the New World: North and South America as well as the Caribbean.  Think Mexico, Texas, Dry Tortuga:  Hot, sunny, lean.  If the soil's alkaline, that's OK too. 

 

Some species, including Y. rostrata, are remarkably cold-hardy—there's a yucca native to Alberta, Canada, for heaven's sake—but only provided that they are kept dry in Winter, both above and below ground.  The really hardy yuccas do better in Winters that are dry as well as cold, just like their native Winters in, say, the Colorado Rockies, or at high altitudes in Northern New Mexico.  Mild, wet Winters in regular soil would often be fatal.

 

Beaked Yucca is a plant-it-and-forget-it pleasure out West, but needs all possible considerations in the lower-altitude, Winter-wetter, Summer-sweltering East.  North of Zone 7, only try growing it outdoors in an extremely well-drained and sandy bed, with all possible Sun and, ideally, some protection from Winter wind.  A sloping sandy bed against a West-facing stone wall would be heaven—if, admittedly, an unlikely situation to be able to offer.  Or grow it in a container and move it to a cool sunny spot indoors by Thankgsiving, or just to an unheated greenhouse. 

Downsides

The leaves are ferociously-tipped—really painful to encounter—so moving a containered plant is a matter of heavy clothing, leather gloves, and no-fast-moves concentration.  Yuccas are happy in surprisingly small pots, though, so even large specimens aren't anything like the sheer weight of a similarly-sized palm, citrus, or ficus. 

Variants

'Blue Sapphire' has exceptionally steel-blue foliage.

Availability

On-line and at retailers.

Propagation

The species can be grown from seed.  'Blue Sapphire' is tissue-propagated.

Native habitat

Mexico & the American Southwest.

 
 
FacebookTwitterRSS Feed

Stay in touch!

 

Sign up for twice-monthly eNews, plus notification of new posts:

 

* indicates required