Monday, February 28, 2011

Sempiternal rosularity

That's Agave havardiana growing in the Watersmart Garden at Denver Botanic Gardens. Thank Heavens it was chilly and snowy in Seattle last week: typically the weather would be balmy there and chilly here on the Plains, but somehow returning to much warmer temps on our blasted heath made the transition somewhat less painful: March is a telling month for me. You see, Colorado is perhaps its least fetching right now. Things are in tatters, sear and raw. There is an austere poetry, I know, to the crisp horizon, the fringed and bleached grasses. It was, however, going to California in March repeatedly as a child that inspired me to dedicate my life to gardens. Surely things could be better!

Thank Heavens for woody lilies. Agaves (when they're not too crisped: and this year they've sailed through -22F relatively unharmed) are the queens of succulence and rosularity (don't bother looking it up: I think I coined it: sempiternal, however, is basically just another way of saying eternal). None are queenier than this Texas beauty: one bloomed a few years ago in my neighborhood (see below) and I made a point of driving by it every day to glory in its lavish display. The orgasmal flower display notwithstanding, it is these giant rosettes in the winter landscape, fresh as they are in summer or fall or spring, that makes them so irresistible and welcome.

The Chinese revere pine, bamboo and mume plum as the three friends of winter. In Colorado I daresay we would have to replace Mume with agave and probably our tattered bamboo with Mahonia or yucca to tell the honest truth!


  1. Sempiternal?...Olamic rosularity has a much more onomatopoeic ring to it.

  2. OK, you made me go to the dictionary. Very clever. My sempiternal rings a literary bell for those who love one of my favorite books, Pale Fire (or know Eliot's Quartets). Riveting regularity, orotund succulence, savage mandala--there are many two word combos that can aspire to capture Agave's fearful symmetry (to summon Blake).

  3. I can't believe I'm jealous of a Denver garden (since many think of Portland as a gardeners dream), but to be dry enough for an Agave to reach such proportions and bloom is truly a wonderful thing.


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