Rising to the occasion!
Agave neomexicana at DBG Agave utahensis v. kaibabensis at Sandy's
I grant you there are more and more agaves blooming every year in Denver. But there are certain things that call for a sort of drumroll in the garden, like when most any Amorphophallus is in blossom, or the fabulous giant Chihuahuan yuccas (which have become almost commonplace as well) and any agave blooming makes for a sort of one-plant-festival in the garden.
This year not one, not two, but three agaves bloomed at Denver Botanic Gardens (two in the Rock Alpine Garden). The one pictured above was actually in Dryland Mesa, along the northwest side: the first time this fabulous colony of rosettes had deigned to bloom. The righthand picture is historic: that's Sandy Snyder's Agave utahensis, a much rarer plant in Denver and the first time I recall this subspecies blooming here in Colorado.
The juxtaposition of these two pictures captures the tremendous contrast in this genus: and there are even greater variations: the wide panicles of A. havardiana and the brilliant red trumpets of A. polianthiflora, neither of which bloomed for anyone I know of this year, but have in the past.
If someone had told me years ago that agaves blooming would be almost commonplace in Denver, I would have said fiddlesticks. Is it a function of global warming? Or perhaps just more adventurous gardening? Whatever the cause, each year I wonder just how many will pop up this year.
Oh yes, Rod Haenni and Ann Priestman had a vivid purple-stemmed A. neomexicana bloom this year (to die for!), and I had my very own Agave parryi top out at almost 15'. Its stem and ripened seedpods are frosted thick with snow this morning. I already yearn for the season when these sentinels of the South will be in bloom again.