Explore beauty of agave at program

What a special treat! The Cactus and Succulent Society of Southern Nevada is bringing Greg Starr, a famous plant explorer from Tucson, Ariz., to speak on agave and ferocactus and other succulents found on the Baja peninsula. The program is at 2 p.m. Sept. 11 at the Springs Preserve, 333 S. Valley View Blvd. Starr will have his new book “Cool Plants for Hot Gardens” available.

Starr owns a mail-order nursery specializing in cactus and succulents, especially agaves. He has unusual varieties of hard to find and sometimes never before offered species of agave native to the Southwest and Mexico.

Starr’s passion is to explore for agaves in their natural habitat, so he is always looking for new varieties. Check out photos from his travels at www.starr-nursery.com. You’ll find brief descriptions of areas traveled and images of his more prominent plants.

Agaves have a striking, bold form with their interesting leaf and color variations that enables them to become dominant plants in a landscape. Their cupped-shaped leaves armed with thorns along their edges capture and guide rain to the plants’ roots. Here are some he’ll be showing.

Sebastian agave: This beautifully symmetrical rosette of silvery gray to powdery blue-gray leaves makes it one of the most striking agaves seen anywhere. It is not common, owing to its isolation in Baja California. Under ideal conditions, mature plants reach a yardstick high and wide. In its natural habitat, plant offsets (pups) form large clusters 6 to 8 feet across. The sword-shaped leaves are edged with black teeth and terminated by a sharp, black spine.

Cream spike agave: This cute dwarf plant spreads 12 to 15 inches in pots, producing some offsets. When in landscapes, it gets a yardstick high and even wider. The bluish-green leaves have a gorgeous creamy yellow border, small teeth and a sharp terminal spine.

Cow’s horns agave: It has rich green leaves with decorative, reddish-brown teeth along its edges. The teeth are more than one size, with the larger ones frequently curving toward each other, resembling horns on a cow. It comes from the Sonora and Sinaloa states of Mexico.

Twin-flowered agave: This agave has amazing versatility, tolerating exposures and reflected heat to full shade. This accent plant forms a dense, symmetrical rosette of narrow, dark-green leaves. In full sun, the leaves are stiff and straight, but in shady exposures the leaves relax to form a softer silhouette. At the end of its life cycle, this plant sends up a spectacular 15-foot-tall or taller flower spike.

Octopus agave: Unlike most agaves, it is completely unarmed and safe to use in high traffic areas. Its unusual arching and twisted leaves provide an interesting contrast to leafy shrubs and groundcovers to show why it’s call octopus. Although flowering signals the end of its life cycle, the spectacular golden flower spike allows it to go out in a blaze of glory. Each plant sends up a spike of golden yellow flowers, which turn into bulbils you can plant elsewhere.

Queen Victoria agave: It’s one of the most striking agaves in landscapes. Its dense, compact habit and beautiful white markings on both sides of the leaves make it a highly desirable ornamental. Its toothless leaves allow it to become a user-friendly agave. The flowers are reddish-purple and densely packed on unbranched spikes.

FALL VEGETABLE GARDENING

If you say you can’t grow vegetables in Las Vegas, try fall gardening. It’s ideal for growing radishes, lettuce, cabbages and many other vegetables. Expect fewer bugs, weeds and diseases, and it’s cooler so your vegetables will be tastier. Let us help sharpen your skills to make it a pleasant experience with our classes at 8:30 a.m. every Saturday and Sunday through September at the Springs Preserve. I teach the Saturday class.

GARDENING CLASS AT ACACIA PARK

University of Nevada Cooperative Extension master gardeners in conjunction with the Henderson Parks and Recreation department will help you “Keep My Back from Aching” with a class at 9 a.m. Saturday at Acacia Park, 50 Casa Del Fuego St. in Henderson. Learn strategies to modify clothing, equipment and techniques to prevent injury to you and your garden. Please bring your favorite small gardening implement to learn how to use it better.

NEW DESERT DEMONSTRATION GARDEN TOURS

This Saturday at 9 a.m., master gardeners will take you on a tour of their fabulous new garden at the Cooperative Extension office at 8050 Paradise Road. For more information, call 257-5555 or email lvmastergardeners@unce.unr.edu.

Linn Mills writes a garden column each Sunday. You can reach him at linn.mills@ springspreserve.org or call him at 822-7754.

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