Wheeler’s Blue Sotol

I trust that you had a wonderful Thanksgiving. We loaded up our car Tuesday night and departed Maine for North Carolina at 4 am on Wednesday morning. It was a long drive but our kids were great. We rolled into my mother’s driveway outside of Raleigh at about 11:30 Wednesday night. I was excited to be there but even more so to see a plant that I planted at least 15 years ago flowering beside of the driveway. I had planted a Dasylirion wheeleri or Wheeler’s blue sotol by my mother’s mailbox where little else seemed to grow. There were several large plants at Plant Delights Nursery when I worked there in the late 1990’s. The large plants of Dasylirion at the nursery were planted right along side of the road in a dry ditch bank so I thought they might do well in a similar location at my mother’s.

Dasylirion

Ok, I’m getting to the exciting part, you should see this thing in flower! I am guessing that the flower stalk is at least 15′ in height. The above picture is our son, Alex, admiring the flower stalk. Dasylirion wheeleri is native to the southwestern United States but seems to do well in dry, well-drained soils in the southeastern US. Each plant will get 3-4′ in height. The leaf blades are around 2′ long, 1-2″ wide and are usually brown at the tip. The leaf margins are covered with sharp spines which gives away its relationship to its better known cousin, the agave. They should be grown in full-sun and can tolerate periods of drought.

d_wheeleri3

I must admit that I bought a plant for the gardens at Coastal Maine this past summer. The chances of it surviving our winters are slim but if we can find a cold enough provenance, it might stand a chance. We are going to bulk ours up in the greenhouse for several years before giving it a go in the garden. I am guessing that it may be hardy along Long Island for sure. If anyone in the north has successfully grown this plant, let us know.

Rodney

Photos: Rodney Eason, Western New Mexico University

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rodney eason

Rodney Eason - Director of Horticulture and Plant Curator at Coastal Maine Botanical Gardens, father of 4, husband to a Renaissance woman. I spent the first part of my life in North Carolina, the middle in Pennsylvania, and now I am determined to become a Mainer  while keeping my southern drawl. I consider the rhetorical question, "you're not from around here, are you?" a compliment. I love great gardens, beautiful plants, and inspiring architecture. Because of this, I am on a lifelong quest to find a garden that artistically combines beautiful plants while being centered around an evocative building. For me, this would be Beatrix Farrand's Dumbarton Oaks, with the plants of Lotusland and Chanticleer, around Fay Jones' Thorncrown Chapel. My wife and I are now making our new home and garden in a 130 year old New England house with a farmer's porch near the Damariscotta River in coastal Maine. When our kids get into college, we want to hike the Appalachian Trail as a family over a summer break. My likes (in random order): the smell of fresh basil and rosemary, bold foliage, India Pale Ale, good running shoes, Top Gear, the smell of New England in the fall (it reminds me a bit of English Leather, which my grandfather wore), and the sound of our family laughing together around the dinner table. I dream of one day owning an old Toyota 4X4 pick-up and seeing the Avett Brothers in concert.
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