I vividly recall nearing the end of a slow, slow walk though the sun-bleached grounds of the Villa San Giuliano in Sicily, and stepping into the dim, sepulchral light of the family chapel. For many years used for farm storage, the recently re-frescoed walls slowly emerged as our eyes adjusted. Then we swung around to exit, and across the lawn, framed perfectly by the arched chapel doorway, was a stand of Yucca rostrata of such dramatic, metallic form, so brilliantly and blindingly lit by the sun, that it felt like you were peering into another reality entirely – looking through a window from one whole world into another.
A year or two before then, a client had bought three young seedlings, and asked me to place them in amongst their perennial garden. I thought it a slightly odd mix, but am always up for a visual experiment like this. As it has turned out, it IS a slightly odd mix, but these plants have become key visual anchors in almost every pic I’ve taken of this perennial garden since. That there is more than one is critical. It’s possible to validate all sorts of odd choices by repetition. And I’m not looking for a pinpoint focus in this kind of planting, as much as a focal ‘zone’.
Clearly capable of surviving the kind of frost that cuts down but doesn’t kill the Mexican salvias, the one thing these fabulous yuccas would not cope with is standing in water. Other than that, their needs are few. After about eight years, the apices of my client’s plants are about chest high. The primary rosette will eventually flower and die, hopefully producing both pups beforehand and seed after, but the longer we can put off that moment, the better.